Oklahoma City Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley recently filed a lawsuit against a Satanist group, Dakhma of Angra Mainyu. He says “The local organizers of this satanic inversion intend to use a stolen consecrated Host obtained illicitly from a Catholic church to desecrate it as a sacrifice to Satan” on the Autumn Equinox, September 21.
In the end, the Satanic group has returned the wafer, the group’s leader, Adam Daniels saying,
The reason for this return is based solely on the fact I refuse to waste thousands of dollars fighting over a nasty cookie that some man said a prayer over.
The Washington Post records the Catholic response via “a statement by the Catholic Church’s lawyer, Michael Caspino“:
Without this sacred property, a Black Mass has absolutely no significance, so this group will not be able to hold its satanic ritual as planned….
We stared down the devil and he blinked.
But the facts surrounding wafer and black mass offer some interesting insights into religious thinking, and what better day for that sort of thing than Sunday?
For instance, is there a devil to stare down, or was this entire event a contest between two men rather than between good and evil? And what about the magical elements – not just the cannibalism itself but the process by which wafer and wine are turned into the body and blood of Jesus – of the Eucharist?
According to Coakley, after all, “Catholics believe Jesus Christ is truly present under the form of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist and it is the source and summit of our faith.” This is per the Council of Trent (Decree concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, canon III).
Speaking of the Eucharist, Allen Cabiniss wrote of the ideas of early Pagan converts to Christianity about the proper ways to worship that, “These inevitably influenced the Christian liturgy of the first century.” Indeed, by the time of Ignatius of Antioch, the Eucharist was very much a Pagan cult meal and not the seder, or Passover Supper of Jesus and the disciples.
Though some scholars like to take a conservative position with regard to Christianity’s Pagan influences, for example Bruce Metzger’s call for a “high degree of caution in evaluating the relation between the Mysteries and early Christianity,” Helmut Koester asserts that the story of the Eucharist is “technically a cult narrative.” And no caution or warning changes the fact that Justin Martyr, who did not have the scholar’s advantage of hindsight, felt compelled in his First Apology, to defend the liturgy of the Church from the charge that it was an imitation of the Mithraic rites.
Coakley laments in his complaint that, “I am especially concerned about the dark powers that this Satanic worship invites into our community and the spiritual danger that this poses to all who are involved in it, directly or indirectly.”
Funny, but Rome’s Pagans once said the exact same thing about Christianity.
Daniels denied stealing the communion wafer but admited that they certainly did intend to desecrate it in a ritual that will involve “nudity, public urination, and other sex acts.”
Basically, they’re trying to defame my character, along with my church’s character, by creating an accusation and bearing false witness to their neighbor, which is one of their Ten Commandments that they’re breaking.
It’s an unholy mess, if you will pardon the pun.
As a Heathen, I find it difficult to sympathize with Coakley, and not only because I don’t believe in the existence of a Satan. Or because Coakley is upset that the Satanist black mass is going to desecrate the Catholic Church’s ritual cannibalism. I’m not sure you can desecrate ritual cannibalism.
My observation is rather, here is a religion – Catholicism – that has stolen so much of what it is – from theology to ritual trappings, including the cult meal narrative of the Eucharist itself, as can be seen above – from Classical Paganism, complaining that somebody has stolen something from it.
Morton Smith made comparisons between Pauline worship and magical practices of the period.
“Such rites,” Smith says, “beginning with an imitation death and ending with resurrection by receipt of a divine spirit, to a new life, are familiar in magical material.” He points to comparisons with “a similar ritual of imitation death, union with the god, and resurrection to a ‘new, superhuman life'” in the Chaldean Oracles as well as Isiac and Mithraic initiations.
Morton Smith believed that it is not surprising that as Christianity attracted more upper class worshippers that the Eucharist came to be treated as a “mystery”: “This development, familiar from patristic material, should be seen as one of the adjustments of Christianity to respectable Roman imperial society.”
And then there is this little gem from Coakley, who represents a religion that daily mocks the beliefs of Pagans in its sermons, saying,
Not all speech is protected if there is hate speech and it is intended to ridicule another religion. I don’t believe it is a free speech matter.
Really? Best stop quoting from your Bible then, which is one long anti-Pagan diatribe. And how about the Catholic Church ridiculing the beliefs of those who find no offense in contraception or in marriage equality?
But I have a question too about whether this establishes a precedent. Does this mean Pagan groups can sue the Catholic church for desecrating what we hold to be holy. Can we sue the Papacy to get back the Pagan title of the high priest of Rome, the Pontifex Maximus? Can we sue him for his theft of his Pagan hat? Can we sue makers of the Jesus fish that is a Pagan fertility symbol? Can we sue them to get Christmas back? And Easter?
And what does all this say about Christian, or at least Catholic, theology?
According to Fox News, “Coakley told FoxNews.com he could not just ignore what the satanist’s planned to do even though their event in the Civic Center’s 92-seat basement theater has sold only 13 tickets to date. The satanists are also planning an exorcism to rid a person of the Holy Spirit.”
They intend to commit an act of blasphemous sacrilege against the Catholic Eucharistic host,” the archbishop said. “It is my duty to prevent this blasphemy from taking place in a public venue.
A couple questions: if God is all-powerful, how can a human rid somebody of the holy spirit? Impossible, unless God is less than he’s cracked up to be. Second, why can’t Coakley turn the other cheek like Jesus tells him to? If somebody stole his wafer, he should offer that person his cassock.
Meanwhile, the magic will go forward: Catholic magic in the form of the Eucharist and Satanic magic in the form of the Black Mass, with Daniels saying,
The Black Mass of Oklahoma will continue as planned with the original host that has been used since 1666, course black bread. We will moved forward using the Concentration found in Black Mass. Nothing has changed and we will still move forward with worshiping the Devil and blaspheming Gawd in the public square.
Fox News makes a big deal about Daniels being a sex offender but that’s something we can say about a large chunk of the Catholic clergy, so let’s call that one a wash.
In the end, Satanists want to piss on Jesus’ body and Catholics want to eat it, and part of me would love to hear the arguments pro and con offered about that in court.
The other part of me finds this all rather disheartening, and at times like this, I find it difficult not to sympathize with atheists.
Image from Marys-touch.com
 Allen Cabiniss, “Liturgy-Making Factors in Primitive Christianity” The Journal of Religion, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Jan, 1943), 52.
 Paul describes the Eucharist feast at 1 Cor. 11:23-26; (cf. Matt. 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-19).
 Bruce M. Metzger, “Considerations of Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity,” HTR 48, (1955), 20 and Helmut Koester, “Written Gospels or Oral Tradition?” Journal of Biblical Literature 113 (1994), 293.
 Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66.
 Morton Smith, “Pauline Worship as Seen by Pagans,” HTR, 73, (1980), 242, citing H. Lewy, Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy (Cairo, 1956), 204-213.
 Smith (1980), 248.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.