The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

July 1, 2014

OKC archbishop decries Civic Center 'Black Mass'

OKLA. CITY — Archbishop Paul Coakley has called on Catholics to pray that God might change the minds of the organizers of a “Black Mass” scheduled for later this year in Oklahoma City.

On Tuesday, Coakley expressed his astonishment and disappointment at this event and called on community leaders to reconsider whether it is an appropriate use of public space.

“The ‘Black Mass’ that is scheduled for the Civic Center in September is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians,” Coakley said.

Coakley, leader of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said for more than 1 billion Catholics worldwide and more than 200,000 Catholics in Oklahoma, the Mass is the most sacred of religious rituals. It is the center of Catholic worship and celebrates Jesus’ redeeming work through his death and resurrection, Coakley said.

In particular, the Eucharist, also known as communion, which Catholics believe to be the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, is the source and summit of their faith, Coakley said.

“That’s why we’re astonished and grieved that the Civic Center would promote as entertainment and sell tickets for an event that is very transparently a blasphemous mockery of the Mass,” Coakley said.

Civic Center Music Hall spokeswoman Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock said the Civic Center Music Hall is a taxpayer funded entity and in that capacity it honors and upholds relevant state and federal laws including the U.S. Constitution, which allows for the free expression of speech and equal protection among all groups and individuals.

Lindsey-McClintock said the Civic Center is a rental facility, meaning it does not produce or fund shows. It hosts more than 2,000 events and performances each year, including religious services from multiple faith backgrounds, Lindsey-McClintock said.

“We appreciate the archbishop’s concerns regarding this event as it applies to people of faith,” she said. “As with any show held in our facility, we work with the production group to ensure no laws or ordinances are broken during the event.”

Lindsey-McClintock said this is the fourth time this group has held a similar production at the Civic Center and each time they have had attendance of fewer than 50 people in a theater that seats only 92.

Information on the Civic Center’s website advertised the event, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Sept. 21 at City Space Theatre. It is being presented by Dakhma of Angra Mainyu and features musical guest Kali-Ra.

“The Black Mass has been a feared ritual and now it’s being brought into the light!” the event description on the Civic Center’s website states. “This will be not only enlightening but educational as well. This Black Mass will be conducted for the public to attend with certain adaptations to allow for a legal celebration.”

A Black Mass is an inversion or parody of the Catholic Mass. It combines belief in the devil, use of the Mass for materials and parodies of orthodox Christian ritual, according to satansheaven.com. The origin of belief in the Black — or Satanic — Mass dates to medieval magic and witchcraft, yet no one knows the early history of the magical act.

The right to assemble and protest is codified in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Coakley said if the event does move forward, Catholics will have to consider other peaceful, prayerful and respectful options to demonstrate their opposition to this publicly supported sacrilegious act.

In May, a Black Mass scheduled on the Harvard campus was canceled amid outcry, according to a Boston Globe report.

The federal Public Works Administration, created in 1933, provided dollars to fund projects across the country including money for the Civic Center, according to field records from the Historic American Landscapes Survey by the National Park Service. Plans for the complex were funded with $1.4 million from the PWA and the remaining $1.7 million from a city bond issue. Construction involved other government agencies including the Civil Works Administration.

Recent support includes the 1993 Oklahoma City MAPS project, taxpayer dollars that helped fund renovations, and the Civic Center Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 2000 to fund other improvements.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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