When the Satanic Temple of New York scheduled a “Black Mass” on Harvard’s campus, the resulting backlash forced them to change locations. Why the backlash? Because a Black Mass distorts and inverts a traditional Catholic Mass, and that offends certain Catholics who believe their traditions are the only ones that matter and cannot be mocked in any way.
Archbishop Paul Coakley has called on Catholics to pray that God might change the minds of the organizers of a “Black Mass” scheduled for later this year in Oklahoma City.
“… we’re astonished and grieved that the Civic Center would promote as entertainment and sell tickets for an event that is very transparently a blasphemous mockery of the Mass,” Coakley said.
Civic Center Music Hall spokeswoman Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock said the Civic Center Music Hall is a taxpayer funded entity and in that capacity it honors and upholds relevant state and federal laws including the U.S. Constitution, which allows for the free expression of speech and equal protection among all groups and individuals.
Unfortunately for Coakley, blasphemy and mockery aren’t good enough reasons to shut down the service. Even if a consecrated wafer is destroyed, it’s only a symbol, not anything illegal.
But Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is — as usual — raising the persecution flag:
Oklahoma City had better think twice about this. The Civic Center is funded by the taxpayers, many of whom are Catholic, and they are not obliged to pay for attacks on their religion. Moreover, there are strictures that must be respected. To be specific, performances at the Civic Center are not permitted if they violate “community standards,” including works that are “illegal, indecent, obscene, immoral or in any manner publicly offensive.” One does not have to be Catholic to know that if Catholics believe that a consecrated Host is considered sacrosanct, then public displays of desecration meet the criteria as outlined.
Oklahoma City is setting itself up for a lawsuit.
If obscenity and offense were reasons to shut down a public event, then I’m not sure why the shows Avenue Q and Corpus Christi (which depicts Jesus as a gay man), which are playing at the same civic center over the next year, get a pass from Donohue.
Everyone is offensive to somebody. Just because the Black Mass goes after Catholicism is no reason to shut it down. It’s a private group renting out a public facility. No one is forced to attend the Mass. And just because the majority of citizens are Catholic is no reason to deny church members the ability to celebrate the Mass as they wish, provided they’re not doing anything illegal (which they’re not).
By the way, the same group has held a Black Mass three times before — without drawing much attention at all. It’s almost as if the sky didn’t fall.