An event touted as Queensland’s first public Black Mass was held in Noosa last week; it was live-streamed to an unknown number of viewers worldwide. The sold-out event – no great feat as apparently only forty tickets were available – took place in a council-owned venue known as “The J”. Readers are no doubt aware that a Black Mass is a blasphemous parody of the Catholic Mass, sometimes involving the desecration of a consecrated host. Satanists concocted the ritual of a Black Mass as a deliberate insult to the one, true God – an insult of the highest order – and use the ritual as a means of summoning and communing with satan.
The Black Mass in question was performed by the Noosa Church of Satan, one of Australia’s many openly Satanic groups. The “Church” is run by a former Reason party member, Robin Bristow, also known as Brother Samael Demo-Gorgon. As with other contemporary Satanic organisations, Bristow’s group claims it doesn’t worship Lucifer, but sees him as a metaphor for rebellion and freedom. In reality, this is the “freedom” to sin with impunity, as is proven by the group’s main interests: promoting euthanasia, abortion and LGBTQI “rights”.
Despite claiming not to worship an entity, the Noosa Church of Satan attempts to leverage religious freedom laws in order to insert itself into mainstream society and is hoping that it will enjoy even greater status under the Morrison government’s upcoming Religious Freedom bill. One significant right it is seeking is that of holding “religious education” classes in Queensland schools. Robin Bristow has been featured in news articles for handing out fliers that invite students to Satanic “religious education” classes at Kelvin Grove State College. The Courier Mail reported him as quoting Queensland laws that enable equality for religious instruction.
“If a student is a member of the Noosa Temple of Satan, then the school must provide one of their rooms for us to use and must allow such students to attend. This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to learn about Satan. We will be entering the school and offering satanic religious instruction for at least one hour per week.”
Other efforts by the Church of Satan include lobbying for satanic stamps for Christmas, and for representation at the Prime Minister’s National Prayer Breakfast. The group is also attempting to hold regular gatherings at The J, stating on its Facebook page that it wants to see its sign right under that of Hillsong church which uses the same venue for its gatherings.
Reactions to the Black Mass from within and without the Church have varied. A great spiritual response was led by two young Australian Catholic women who organised a novena to St Michael with around a thousand participants from across the country. Priests and bishops, including Archbishop Anthony Fisher also spoke out against the event. One priest drove from Brisbane to be present outside “The J” during the blasphemous mass. The priest, Fr MacDonald, led a small group in prayer and later posted on social media:
“ [The Satanists] claimed it was sold out at 275 people but in fact only around 20 people paid the $6.66 entrance fee and went in. Another ten-twenty stayed outside. A large percentage of them were openly queer. So their event wasn’t very popular thanks be to God.
We prayed the fifteen decades of the rosary interspersed with the long exorcism of Leo XIII, which I said in Latin and the faithful in English, Prayer to St. Michael, Litany of the Saints with its prayers and that is about it.
Thank you for the prayers and penances done in reparation for this event. They were effective. I think the satanists will be discouraged by their lack of support and not schedule another one soon. They invited politicians to attend but it doesn’t appear that even they were not stupid enough to go.”
The American Tradition, Family and Property were the first to alert Australians to the upcoming Black Mass. The TFP organised a petition protesting the event which drew more than 100,000 signatures. Likewise, the Australian Christian Lobby condemned the event. The response from Warwick Marsh of the Canberra Declaration reveals the weaknesses inherent in the modern day understanding of “religious freedom”.
Warwick Marsh wrote:
“… Western democracies enjoy freedom of conscience because of such Christian teachings. Freedom is a gift from the Christian worldview that even Satanists benefit from — and that even Christians must extend to others when it doesn’t suit us.
This is not to say that we are silent on beliefs and practices that we disagree with: we will address this shortly. But it does mean that we grant to others the freedoms that we ourselves enjoy — freedoms that flowed into our democracies from Christian theology.”
The problem with these statements is that according to traditional Catholic theology, there is no permission given to those who wish to deliberately insult God, even under the guise of religious liberty. While it is true that, according to His plan of salvation, God allows the evil to exist with the good, He did not intend that evil be given legal standing in order to protect its crimes. This false idea has led to the current state of affairs in Australia, where, as a secular, pluralistic society, Christians and especially Catholics have no legal authority for claiming the superiority of our religion. So unless a “religious” group such as the Church of Satan engages in objectively criminal acts, its activity is protected by law.
This is precisely why, until recent times, freedom of religion as it is now commonly understood was condemned by the Catholic Church. This hardline stance is appropriate for any religion claiming to be the One, True Faith. The pre-conciliar teaching is very clear on this matter, but unfortunately fell into disfavour at the Second Vatican Council, possibly due to the threat it posed to ecumenism.
