[NB: I added a somewhat lighter reflection on this topic in this post.]
Hooray, the Satanic Black Mass did not take place at Harvard–but only because religious liberty, as understood by most expositors of the “post-Conciliar” understanding of the term, failed at Harvard
I have given Cdl. O’Malley a drubbing before because he publicly pandered to smarmy indifferentism, so it might be expected that I see him as a hero, a staunch culture warrior, for opposing the Black Mass.
Well, yes and no.
Obviously, I’m glad he didn’t simply roll over on the issue.
But I’m also bemused by his approach, primarily because he embodies the approach the Church has, logically enough, been taking on religious liberty since Vatican II. In the video embedded in this Boston Globe article, notice what basis O’Malley presents for his objection: a Black Mass is “offensive” (even “repugnant”) to many in the community. It’s not wrong per se, just “offensive”. As one protester put it, “I find [the black mass] offensive as a Catholic…. I find it goes directly against the faith of my church, the faith of the church of my choice.”
Given the post-Conciliar assumption that religious liberty is a nearly unqualified good, the only basis for objecting to the Black Mass is not truth, but popular sentiment. Will it sell? How will it play? Does it foster harmony and warmth? Unfortunately, if rudeness were a sound guideline for religious truth–and recall that truth is the true basis of liberty—St. Boniface would have never molested Odin’s tree, and, thus, we can imagine, the stock that produced the previous pope might have never enjoyed the Christian life.
While the failure of Black Mass is being touted by many as a ringing victory for Christendom, what too few are acknowledging is that Christendom itself was given a sell-by date after the Second Vatican Council. If religious liberty is a supreme good, and if plurality is an integral component of religious liberty “in the modern world”, then it follows that religious plurality is a supreme good. From this it further follows that there is no coherent, rational basis for opposing a Black Mass, or much else in the postmodern religious ecosystem. The cultural reenactment wasn’t ‘hurting’ anyone; it just wrinkled some ‘feelings’ in the community.
We may not have witnessed a Black Mass at Harvard, thank God, but we did have to face a fresh case of what’s wrong with ecumenical indifferentism, wherein the only dogma is respect, the only heresy is being offensive, and the only binding magisterium is The Community. Indeed, it’s not too hard to fathom that the reason O’Malley performed the spectacle of being anointed by a Protestant ministress is because not to have done so would have been “offensive”, and we certainly can’t have that. Anything less would be Pharisaical and neo-Pelagian, donchaknow.
Lest I seem to be all frowns and harrumphs, let me repeat that, warts and all, this clash was a good sign. A very good sign. As Steve Skojec argues, it may, in retrospect, even be a Vendée moment. And what is a striking note of that moment? I wouldn’t want to sully my reputation by consorting with such folk, but the whole procession-protest had an awfully traditionalist feel. Is it a fluke or a sign of a true springtime? A mere reflex or a return to sanity on a broader scale? Time will tell.