Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley took on a diabolical satanic group and won . . .
Christians have always recognized the presence of evil in the world, but nothing mocks our faith more profoundly than the satanic black mass.
So when Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City discovered that his city’s civic center had decided to allow a satanic group to hold a black mass last September, he went into action. For three months, he did everything in his power to get the city to cancel the event. His courageous stand has become an example of what bishops must do when faced with this kind of evil.
“When I first learned about this, honestly, I was astonished,” Archbishop Coakley told Legatus magazine. “I thought it was a theatrical production. I’d never heard of a black mass taking place in a public venue. When I realized it was really happening, I was angry.”
Archbishop Coakley immediately contacted city officials and asked for a meeting to express his concern. Especially distressing was that the satanic group was in possession of a consecrated Host, which was to be desecrated during the black mass. Archbishop Coakley told city officials that this was dangerous and offensive to Catholics. City officials listened but didn’t attempt to stop the event because, in their words, they were “afraid of lawsuits.”
The archbishop then met with Legates Michael Caspino and Tim Busch at the Napa Institute to discuss a legal strategy. Caspino, a Legatus member of the Orange Canyons Chapter and shareholder with Buchalter Nemer law firm, immediately set to work pro bono to get the Host back. With the help of Fr. Joseph Fox, a professor of canon law, Caspino studied the situation and came up with a simple argument.
“We argued that the Catholic Church had ownership and dominion over the Host,” Caspino said. “For instance, a host must be stored in a tabernacle and must be placed in a proper vessel. We set forth the complaint that they had stolen our property and needed to turn it over.
When a priest consecrates a host, it is for the purpose of being received in Holy Communion.”
This argument was presented in a lawsuit before an Oklahoma County District Court judge who agreed, ordering the satanic group to return the Host immediately.
“I got a written statement by the court that they had to hand it over,” Caspino explained. “Their lawyer at first said they could give the Host back to us within a week and that we had to pay them $2,500. I told him, ‘We don’t make deals with the devil. You will hand it to us today and we will not pay you a dime.’”
The defendants finally agreed, and Archbishop Coakley sent a priest and off-duty sheriff to their attorneys’ offices with a vessel for the Eucharist.
“The interesting thing was that the lawyer gave back the Host and then asked if his office could be blessed,” Caspino said. “He was very spooked and regretted taking on this assignment.”
Public hate crime
What shocked many people was that the city government allowed the group to use public space and sell tickets for the event to the public.
“Black masses have gone on since the Middle Ages, but not in public venues,” said Fr. William Novak, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. “As far as we know, this was the first time a city government allowed this kind of a thing in a public space.”
Boston had seen a similar attempt to hold a black mass on May 12, 2014, at Harvard University, a private university. The event was cancelled due to significant protest against the event.
“Many Oklahoma City leaders said they weren’t in favor of this event, but felt that they could not say ‘no’ because it would bring on a lawsuit,” Fr. Novak explained. “Our thought was that this was a hate crime. It’s taking something which is sacred to us and that’s not OK.”
Archbishop Coakley even asked city officials if they would use the same reasoning to allow other distasteful events at the civic center, such as an anti-Semitic rally or a Koran-burning. City officials did not respond.
When it was clear that Oklahoma City would not cancel the event, Archbishop Coakley asked all parishes to pray to St. Michael the Archangel at the end of every Mass as well as to hold holy hours. He asked people to pray and fast specifically in reparation and for the black mass to be stopped. Not only did locals respond, but Catholics across the nation and around the world did as well. He received letters and emails in support from all over the globe.
The satanic event ended up taking place on Sept. 21 without a consecrated Host. Christians stood outside in prayer and protest. Over 3,000 people joined Archbishop Coakley at an event three miles away from the civic center at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. He led a prayer service of Eucharistic adoration for one hour, followed by an outdoor Eucharistic procession and final benediction.
“It was a beautiful, prayerful witness,” said Fr. Novak, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi. “My parish only has seating for 550 people. We had to seat people in our gym and on the grounds around the parish, as well as on the street. Even more people joined when we did the Eucharistic procession. It was unbelievable.”
Ultimately, people from the Oklahoma City archdiocese saw the event as a teaching moment for the Church on many levels.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to talk about our faith when everyone was listening,” said Archbishop Coakley. “Even our legal briefs talked about transubstantiation. It galvanized our Catholic community and gave us something to rally around.”
Though the city refused to cancel the event, they ironically had no problems allowing Archbishop Coakley to come into the civic center the next morning and perform an exorcism.
Legatus awarded Archbishop Coakley with its Defender of the Faith award at the annual summit in January.
“He defended the most precious body of our Lord Jesus Christ,” said John Hunt, Legatus’ executive director. “He made it clear that even though to others this was a small piece of bread, what their opponents attempted was an enormously evil act.”
SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus’ senior staff writer.