Monday, May 12, 2014

The Devil his due

"Young Goodman Brown", from PowerPop Comics.
So remind me, Kathryn Jean, about where you stand on the vital importance of religious freedom in our exceptional country, where our Founding Fathers understood so deeply how important it is to protect the bishop/CEO from having any portion of any check cut by his accountant go to lowering the price on some nurse's aide's IUD?

Ah, yes, on the Black Mass planned for the Queen's Head Pub on the Harvard campus, as disapproved by Harvard Divinity Professor Father Francis X. Clooney:
If only the University had managed to show that it recognizes the potentially great differences between “a Shinto tea ceremony,” “a Shaker exhibition,” and this black mass. It is too easy, and rather superficial, to compare a black mass with a “Buddhist presentation on meditation.” Why not present a Catholic presentation on the Eucharist? No one would have objected to that....
No indeed, that would have been a much better idea all the way around, especially with Father Clooney running the show, not exactly proselytizing, you know, but showing the Colors.

The students promised not to use an actual consecrated Host, developed their script from a novel (in the little-known French tongue, showing their academic chops!) by J.-K. Huysmans, and explained that their purpose would be educational:
Christopher Robichaud, an ethics and public policy professor at the Kennedy School of Government, will speak at the demonstration to frame the event in terms of religious liberty and tolerance, according to the club. (The Crimson)
But as Father Clooney noted,
Since there is no empirical way to show that one host is consecrated while another is not—consecrated hosts do not glow in the dark—there is also no way for anyone but the organizers to know whether a host used in a black mass has been consecrated or not.
Just like matzoh, you know, you can't be positive it's not made with Christian children's blood.

Obviously even in the form of this virtually Unitarian mixture of freshman earnestness and donnish whimsy the ceremony couldn't go ahead, and didn't. The feelings of bishops might be hurt, for Christ's sake! What's the sacrifice of a little freedom for everybody else compared to that?

I was taken aback by one remark from Father Roger Landry:
The Founders of Harvard would, I think, be ashamed that a school to which they gave the motto Veritas: Christo et Ecclesiae would allow itself to be used in any way whatsoever as the staging for Satanic worship. Yesterday I was asked by about two dozen people about what my alma mater was doing in allowing this mockery of Catholicism and this acquiescence in the conjuring of evil. I replied that I can’t fathom how this “dear mother” would have lost its capacity to see clearly and promptly how outrageous this is.
Certainly we know that Massachusetts Puritans in the 17th and 18th centuries didn't cotton much to Satanists, some pun intended, but you may not be aware that Roman Catholics played a close second to witches in their theological nightmares, and that the danger of insidious popery was a very big concern to the Harvard founders:
In 1647, the Massachusetts General Court felt compelled to legislate on the matter of dangerous religious interlopers, revealing deeply ingrained fears of the Jesuits among the earliest European settlers in Massachusetts. Laying primary blame for the "great warrs & combustions which are this day in Europe" on the "secrit practises of those of the Jesuiticall order," the court banned any "Jesuit or ecclesiasticall pson ordained by ye authoritie of the pope" from Massachusetts "for the prevention of like euills amongst orselues." First-time offenders were to be banished; second-time offenders could be put to death...
fearing that they might encounter crafty, glib-tongued Jesuits determined to disabuse them of their Protestant convictions, citizens of Massachusetts fortified themselves with texts such as A Protestant's Resolution, Shewing his Reason why he will not be a PAPIST: Digested into so plain a Method of Question and Answer, that an ordinary Capacity may be able to defend the Protestant Religion against the most cunning Jesuit, or Popish Priest, a tract that went through at least twenty-eight editions.
Early Harvardians did their part to stem the Roman tide. The Jesuits fell victim to public excoriation at commencement exercises, where new bachelors and masters demonstrated their rhetorical skills and acumen. In 1697 Adam Winthrop took up the question "An Jesuitae possint esse Boni Subdit?"—Is it possible for a Jesuit to be a good citizen?—and argued that it was not. In 1704, Thomas Tufts responded in the negative to the question, "An Æquivocatio Jesuitica sit licita?"—Should Jesuit dissembling be permitted?....
The colonists' noble efforts to establish an institution of higher learning were tempered by the ignoble example of [Harvard's first instructor Nathaniel] Eaton, who was accused of starving his charges, whipping the students, and beating an assistant master. (He probably embezzled college funds as well.) .... His actions earned him the opprobrium of Nathaniel Rogers, who in a 1652 commencement address derided him as a "Iesuitae versipellis"—a turncoat Jesuit. It was a certain insult.
(From Kathleen E. Mahoney, Catholic Education in Protestant America: The Jesuits and Harvard in the Age of the University, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.)

It's also worth noting that they might not even have been very upset by the idea of a consecrated Communion wafer in the Black Mass, since they thought consecrated Communion wafers were stupid: New England Puritans, like Pennsylvania Quakers, absolutely rejected the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ's flesh in what they preferred to call the Lord's Supper; pagan and indecent. Asked which he preferred to have on campus, a Black Mass or a proper Popish Mass, John Harvard or Nathaniel Eaton or Nathaniel Rogers would certainly have said no to both.

A dramatic adaptation of Hawthorne's famous story.
Though another Nathaniel, Nathaniel Hawthorne (Bowdoin class of 1825), thought all the New England Puritans, if you followed them carefully away from their daylight pieties, were really Satanists under the skin, and he, to my way of thinking, represents American values much better than any of those National Review Tories and Ultramontanists.

Update: Here's the rest of the story from Steve M.

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