The absurdity of the event belies the controversy that led up to it, as the ceremony – a quasi-religious parody of a Catholic Holy Mass – was originally scheduled to be sponsored by a Harvard University student organisation and held on campus.
Although Harvard did not prohibit the event, allowing it as an expression of student free-speech rights, the campus group – the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club – pulled its support, forcing relocation at the last minute to the nearby Hong Kong Restaurant and Lounge.
Theodore R Delwiche and Alexander H Patel of the Harvard Crimson describe the scene:
About 50 people, mostly dressed in black and some wearing face makeup, were present for the ceremony. A consecrated host, believed by Catholics to be the body of Christ, was not used in the ritual.
Four individuals in hoods and one man in a white suit, a cape and a horned mask were active in the proceedings, as well as a woman revealed to be wearing only lingerie. The ceremony began with a narration on the history underlying satanism and the black mass ritual.
It should be noted that members of the Satanic Temple don’t really worship Satan so much as they embrace atheism and point to Satan as a literary symbol of their humanist views.
This didn’t dissuade Catholic groups from criticising the ceremony, however, and urging Harvard to prevent it from taking place on campus.
“For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the Church provides clear teaching concerning Satanic worship,” the Archdiocese of Boston said in a statement warning of the “danger of being naive about or underestimating the power of Satan”.
“This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.”