A narrator will explain the history of the rituals to the expected crowd of 100 or so, according to the Satanic Temple, a New York-based group that will perform the black Mass.
The history of black Masses is murky, but Catholics say the intent of such ceremonies is obvious: to mock their rituals and beliefs. The Masses often parody Catholic sacraments, such as Communion, and liturgical vestments.
“Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes," the Harvard student group said in a statement, "but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices.”
The cultural club said it also plans to host a Shinto tea ceremony, a Shaker exhibit and a presentation on Buddhist meditation.
But Harvard University President Drew Faust called the plans to reenact a black Mass "abhorrent."
"It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory," Faust continued.
The Harvard president said she will allow the black Mass to continue, citing the value of free expression on campus, but will attend a prayer ceremony Monday night at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge. The Boston archdiocese has planned the event as a protest to the black Mass.
The Satanic Temple, which announced the Harvard club's plans last week, is also behind an effort to place a satanic statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Oklahoma's state Capitol.
The temple does not believe in a real devil but advocates for religious tolerance and pluralism.
"At its best," the black Mass "is a declaration of personal independence from what some see as counterproductive cultural programming,” said Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves.
Greaves said black Masses began as a protest by people who felt oppressed by their local religious cultures.
But some Catholics say the "black Mass" is more sacrilegious than satirical.
Faust, a noted historian, said: "The 'black Mass' had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond."
A Harvard Divinity School professor who is also a Catholic priest said none of cultural club's other events include the "blaspheming of Catholic sacramental practice."
"What’s next?" asked the Rev. Francis X. Clooney, in an op-ed in the Harvard Crimson.
"The endeavor 'to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices' might in another year lead to historical re-enactments of anti-Semitic or racist ceremonies familiar from Western history or parodies that trivialize Native American heritage or other revivals of cultural and religious insult."
The Archdiocese of Boston, in a statement, expressed "deep sadness and strong opposition" to the ceremony.
Satanic worship "is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil," spokesman Terrence Donilon said.
Donilon also called on Harvard to disassociate itself from the event.
Robert Neugeboren, dean of students and alumni affairs at the Harvard Extension School, said Harvard does not endorse the student group's decision to stage the black Mass but won't stop it, either. The school provides evening and online continuing education courses.
"We do not agree with the student group’s decision to stage an event that is so deeply disturbing and offensive to many in the Harvard community and beyond," Neugeboren said.
"While we support the ability of all our students to explore difficult issues, we also encourage them to do so in ways that are sensitive to others."
Neugeboren said the Harvard Extension School has worked with students to defuse some of the controversy surrounding the ceremony.
For instance, he said, a consecrated host - known by Catholics as the Eucharist and believed to be the actual body and blood of Christ - will not be used, he said.
Some Catholic bloggers had expressed outrage at the initial plans to use a consecrate host, calling it "sacrilegious to the highest extent."
Clooney said the university's reaction is insufficient, adding that Harvard's "spiritual sensitivity" is at stake.
"Since there is no empirical way to show that one host is consecrated while another is not—consecrated hosts do not glow in the dark—there is also no way for anyone but the organizers to know whether a host used in a black mass has been consecrated or not," Clooney said.
"Catholics at Harvard should not have to be worrying about where Monday’s host comes from."
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As the archdiocese notes, Pope Francis warned Catholics about the devil recently.
"Maybe some of you might say, ‘But, Father, how old-fashioned you are to speak about the devil in the 21st century!’ " the Pope said during a Mass in April.
"But look out, because the devil is present! The devil is here … even in the 21st century! And we mustn’t be naive, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”