As Catholics in Oklahoma valiantly rally to stop a Sept. 21 Satanic “black Mass” at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, there’s much that those outside of the Sooner State can do to augment their efforts.
In May, I was part of a large group that assisted Catholic students successfully to shut down the May 12 re-enactment of a Satanic mass on the Harvard campus. A few things worked for us that may help in rebuffing present and future efforts of Satanist provocateurs.
The first thing we did was to frame what was happening in terms by which Catholics and non-Catholics alike would be motivated to support us.
The public sacrilege of the Eucharist is enough to nauseate and motivate any Catholic who has ever devoutly received first Communion.
The Dakhma of Angra Mainyu, the group sponsoring the event in OKC, doesn’t mask on its website what they intend to do. “The modern form of the black mass” celebrates, they state, the “perversion of the Catholic Mass.” A consecrated Host is “corrupted by sexual fluids” to “mock the Catholic Mass” and “deprogram people from their Christian background.” They say they’ve “toned down” what they will do on Sept. 21 so that they won’t break state laws on “nudity, public urination and other sex acts,” but emphasize that they will still commit the Eucharistic sacrilege designed to “receive a ‘blessing’ from the devil.” Catholics hearing this respond like combat veterans would if they knew vandals were intending to deface the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
For non-Catholics, we tried to convey that the Eucharist is the most sacred reality of Catholic life and worship. To desecrate the Eucharist is at least for Catholics equally revolting to our sensibilities as would be the burning of the Qu’ran for Muslims or the defacing of the Torah for Jews — outrageous actions, we stressed, for which a venue at Harvard would never be given.
For those without religious convictions of any sort, we mentioned that the college would never provide a setting either for those who wanted to re-enact in a tone of celebration the lynching of slaves or brutal attacks against homosexuals.
These self-evident assertions about Harvard’s intolerance for the intolerable made clear that if Harvard wouldn’t allow anti-Muslim, -Semitic, -black or –homosexual bigots to use campus property, then it shouldn’t allow blatantly anti-Catholic practices either.
In Oklahoma City, a spokesperson for the Civic Center Music Hall stated that because it’s a city-owned facility, it cannot turn away productions “based on their content,” provided that they “comply with our policies and ordinances and have paid the established rental fees.”
On a legal level, it’s hard to grasp why the Civic Center would be claiming impotence. Oklahoma state law bans blasphemy, defined as “wantonly uttering or publishing words, casting contumelious reproach or profane ridicule upon God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the holy Scriptures or the Christian or any other religion,” and the OKC municipal code protects against degrading any individual’s religion or vandalizing any religious property. Those are certainly legally defensible reasons to refuse a contract.
The main issue, it seems, is that, up until now, there hasn’t been sufficient will to fight against a potential lawsuit if the center did refuse a contract.
Even without the statues and ordinances against blasphemy and vandalizing religious property, if the Dakhma wanted to pay $420 — that’s all the center is charging them to host the black mass — to lease the same venue next April to “celebrate” the 20th anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s terrorist attack on OKC’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, it seems certain that the center would come up with new policies, ordinances and fees to provide it whatever grounds it thinks it would need to deny the venue and that it would willingly engage the city’s general counsel to fight any lawsuit that might arise on account of the denial.
The second thing we did in Cambridge was politely and respectfully keep the pressure on those who had decision-making ability to do the right thing. Harvard President Drew Faust had the ability to shut the event down herself, and we and many others continuously asked her to use the power of her office to do the right thing. Within a few days, 70,000 people had signed petitions calling on her to stop the black mass. Several notable individuals and organizations, Catholic and non-Catholic, wrote her private and public letters. It was obvious that Harvard’s reputation was taking a serious hit across the country and globe, and it showed no sign of abating. President Faust eventually condemned the Satanic mass, attended a Holy Hour of Eucharistic adoration and reparation with Catholic students and set in motion the chain of events that shut down the mock mass on campus.
In Oklahoma, there would be many people in positions of authority whom interested parties could contact to try to persuade them to use their offices to find the will and the means to shut down the black mass. Archbishop Paul Coakley has asked the people of his archdiocese to contact Mayor Mick Cornett (email@example.com) to express their concerns and register their complaints with charity. The 25 members of the Civic Center board of directors, the leaders of the Civic Center Foundation and the heads of the seven resident art companies that sponsor most of the events at the center could also be approached — their names and links are all available at OKCCivicCenter.com — because they would be particularly concerned that the reputation of the Civic Center that they have worked so hard to build up is being blackened because of its association with the black mass.
Likewise the OKC Chamber of Commerce, which helped to build the Civic Center in 1937, could be communicated with, because the general reputation of Oklahoma City, like Harvard’s was, is on the line. A petition urging the black mass to be canceled had accumulated more than 50,000 signatures as of Aug. 14 (www.tfpstudentaction.org), and every new signature is one more reason to shut down the Satanic public-relations stunt in a theater seating, at most, 88.
One leader who has spoken out is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallon, who 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” and saying that she will “pray” that the Satanists will “realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel the event.” Interested parties could still contact her to ask her to use her formidable political skills to buttress her words and her prayers to shut down the black mass in violation of the state’s blasphemy statute (405-521-2342).
There were three other things we employed in Cambridge.
We worked behind the scenes, on campus and off, with those with well-earned reputations for defusing conflict and for opposing bigotry in all forms. Their quiet interventions helped to convey something of the significance of the offense.
We isolated Satanic worship from claims of freedom of religion, freedom of speech or of cultural expression. Even those who materialistically disbelieve in all supernatural agencies are uncomfortable with others ritually worshipping evil. We challenged people to consider the content of what the Satanists were proposing to do, to realize it’s different in kind to genuine religious activity or controversial speech. Archbishop Coakley has reminded everyone that a Satanic mass is inviting “dark powers” into the community, exposing all who are involved to direct or indirect “spiritual danger.” Those who play with fire eventually get burnt, and communities are foolish to give arsonists a venue.
Finally, and most importantly, we prayed — and everyone else prayed with us. There was a standing-room only liturgy of adoration and reparation the night of the event. Parishes, monasteries and convents were scheduling the same, both before and during the event. There’s obviously no way to measure the direct impact of this prayer, but we’re convinced it made the decisive difference.
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the neighboring Dioceses of Tulsa and Wichita have asked their clergy and faithful to make novenas of prayer and fasting, pray Rosaries, recite daily the Prayer to St. Michael and schedule and participate in Eucharistic Holy Hours and processions. These are efforts that all of us can and should join.
Father Landry is pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, Massachusetts,
and is national chaplain of Catholic Voices USA.