Beginning with Pope Gregory XVI in his 1832 encyclical, Mirari Vos, then Pius IX in his 1864 Quanta Cura with its attached Syllabus of Errors, followed up by Leo XIII’s Libertas praestantissimum of 1888, and Pius XII in 1946, the Church constantly upheld the supremacy of the Catholic faith above all other religions and denounced the idea of religious freedom.
Leo XIII noted that, far from promoting the virtue of religion, liberty of worship is opposed to the virtue of religion.
Citing St Thomas, he wrote that the virtue of religion rules all the virtues, since God is the supreme end of man and is his ultimate good. Pope Leo XIII noted that without religion, that is, the true religion, there can be no true virtue. He wrote in Libertas that the “chief and holiest” of our duties is to devotedly and piously worship God. This means that any religious worship other than that of the Catholic Faith is without true virtue, true devotion and true piety. Yet, according to the dictates of religious freedom, Catholics are bound to allow false worship to flourish – the heretical worship of protestants, the schismatic worship of the Orthodox, the blasphemous worship of false deities and in the case of satanists and Freemasons, the outright worship of Lucifer himself.
It was Pope Pius IX who issued the strongest condemnations of religious freedom, which theologians and philosophers such as Peter Kwasniewski, John P. Joy and P.J. Smith and Catholic commentators like our friend Michael Baker believe achieves the criteria necessary for an infallible statement. As Pius IX wrote in Quanta Cura,
“…all and each evil opinion and doctrine individually mentioned in this letter (of which religious liberty was one) by Our Apostolic authority We reject, proscribe and condemn; and we wish and command that they be considered as absolutely rejected, proscribed and condemned by all the sons of the Catholic Church.”
Thus, by the standards of the pre-conciliar popes, a religious body like the Church of Satan would have no rights and an event such as a public Black Mass would never have gone ahead – let alone on public property.
Unfortunately, this constant and definitive approach to the matter of religious liberty was not reiterated by the Second Vatican Council in its document, Dignitatis Humanae. As the Council Fathers wrote, “This Vatican Synod declares that the human person has a right to religious liberty”; a statement that immediately grants moral rights to the Church of Satan (and to Mohammedans, Buddhists and Freemasons) that did not exist prior to the Council.
The document goes on to explain that “the exercise of religion consists in acts whereby a man directs his course to God” and that “religious bodies have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith.” Thus for a satanist, a Black Mass is an act whereby he “directs his course to (a) god” – or in this case, to a demon – and Dignitatis Humanae defends his right “not to be hindered in his witness”!
According to this reading of Dignitatis Humanae, the Noosa Church of Satan should also be afforded the right to give religious education classes in Queensland schools, circulate their satanic Christmas stamps and attend the Prime Minister’s Prayer Breakfast.
If the Council Fathers did not want to see this kind of outcome, then why did they not simply reaffirm their predecessors’ statements condemning religious liberty, especially when such condemnation is infallibly defined?
Ignoring for a moment the obvious disconnect between the Satanists’ stated belief that Satan isn’t real and their desired status as a “religion”, we are left to wonder what ground we have to stand on in objecting to a Black Mass, other than on the basis of our own moral code.
Australia is not a confessional Christian state: it has no blasphemy laws or any laws which ban the practise of Satanism, so we do not have any legal grounds for insisting that the Noosa Council has no right to afford the same rights to Satanists as it extends to Christians. Could it be that the Church of Satan chose to use The J Theatre as its venue – that same venue that hosts Hillsong – to prove just his point?
Regrettably, Australia’s current stance on religious freedom grants this license to satanists and other non-Christian religions – something the Noosa Church of Satan has set out to capitalise on. Robin Bristow, through his Church of Satan facebook page, assures the Canberra Declaration that his group is “going to work on renewing Australia’s culture in a way that is pleasing to satan.”
In diverging from the clear path set out by the pre-conciliar popes, the Catholic Church has forfeited Her moral high ground and signalled to the world that She no longer believes She holds the One True Faith. (Bishop Robert Barron’s remarks about Catholicism being the “privileged way” spring to mind.) There may be little that can now be accomplished in the legal realm to reverse the trend of equalising all belief systems, but as always, there is work to be done in the spiritual and religious realms. What is needed is an honest appraisal of Dignitatis Humanae by the Universal Church and a good starting point would be the words of Pius XII:
” The Catholic Church … is a perfect society and has as its foundation the truth of Faith infallibly revealed by God. For this reason, that which is opposed to this truth is, necessarily, in error, and the same rights which are objectively recognised for truth cannot be afforded to error. In this manner, liberty of thought and liberty of conscience have their essential limits in the truthfulness of God in Revelation.”
NOTE: I am indebted to Michael Baker, who has written extensively on the topic of religious freedom at his website, Super Flumina, and on whose work I drew when researching for this article.