Forget black masses for a moment: Some journalists need to check facts on the Mass

Some journalists need to check facts on the Mass

Truth be told, I have been sitting out the "black mass" media storms. I have no doubt that, for the ancient churches, we are dealing with sacrilege of the highest order. At the same time, I am very close to being a First Amendment absolutist and oppose blasphemy laws.

So why write about the following ABC News report (as run at Yahoo!) about the new brouhaha in Bible belt Oklahoma?

When you read the story, try to forget the whole black mass thing. Instead, focus on the facts in the story's material about the Catholic Mass itself. Just to keep things straight in some of these quotations, a key voice in this story is the leader of the devil-worshiping group, one Adam Daniels of Dakhma of Angra Mainyu.

The first strange reference is actually pretty mundate.

The upcoming event has generated controversy because black masses mock Christianity and the rituals that make up their services but organizers see it as an integral part of their religion.

Yes, ignore that "Christianity" is singular and, thus, clashes with the plural reference -- "their services" -- a few words later.

Obviously, a black mass is offensive to all Christians, but that's almost beside the point. The dark rite mocks the belief of Catholics, and other ancient Christians, that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. The whole point is to desecrate what has been consecrated. Reader can see this later in the story:

Anthony Briggman, an assistant professor of theology at Emory University in Atlanta, explained that the general motivating principles behind satanic groups -- including Dakhma of Angra Mainyu -- is to “parody” Roman Catholic liturgy by “demonstrating their opposition to orthodox Christian beliefs and practices.”

“The line between parody and mockery is a fuzzy one and it is unclear to me on which side of the line they usually fall,” he said of satanic groups in general.

“The goal seems to be to acquire some of the spiritual power [and] magic that they associate with the Roman Catholic ritual of transubstantiation, the transformation of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ,” Briggman said.

That's helpful and right on target. However, those quotes only make some other references in this story all the more bizarre. For example:

The culmination of the event comes when the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu deacons and priest stomp on the, in this case, unconsecrated host and spit on it. Daniels said organizers will wear profane costumes, use explicit language and desecrate the fake host, which Catholics believe is a form of the resurrected Christ.

What, pray tell, does it mean to say that the bread and wine are consecrated and become a "form of the resurrected Christ"?

I have never encountered that wording before. Catholic readers: Any idea what happened here, other than that the ABC News team allowed the leader of the black mass team to describe the meaning of a Catholic sacrament (without clearly stating that this was HIS understanding of the doctrine)?

Next up, there is this:

Additional controversy has surrounded this particular event because the Oklahoma City Archdiocese filed a lawsuit against Daniels' group after media reports that he was in possession of a consecrated host, a wafer that some Catholics believe is literally the body of Christ.

Uh, "some" Catholics believe in the truth claim at the heart of the Mass? Isn't that like saying that some Jews believe that Jesus of Nazareth is not the Messiah? That some Muslims believe "there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah"?

This is not, let me stress, a matter of journalists believing what the Catholic church teaches. The journalistic issue here is whether journalists can accurately summarize, in public media, these crucial and ancient Catholic beliefs.

Come on, people.

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