With a heavy police presence surrounding the Oklahoma City Civic Center this evening, hundreds of people gathered to pray — and some to protest — as a small number of people passed through checkpoints to enter the “black mass.”
It was the culmination of months of wrangling between Catholic leaders, in particular Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, and officials of the Civic Center and Oklahoma City, over whether the satanic ritual ought to be allowed to be performed on public property.
It may have been the first time in American history a black mass — an obscene inversion of the Catholic Mass — was performed so openly, and many protestors on hand saw it as emblematic of how far from God society has become at best and a worrying turning point at worst.
There was already a large crowd at 5:45 in front of the Civic Center, though the black mass was not scheduled until 7. Not everyone was from Oklahoma City.
“I believe it is a sign, a manifestation of the decline of western and Christian civilization,” said Jim Miller, from Colleyville, Texas, near Fort Worth. “You can certainly see the ways of the devil, the ways in which Satan is trying to drag down our county and our culture.”
The crowd of about 1,500 was overwhelmingly Catholic but there were a couple of hundred Protestants. While most of the non-Catholics were supportive and joined in some of the prayers a Catholic group was leading, a couple were hostile, holding signs mocking the veneration of Mary.
But the majority of signage was directed against the black mass, with one calling it "hate speech."
"Satan takes souls to hell for eternity," read another.
The group American TFP led the Rosary and other Marian prayers. Bagpipers led the singing of “God Bless America,” “Immaculate Mary,” and other hymns.
Francis Slobodnic came from Topeka, Kansas. He said he was in a group that included three busloads of people — 140 who traveled to Oklahoma City for the protest. Slobodnic came because he was “offended and repulsed by the plan to have a Black Mass.” He wanted “to be part of offering oblation to God, reparation for this sin, and to stand up for Him.”
Slobodnic said “it shows America is in real trouble” for such a thing to happen in a place like Oklahoma City. He pointed out the constant attacks on symbols and mottos honoring God, such as “So help me God” in the promise to tell the truth in court, “In God we trust” on coinage.
“Accepting this type of event is a public affront to God, an act of sinfulness,” Slobodnic said.
Some expressed concern for those entering the small theater where the black mass would be performed. Gregory Thompson, a Catholic from Marshall, Missouri, said, “I pray for those who are doing this. It could hurt them for all Eternity. I wanted to try to stop the blasphemy by praying for them, begging God to touch their hearts. I prayed for those who are lost.”
A similar note was struck by Paul Crone, an ordained minister who runs a non-denominational Bible group called The Market Place Minister. He said he emailed churches all over the state, asking people to be supportive of Catholics in Oklahoma City.
“I believe those who are entering to see this service, they still have hope,” he said. “The Lord Jesus Christ died for them. He loves them whether or not they accept that sacrifice or that death.”
He added that he wanted Archbishop Coakley to “know that many of us would be standing with him. Oklahoma City is fortunate to have a man like this. He stood for what is right, and against what is wrong. We want our Catholic brothers and sisters to know we support them in opposing this Satanist event.”
Across the street from the Civic Center to the northeast, a man with a bullhorn spoke directly to those who were entering the theater for the event. He quoted scriptural passages such as "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Most of the people entering the center were dressed in black. Though earlier reports suggested that the 88-seat theater would be sold out for the black mass, the Oklahoman newspaper reported that about 40-50 pople attended.
KOKH-TV reported that someone had called in a bomb threat during the ritual. One woman was arrested when she knelt in front of the entrance and refused to budge.
Police blocked this reporter’s access to people entering the black mass.
Patrick B. McGuigan is editor of CapitolBeatOK.com and publisher of The City Sentinel in Oklahoma City.