To whom it may concern at the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club,
The Catholic blogosphere exploded today with news of a Black Mass – I shudder even to dignify the notion with capital letters, but alas, it is a proper noun – under your auspices. You claimed at first to have a consecrated Host for the diabolical rite. Then you backtracked, claiming that it was unconsecrated. The light of investigation, largely the brilliantly dedicated work of Elizabeth Scalia, revealed that the satanists you represent were not, in all actuality, satanists. Instead, they were the typical atheists desiring in that oh-so-characteristically-dignified and not-at-all-childish way of the New Atheism to express their discontent with the Church via a sacrilegious, extremely offensive display of mockery against the most sacred rite of the Church, the Holy Mass which Christ Himself instituted.
In the time I’ve worked for the Church, I’ve dealt with atheists enough to know that most are emotionally stunted. I say this not with derision, but with a sense of compassion; most atheistic attacks are thinly veiled displays of great spiritual suffering. In my time working for the Church and even before, I’ve also encountered self-proclaimed satanists, usually displaying similar symptoms, but with an added penchant for terrible Latin and a suffering that has hardened into outright hatred.
To those of you behind this attack on the faith, I can say only one thing: I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry the suffering in your life that has left you cold and confused. I’m sorry for the poor answers you’ve received from so-called Christians who don’t understand your inquisitive minds and dismiss you outright without hearing your questions. I’m sorry that you’ve been objectified – yes, objectified – as an enemy to be conquered or a problem to be dealt with. Your humanity, something the devil supremely hates, should be loved by Christians. Instead, it is too often trodden underfoot in the quest to puncture your arguments.
I’m guilty of it myself, so truly, I am sorry.
I’m sorry about something else, though. I’m sorry you never got to know Christ. I’m sorry you never encountered Him. Ghandi, who knew many nominally Christian world leaders of the West in his time, is famous for saying that, had he ever met a Christian, he might have become one. We Christians – and most non-Christians – know who Christ is supposed to be: kind, peaceful, patient, just, merciful, compassionate, virtuous, holy, etc. It cannot help make the muddy waters of your lives any clearer to see your peers professing Christ with their lips, but not with their lives. Most people, even if they don’t accept Christ, even if they don’t believe He exists, acknowledge that He was or would have been a good man. I ask you to take a moment, step back, and ask yourself whether this Christ, the one who exists for you only in theory and not in real life, deserves to be disrespected in the way that Christ is in the Black Mass. If He approached you in the quad and spoke to you in the way He does in the gospels, with words full of understanding and mercy and kindness, would you turn to Him and express your hatred toward Him? Be honest. Do what others have refused to do with you; look past the argument you want to have and look at the person. Do you really hate this man, who speaks to you with a gentle compassion unlike any you’ve ever seen?
I want to believe that you don’t really hate Him. I want to take you at your word when you respond to criticism with this:
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. The performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facts that continue to influence contemporary culture.
But then, you’re performing a Black Mass. How can I possibly believe that you don’t want to denigrate my religion when you’re planning to perform a Black Mass? I get that you’re calling this a cultural learning experience. I get the need to re-enact certain historical-cultural events. Really, I do, but where will it stop? Do you plan to re-enact the climax of the Jewish War at Masada with the besieging and slaughter of the Jews on your campus? Do you intend to invade a local mosque and re-enact the crusades you undoubtedly hate? I needn’t use a religious parallel. Do you intend to re-enact the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany? Tell me: you’re a university, what did the Gestapo do to the professors and students of Jagiellonian University? Will you re-enact that?
Take those massacres, combine them together with all natural evils (tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.) and almost every sin committed since the dawn of time, multiply the whole thing at a rate of once a second until the end of time – heck, maybe some of you are physics majors: multiply the whole thing at a rate of once a Planck time unit until the end of time – and you still will not have the offensiveness that one Black Mass means for a faithful Catholic.
What you propose to do is to separate your intentions from reality, to pretend that it’s right to punch Jesus in the gut when He approaches you with kindness. I know you don’t think that. I know you don’t believe the Eucharist is Jesus. We do. Out of respect for at least His character, don’t you think your plans are unacceptable?
Please, abandon your course now. If not for the good of your souls, then for the integrity of not being those who punch good men in the gut. Treat Christ as more than an argument, treat Him as a person, and behave accordingly. It’s only what you’ve always hoped for from others.
That, my friends, would be living in truth.