A Harvard University student group was forced to cancel a re-enactment of a satanic ritual on the school's historic campus, after drawing criticism from local Roman Catholic officials, who expressed "deep sadness and strong opposition" to the plan.
The event was cancelled after it failed to find a location to host the "black mass.".
Harvard President Drew Faust said in a message on the university's website that the origin of the black mass was to denigrate the Catholic Church, mocking a sacred event in Catholicism. She said the decision by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club to stage the event Monday was "flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.
The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club said in a statement posted online described the event as "a historical re-enactment of a black mass ceremony that has a narrator providing historical context and background."
It said the event was intended to be educational and would have been preceded by a lecture on the history and origins of the black mass, a ritual that parodies the Catholic mass, in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.
The re-enactment was tol be performed by the Satanic Temple, a Satanist group that attracted attention earlier this year after it proposed the placement of a 7-foot (2.1-meter) tall statue of Satan next to an existing Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma.
"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 club said.
The Archdiocese of Boston voiced sharp criticism of the planned re-enactment, calling on its faithful to pray for those involved and on Harvard to disassociate itself from the event.
"The Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Boston expresses its deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a 'black mass' on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge," the Archdiocese said in a statement posted on Facebook.
It said the church was clear in its teachings about Satanic worship, and that such 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."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, added in an email on Friday: "In the strongest terms possible we reject any attack on the Eucharist," the ceremony in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed.
Boston's WCVB Channel 5 TV reported that "The Satanic Temple has informed us that they will stage their own Black Mass ceremony at an undisclosed private location to "reaffirm their respect for the Satanic faith and to demonstrate that the most powerful response to offensive speech is to shame those who marginalize others by letting their own words and actions speak for themselves," group officials said in the statement.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Dan Grebler)