Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik is urging Roman Catholics to pray for protection against diabolical powers in response to a Satanist black mass scheduled in Oklahoma City in September.
In a letter prominently displayed on the front of the Aug. 29 issue of the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper, Bishop Zubik called for solidarity with the archbishop of Oklahoma City, who called for Catholics to combat the ritual with prayer and penance.
The organizer of the ritual returned a consecrated wafer he had taken from a church to the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City after it sued for its return, but he plans to go forward with the ritual with unconsecrated wafers, according to news accounts. A consecrated wafer is one that has been blessed by a Catholic priest.
A black mass is a ritual that parodies the central rite of Roman Catholicism, a re-enactment of the Lord’s Supper in which the body and blood of Jesus are believed to be essentially present in bread and wine.
“This is not some form of dark entertainment,” Bishop Zubik wrote. “It is deadly serious, blasphemous, obscene — an affront not only to the Catholic Church but to all persons of faith.”
He said it’s a mockery of Jesus, whom Catholics believe is present in the communion bread and wine, and is “sacrilegious and evil.”
Bishop Zubik called on Catholics to pray the traditional “Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel,” depicted in the Bible as defeating the devil in cosmic warfare.
The prayer, printed in full along with Bishop Zubik’s letter, says in part: “By the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
“The Black Mass of Oklahoma” is listed for Sept. 21 on the calendar of the Oklahoma Civic Center, sponsored by a group called Dakhma of Angra Mainyu.
On its own website, the group describes the black mass as used by Satanists either as “a blasphemy rite used to deprogram people from their Christian background” or as a “religious ceremony to empower themselves and receive a ’blessing’ from the Devil.”
Typically, the website said, the rite involves the use of a consecrated host desecrated by sexual fluids.
The planned rite “has been toned downed as to allow it to be performed in a public government building ... without breaking Oklahoma's laws based on nudity, public urination, and other sex acts,” the website said.
Earlier this year, plans by a Harvard student group to conduct a black mass on campus were canceled amid protests by Catholics and others.
Bishop Zubik was traveling Friday and unavailable for further comment, but he and other Catholic officials are concerned about what could be a growing trend, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
While both controversies erupted hundreds of miles from here, “I know enough about evil to believe that wherever it is being manifested, being glorified, then it becomes necessary to speak out against it,” Father Lengwin said.
For the same reason, Father Lengwin said, bishops have been calling on Catholics to pray and speak out on behalf of the victims of ongoing warfare in Iraq and Ukraine.
The Rev. Rene Kollar, a dean and history professor at St. Vincent College in Latrobe who has researched the history of anti-Catholicism, said church opponents often conducted travesties of the Mass.
“No matter how you look at it, it is a parody and it’s offensive to Roman Catholics,” he said.
“The historic intention was to demean Catholicism, to make fun of it, which itself is unacceptable,” he said, as it would be “for anyone to make a parody of anyone else’s religion. It goes against the American way of life.”
Peter Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.