By Joshua Rhett Miller
(Fox News) A Harvard student group’s planned satanic “black mass” has been canceled after widespread condemnation from religious and educational leaders, who called the event an affront to the faithful.
MyFoxBoston.com reports that The Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club announced Monday it would no longer hold the event because negotiations broke down between the group and the bar where it was scheduled to be held. The club was unable to find another location to hold the mass.
The group said that the New York-based Satanic Temple, which had co-organized the event, planned to still hold the mass in 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."
The ceremony has traditionally been performed by satanic cults to parody the Catholic church, and officials at the Archdiocese of Boston were furious that such an event was originally scheduled to be held on the Ivy League school's hallowed grounds.
“I would say that the event is an attack on the Eucharist, regardless of what the organizers state,” archdiocese spokesman Terry Donilon told FoxNews.com in an email. “The event is offensive to Catholics and people of good will.”
The archdiocese called last week for the event to be canceled.
“For the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the church provides clear teaching concerning satanic worship,” the archdiocese said in a statement. “This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places the participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.”
Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs at Harvard Extension School, said the “deeply disturbing” event is offensive to many at Harvard and called for it to be canceled.
“While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others,” Neugeboren said in a statement. “To that end, the Harvard Extension School has worked with the club’s student leaders to address specific concerns that have been expressed.”
Archdiocese officials had scheduled at least two events in response to the black mass, including a Eucharistic procession in Cambridge. It was unclear whether those events would proceed.
"The best way to combat hateful speech is to overwhelm it with loving and prayerful speech, and that is what we intend to do," Rev. Luther Zeigler, president of the Harvard Chaplains, wrote FoxNews.com in an email.
The student club, meanwhile, said in a statement that the performance’s purpose was not to denigrate any religion or faith, but instead to “learn and experience” the history of different cultural practices.
In a statement to the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, the cultural club said the event would not silence anyone.
“The complaints are founded metaphysical concerns, and there is simply a disagreement with regards to how this faith is practiced,” club organizers wrote The Harvard Crimson. “The flawed assumption seems to be that because Satan is the representation of evil incarnate for some faiths, that Satanist[s] are part of a hate group and their practice devoted toward denigrating Catholicism … The point of this event is to challenge the stigmatization of marginalized groups.”
Nearly 400 Harvard students and 100 alumni reportedly signed a petition opposing the event.
“This form of satanic worship not only ridicules the central practice of Catholicism, the Mass, but it also mocks and offends all who have faith in Christ,” the petition reads. “Far from being an event that promotes an understanding of “cultural practices,” it, in fact, promotes contempt for the Catholic faith and religion generally. We are Catholics, other Christians, and supporters of genuine tolerance and civility, and we are offended and outraged this event has been permitted to take place at Harvard.”
Harvard President Drew Faust, in a statement released Monday, said it would be “deeply regrettable” if the event’s organizer proceeded despite the fervent opposition by some local residents and students.
“Nevertheless, consistent with the university’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs,” Faust said. “At the same time, we will vigorously protect the right of others to respond — and to address offensive expression with expression of their own.”