By Gina Christian | OSV News
(OSV News) — Prayer, sacramental grace and the cultivation of virtue are Catholics’ most effective responses to an upcoming satanist convention in Boston — and the event itself is an opportune moment for Catholics to give witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ, pastoral experts told OSV News.
The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, Massachusetts, will host SatanCon 2023 April 28-30 at the Marriott Copley Place in downtown Boston. With a theme of “Hexennacht (Witches’ Night) in Boston,” the TST-organized conference includes lectures, panel discussions and entertainment.
Among the scheduled presentations at the event, which organizers claim has been sold out, are “Hellbillies: Visible Satanism in Rural America,” “Deconstructing Your Religious Upbringing,” “Sins of the Flesh: Satanism and Self-Pleasure,” “Reclaiming the Trans Body: A/theistic Strategies for Self-Determination and Empowerment” and “Re-imagining Lilith as an Archetype for Reproductive Justice.”
TST’s website lists the event as dedicated — in a negative way — to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu “for her unconstitutional efforts to keep TST out of Boston’s public spaces.”
The agenda also includes a “Sober Mass” on Sunday, April 30. In an emailed response to OSV News, TST described the event as “a somber and empowering ceremony that honors all those who endured mistreatment, have been harmed, or lost due to pseudoscience and superstition in the fields of addiction and recovery.”
TST added that “there are no Catholic elements in the ceremony or SatanCon,” as TST “has its own affirmative values and is not anti-Christian.”
Nonetheless, the conference has drawn concern and outrage from a number of Catholics.
Terrence Donilon, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Boston, told OSV News that Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley has counseled “a response balanced and focused on prayer.”
“We are finalizing a list of places throughout our whole Archdiocese where we will gather in adoration and prayer,” Donilon said in an emailed statement. “All of our shrines have agreed to be a part of this, and most of our monasteries. Our men and women religious will be invited to more intense prayer during that weekend.”
In addition, “many of our parishes will be opening up during the three days to prayer for adoration and Masses with this intention,” Donilon said. “Parishes are being offered prayer cards. The Prayer of St. Michael is encouraged to be said during these times.”
Regular Mass attendance, frequent reception of the sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation, prayer and the use of sacramentals — such as holy water and religious medals — all form an effective strategy in “keeping the Evil One at bay,” Dominican Father Basil Cole, professor of moral, spiritual and dogmatic theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, told OSV News.
“This isn’t rocket science. We’ve known how to handle this for 2,000 years,” said Father Cole, who also stressed the need for Catholics “to grow in grace and in virtue” in order to defeat evil.
Engaging in satanic worship is generally the result of a “slow and sneaky process” in an adherent’s life, he said.
“It’s caused in part by superstition, and it also starts with people wanting to commit very serious sins, like abortion, murder and even pornography,” said Father Cole. “That allows the devil to influence one a little more.”
TST, which claims to “religiously object” to abortion restrictions, has created the “Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic” as well as a “religious ritual” for both chemical and surgical abortions. Named for the mother of the Supreme Court justice, the clinic claims to provide “religious medication abortion care” by mail to women in New Mexico.
While TST’s website lists seven fundamental tenets promoting “compassion,” “justice” and “scientific understanding,” packaging satanism as a kind of intellectual sophistication is “a cover,” said Father Cole.
“The idea is always to get some phenomenon going in your favor — revenge, a better job,” he said. “There are a lot of poor souls looking for help, and all of a sudden, the devil comes along in some mysterious way.”
Father Vincent Lampert, exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, told OSV News there are “two different types of satanism.”
“There are those who truly get involved in the worship of Satan, and then others who use that term, but for them, the main goal is to simply remove God from society and replace him with our own intellectual capacity,” he said, adding that TST’s Boston conference likely falls into the latter category.
Yet whether invoked as a spiritual force or as a metaphor for atheism, “the devil is an opportunist,” Father Lampert cautioned. “Directly or indirectly, he will use (any) opportunity to unravel people’s lives and society. The devil is all about brokenness, division, bitterness, resentment and anger.”
The TST conference also can serve as a moment for Catholics to deepen their awareness of Jesus Christ’s decisive triumph over evil, and how united with Jesus, the church can “advance the kingdom of God,” explained Father Lampert.
“When Jesus was being crucified, the devil believed it was his moment of victory, but it was actually the moment of his defeat,” he said. “We don’t have to do extraordinary things to defeat the devil. When we practice the ordinary things of our faith — Mass, reading the Bible, the sacraments — the devil is already on the run.”