Friday, May 16, 2014

Catholic Stand: Dancing with the Devil — The Final Cut

This post is the final version of an essay I published on May 9, 2014 in Outside the Asylum, and updated twice with additional news and commentary. It was rewritten for Catholic Stand at the request of my editor, Diane McKelva.

“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.”
—Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
In today’s academic milieu, you should expect that a Black Mass performed by a group calling itself “The Satanic Temple” under the auspices of an Ivy League university to be a bold, daring exercise in transgressing boundaries, right? Especially if the celebrants use a consecrated Host for the ritual desecration that was retrieved at a legitimate Catholic Mass.

Well, not so much. For one thing, a spokesperson for the Temple, Priya Dua, officially denied the use of a real Host (after initially confirming it) in a conversation with Elizabeth Scalia (The Anchoress). Later, the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club released a statement that read in part, “Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.” A still-later statement repeated the peaceful intent, albeit in the midst of a blither of revisionist history and boilerplate insults calling Catholic objections “closed-minded” and “based on intolerance and ignorance”. (See Thomas L. McDonald’s post in God and the Machine for an acerbic yet accurate outline of the relevant history.)

But Doug Mesner, aka “Lucien Greaves”, supposedly the head of The Satanic Temple, didn’t seem to be reading the same script. According to Kaitlyn Schallhorn of Campus Reform, Mesner asserted that the HECSC Black Mass “[would have] mock[ed] rituals of other mainstream religious rituals [sic]”, so Catholics wouldn’t be the only ones dissed. On the question of the consecrated host, Mesner was suspiciously coy, telling The Anchoress that he doubted anyone would “waste time going to all that trouble” to get one (Really? Only falling off a log would be less trouble), but telling Schallhorn “he couldn’t call it a ‘consecrated host’ as Catholics do” … which, The Anchoress pointed out, implied that Catholics could call their host consecrated.

On May 12, the event was “postponed indefinitely”; like Eliot’s hollow men, it ended not with a bang, but a whimper.

Read more at Catholic Stand!