Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City has appealed to “community standards” to cancel a “black mass” that is scheduled for September.
In a renewed call for the city’s Civic Center Music Hall to cancel the Sept. 21 event, Archbishop Coakley said he was “astonished and grieved that the center would promote as entertainment and sell tickets for an event that is essentially a blasphemous and sacrilegious mockery of the Catholic Mass.”
As of today, there were 69 tickets left for sale for the event, which is scheduled to be performed in a 92-seat auditorium in the center.
Aleteia first reported on plans for the black mass July 1. At that time, Jim Brown, general manager of the Civic Center, said the public facility had no right to turn down a group that wanted to rent space there, as long as no the group was law-abiding.
But in his new statement, released today, the archbishop indicated that there should be other considerations besides free speech.
“It is hard to imagine the Civic Center turning a blind eye and allowing a group to use its facilities to burn a copy of the Koran, or to conduct an overtly anti-Semitic performance. Nor should they!” he said. “Why is this any different? There are community standards to uphold. And these prohibit works that are ‘illegal, indecent, obscene, immoral or in any manner publicly offensive.’ A Black Mass certainly qualifies as offensive, obscene and immoral. Its sole purpose is to show hostility toward Catholicism and all that is sacred to Christians.”
Archbishop Coakley explained that a black mass is an “occult ritual normally carried out in secret among those initiated into its dark mysteries…. A consecrated Sacred Host, obtained by stealth from a Catholic Mass, is corrupted in a vile and sexual manner and then becomes the sacrifice of this pseudo Mass offered in homage to Satan.”
He added that acts of public sacrilege “undermine the foundations of civil society and have no redeeming social value. They undermine respect for social, cultural and religious institutions. They mock and tear down and provide no comparable social goods.
“A Black Mass is a satanic inversion and mockery of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics but of all Christians,” the archbishop said.
The Civic Center’s Brown was unavailable to comment on the archbishop’s new statement today.
Archbishop Coakley renewed his call that “those allowing this event will reconsider whether this is an appropriate use of public space. We trust that community leaders do not actually wish to enable or encourage such a flagrantly inflammatory event and that they can surely find a way to remedy this situation.”
Aleteia tried to reach Joe Hodges, CEO of SMM Healthcare Oklahoma, a Catholic healthcare system, who is listed on the Civic Center’s website as a member of the board of directors.
A spokeswoman for SMM, Sandra Payne, returned Aleteia’s call on Hodges’ behalf, explaining that Hodges is on the Civic Center Foundation, which raises funds for the Civic Center building and which has nothing to do the planning of events there.
“So he would not have, in that capacity, influence in that decision,” Payne said Wednesday. She declined to comment further.
The archbishop restated the intention, if the event does move forward, to “consider other peaceful, prayerful and respectful options to demonstrate our opposition to this publicly supported sacrilegious act.”
John Burger is News Editor for Aleteia.org’s English edition.