OKLAHOMA CITY — Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City filed a lawsuit at noon today to stop the Satanic "black mass" that organizers are planning to stage next month in the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall.
The lawsuit asks the Oklahoma County Sheriff‘s Office to retrieve the consecrated Host that the event‘s organizers claim to have and return it to Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley. The lawsuit also argues that the consecrated Host was obtained under fraudulent circumstances, and thus it must be returned to the archdiocese.
“Our contention is that they are in possession of stolen property,” Archbishop Coakley told the Register. “They cannot complete their Satanic ritual without a consecrated Host, and they have no means of acquiring one except through theft. We are asking the court to order them to return it immediately to me.”
Archbishop Coakley added that the archdiocese, in consulting with the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, formulated a sound argument rooted in canon and civil law.
“We are trusting the court will recognize that and act accordingly,” the archbishop said. “We hope this is a way that we can prevent the desecration of the Eucharist from taking place by removing from their possession what they have obtained illegally, that is the consecrated Host.”
Michael Caspino, one of two attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the archdiocese in Oklahoma District Court, said the legal argument for the case is simple: “A consecrated Eucharist belongs to the Church.”
Caspino, the CEO and partner at the Busch & Caspino law firm in Irvine, Calif., told the Register that the Church has exercised “dominion and control” over the Eucharist for more than 2,000 years. The lawsuit provides information on Church processes set up to safeguard the consecrated Host.
“The Satanists procured the consecrated Host by illicit means, theft or fraud,” Caspino said. “We are simply asking the court to return the stolen property to its rightful owner, the Roman Catholic Church.”
Named as defendants are Adam Daniels, an Oklahoma County resident, and Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, a group that has rented the Oklahoma City Civic Center’s 88-seat City Theater to stage the black mass on Sept. 21. Daniels, a member of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, has told various media outlets that a friend mailed him the consecrated Host and that it will be desecrated, “stomped on” and destroyed during the Satanic ritual.
Daniels, who has been involved in organizing public Satanist events in Oklahoma City since 2010, is a registered sex offender.
Contacted by the Register, Daniels struck a defiant tone. He called the lawsuit "frivolous" and said it was meant to intimidate him from holding the black mass. He said the archdiocese's efforts will backfire.
"It will not work. We are not canceling. We are moving forward," said Daniels, who also threatened to "sue everybody I can sue" for defamation of character. He added that the court has 14 days to serve him with the lawsuit.
"They have two weeks to serve me, if they can find me," Daniels said.
Profanation of the Catholic Mass
The black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony structured in imitation of the Catholic Mass. Invoking Satan, the ritual is centered around the desecration of the Eucharist, which is generally done by stealing a consecrated Host from a Catholic church and using it in a profane sexual ritual or defecating and urinating on it. On its website, the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu says its event will be “toned down” so as not to violate Oklahoma state laws against nudity, public urination and sex acts.
The Oklahoma black mass has generated outrage among Catholics across the country. More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition to shut down the event. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallon released a statement on Aug. 11 condemning the black mass as a “disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith” that should be “equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”
The situation in Oklahoma comes just three months after a Harvard University student club tried sponsoring a black mass on campus. Hundreds of Catholics from across Massachusetts and New England participated in a May 12 procession and Eucharistic Holy Hour in the Church of St. Paul in Harvard Yard. The Harvard student club subsequently canceled the black mass, though a scaled-down version of it, without the club’s sponsorship, was reportedly later held in an off-campus Chinese restaurant.
Archbishop Coakley said the publicly planned black mass in Oklahoma surprised him and many others, given that Oklahoma is a “very conservative state,” with many churchgoing people.
“It seems as if it would be an unlikely place for such an attack to take place,” Archbishop Coakley said. “Unfortunately, it has indeed taken up a lot of our time, energy and attention to resist this, but if we are able to stop this, it will be time and energy well spent.”
The archbishop also said he is encouraged by numerous messages that he has received from virtually every continent, expressing support and solidarity with the Oklahoma Catholic community.
“I’m kind of holding my breath to see what’s next and see what becomes of [the lawsuit],” he said. “I’m hopeful, praying that it will achieve the end for which we desire, which is the prevention of the desecration of the Eucharist and stopping this public sacrilege from taking place.”
The Legal Argument
The legal argument in today’s lawsuit partly frames the consecrated-Host issue as a matter of property rights. It essentially argues that the Catholic Church, through its sacramental theology and Code of Canon Law, sets the conditions for how the Eucharist is consecrated, distributed to the faithful and reposed. Anyone who deliberately obtains a consecrated Host under illicit circumstances, either through sneaking it through the Communion line or outright stealing it, violates the Church’s legal right to regulate its internal life.
“The Church is asking for the protection of its most basic right, namely not to have its sacraments used inappropriately. In civil law, Archbishop Coakley is acting as a responsible steward of the Eucharist. The Church enjoys the same protection of civil law that any other entity would enjoy,” said J.D. Flynn, a canon lawyer based in Lincoln, Neb.
Flynn told the Register that canon law spells out what is appropriate and inappropriate reception of the Eucharist. Anyone who discards a consecrated Host or retains it for a sacrilegious purpose incurs an automatic excommunication that can only be redressed by the Holy See.
“If anyone obtains the host for sacrilegious purpose, they are violating the tenets by which the Eucharist is governed in the context of our Church,” Flynn said. “And the right of free exercise of religion allows us to administer the Eucharist in the context of the governing documents of our Church.”
The five-page lawsuit, as well as an accompanying declaration written by Dominican Father Joseph Fox, an expert in canon law, explain the theology behind the Eucharist and the various disciplines the Church has developed over its 2,000-year history to ensure the integrity and protection of consecrated Hosts.
For example, the documents say that only a validly ordained priest can consecrate the Eucharist and that ministers of holy Communion need permission to take consecrated Hosts outside a church building for specific pastoral purposes.
Father Fox writes that the Catholic Church “maintains ownership of all consecrated Hosts throughout the world” and that, to Catholics, the consecrated Host, making the person of Jesus Christ himself physically present, “is the most sacred, respected and revered thing in the world.”
The defendants, the lawsuit adds, “do not have consent or authorization” from Archbishop Coakley — who is tasked to safeguard the Church‘s property — to possess a consecrated Host outside the church. The lawsuit is seeking a court order that the defendants not consume, damage or profane the consecrated Host, if they indeed possess one.
The archdiocese is also asking the dheriff of Oklahoma County to take possession of the consecrated Host and return it to Archbishop Coakley. The “actual cost” of the Eucharist, the lawsuit adds, is “incalculable, because the significance and importance of the consecrated Host cannot be measured monetarily.”
“We are honored to represent Archbishop Coakley in this fight against the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament,” Caspino said. “The archbishop should be lauded for his courageous stance against the enemies of the Church.”
Archbishop Coakley has previously asked that the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel be said at the end of every Mass, beginning on the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Aug. 6 and continuing through the feast of the Archangels on Sept. 29. The archbishop has also requested that individual Catholics and parishes make Eucharistic Holy Hours “to avert this sacrilege and publicly manifest our faith in the Lord and our loving gratitude for the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives.”
Register correspondent Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.