Here we go again

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley             August 7, 2016

As the old French proverb goes, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” Two years ago a local Satanist generated considerable controversy when he announced that he would be conducting a black mass during which he intended to desecrate a consecrated Host before an audience of paying customers at the Civic Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

When the municipal government refused to intervene to prevent this blasphemous and offensive performance, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City sued the satanist and was successful in forcing him to return the Host. The event was allowed to continue as scheduled, but at least they were denied the opportunity to commit sacrilege by desecrating a consecrated Host, the sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood.

The same individual has developed a pattern of provocative acts of blasphemy offensive to Catholics and other people of faith. This past Christmas Eve he conducted a ritual in front of Saint Joseph’s Old Cathedral, mocking an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary while Mass was being celebrated inside.

On Divine Mercy Sunday this same satanist announced from the steps of the capitol that he intends to conduct still another anti-Catholic ritual on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Aug. 15. Once again, this event will be for paying ticket holders at the Civic Center. Again, he will mock the Blessed Mother and conduct a black mass, though presumably without a consecrated Host. On this occasion, he will also mock people of the Muslim faith by including in his devilish mix burnt pages from the holy book of Islam, the Koran.

This time, his efforts have generated far less media attention, and this has frustrated him. In a recent statement he accused me of coordinating a media blackout. He obviously credits me with far more influence than I actually wield!

After reflecting on what has become a predictable pattern of behavior, I have chosen to ignore as far as possible this attention-grabbing activity. If we overreact to his every pronouncement, we make him the puppet master by allowing him to anticipate and thereby dictate our responses. As we did during the black mass in 2014 and on Christmas Eve 2015, I am encouraging the Catholic faithful and other Christian people to pray for the conversion of this man and for all who have not yet come to know the Lord of Life.

I ask that we pray through the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all of the angels and saints that the Lord will watch over our community and protect us from evil and its many destructive and violent manifestations. I ask that prayer be offered in our churches and homes and during an ecumenical prayer service and walk. I am not encouraging demonstrations at the Civic Center, which seem only to feed his hunger for attention and encourage repeat performances of obscenity and outrage.

As outrageous as these satanic rituals may be, those who perform them claim the mantle of religious liberty. They distance themselves from “atheistic satanists” and call themselves “theistic satanists.” Their rituals are acts of worship.

While we abhor the blasphemies being committed by this corruption of authentic worship, this controversy affords us an opportunity to reaffirm our right as Catholics under the same mantle of religious liberty to speak the truth in love when we defend the sanctity of life and marriage, when we claim the liberty to act on our faith in serving the poor and marginalized in our charitable institutions, caring for the sick in our health care institutions and educating children in our Catholic schools.

As the local government has refused to interfere with this abhorrent blasphemous worship that is being publicly sanctioned in our community, we trust that our government – local, state and federal – will reaffirm its commitment to protect the religious liberty of Christians and other believers as well.

It is not merely a question of the freedom to worship, but freedom to witness and to serve as we live out the full implications of our faith in the public square.