CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -
The student organizers of a planned satanic mass at Harvard University say their intent is purely educational, but the Roman Catholic church says participants are putting themselves "dangerously close to destructive works of evil."
The mass scheduled for Monday is organized by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club and is part of a series of events exploring different cultures and religious traditions.
The student club said in a statement that "the performance is part of a larger effort to explore the religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture."
"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 statement said.
The Harvard Extension School said it supports "the rights of our students and faculty to speak and assemble freely," and noted that the group also plans Shinto, Shaker and Buddhist events.
The Boston Archdiocese, however, says the mass mocks the Catholic Mass.
"For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the church provides clear teaching concerning satanic worship," the archdiocese said. "This 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."
The Rev. Michael Drea, senior chaplain at the Harvard Catholic Center, said the academic freedom argument is a smoke screen.
"The black mass is a contradiction to the Catholic faith and is rooted in hatred and bigotry," he told the Boston Herald. "The university shouldn't tolerate something like this under the guise of academic integrity."