Oklahoma City, Okla., Jul 16, 2014 / 16:15 pm
Archbishop of Oklahoma City Paul Coakley called a black mass scheduled to take place in the city's civic center an "obviously horrendous" act meant to offend much of the state's community.
"There are common standards of decency that civic-minded people uphold that are necessary for constructive public discourse, and this violates all of those standards," he told CNA July 16. "This is a mockery of one faith, a hostile act toward a significant faith community, the Catholic community."
It would be "truly offensive to a significant segment of their population, that is the Catholic, and the Christian community at large," the archbishop added.
"Oklahoma is a very church-minded community; there are not many Catholics here, but a great majority are Christian, and this is really an affront to all Christian believers, and I think the more people are recognizing that, the more they're willing to speak up."
The occult group Dakhma of Angra Mainyu has scheduled to hold a black mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall Sept. 21. A black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony that invokes Satan and mocks the Mass, involving the desecration of the Eucharist, generally by stealing a consecrated Host from a Catholic church and using it in a profane, sexual ritual.
"I give the benefit of the doubt to those who allowed this civic center to be booked by a satanic group for the purpose of a black mass, because my suspicion is that whoever booked it had no idea what a black mass is, how offensive such a thing is," Archbishop Coakley reflected. "Initially there was ignorance, I think, about what they were getting into."
When CNA spoke on July 3 with Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock – the music hall's public information manager – about the nature of the event, she cited the hall's neutrality policy saying it's "not for us to judge…whether it is appropriate or not."
Archbishop Coakley said that "my hope is that through prayer, and through continued communication with the civic officials here, they will come to recognize this is not a prudent course, not a good course, for the city."
He added that he supposes "that if someone desired to rent the civic center to have a public burning of a Quran, or a blatantly anti-semitic sort of program, that the city would rightly find some way to prevent that from happening. And they should. That would be very clear."
"My question, is why can't they recognize that this is equally offensive to the Catholic community, and act accordingly to prevent such a black eye on the community, such an affront to the Catholic and to the Christian community?"
Lindsey-McClintock, however, claimed that as a city-funded facility, they must "operate in a position of neutrality." She said that this policy would mean the center would host racist or anti-Jewish events "as long as it was not hosting something specifically illegal in nature, or that during the production they were taking part in illegal activities…we do not discriminate against any group based on the content of their message."
Archbishop Coakley remarked that to note how the civic center is, in the name of tolerance and non-discrimination, intending to host an event that is by its nature disrespectful and intolerant of Christians and Catholics, would be "hitting the nail on the head."
"I think the more people here in Oklahoma, as well as around the country, have heard about this, and reflected upon what exactly it entails, the more outraged, and upset, people have become," he added.
Black masses, he said, are a "grievous sacrilege and blasphemy of the first order…taking what is most sacred to us as as Catholics, and mocking it, desecrating it, in vile, often violent and sexually explicit ways."
"It's obviously horrendous…what they intend to do with that consecrated Host is offensive beyond description."
Archbishop Coakley called it a "terribly disturbing development in our community, and I think one of the things people need to realize, is this is inviting very dark and evil forces into our community. I think I have an obligation, we have an obligation, to do what we can do to prevent that from happening – unleashing spiritual influences which are harmful and destructive."
Noting the recently planned black mass at Harvard, another satanic group's attempt to place a satanic monument at the Oklahoma capitol, and this planned black mass, the archbishop said that "perhaps if anything, it's a manifestation that these kinds of groups are becoming emboldened because of a certain kind of increasing tolerance for an increasingly outrageous mode of conduct in our culture."
"I hope to be meeting in the near future with civic officials," he added, saying "we'll continue to explore ways of dialoguing with civic officials."
"Obviously for us as people of faith, as Catholics, we're praying for a change of heart, that something will shift, and that there will be a change of direction, and a recognition that this cannot be allowed."
He noted that there have been a number of petitions against the event on Facebook and other sites, not organized by the archdiocese, but "very much a grassroots thing."
"My role in this," Archbishop Coakley said, "is simply to provide a voice, and leadership, drawing attention to it, and encouraging people to pray, and to voice their concern to civic officials."
Should the black mass not be canceled, the archbishop said the Catholic community will "find a way to lift up the Eucharist in a way that shows our love for Christ in the Eucharist, our respect and honor for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament."
Whether through Masses of reparation, holy hours, or processions, "we will do what we can do to bear witness to our faith in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist."