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May 5, 2012

In a move already denounced by Catholic bishops & other leading religious conservatives, St. Sincerus University, the nation’s 84th largest Catholic university, has invited Satan to deliver its commencement speech later this month. Also known as the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer, &, more popularly, the Devil, Satan is a divisive figure among Catholics & other Christians. Several Catholic universities have upset religious conservatives in recent years by inviting controversial figures to deliver commencement speeches, as when the University of Notre Dame, the nation’s largest Catholic University, invited President Barack Obama, who supports a woman’s right to abortion, in 2009. The invitation to Satan by SSU president Fr. Thad Despereaux comes at a time when many Catholics are highly critical of the Obama administration’s attempts to reform health care, which some claim would force Catholic institutions to violate their Church’s teachings by providing contraceptives as part of their health insurance plans. Fr. Despereaux, in comments made to the Daily Sham, SSU’s student newspaper, said that having Satan on campus gives bold witness to a central Catholic principle that God can be found in all things. “The continuing politicization of the faith indicates just how important it is for us to build bridges,” Fr. Despereaux said. “Our whole mission as a university is to bring people together. Satan is badly misunderstood by many people, & we hope to show our graduates that stereotypes, & the hatred they engender, have no place on a Catholic campus. As Catholics we are to hate hate.”

On-campus reactions at SSU have been favorable, as faculty & students alike have applauded the university’s open-mindedness in issuing the invitation. Dr. Sophia Greengrass, Director of the university’s Wiccan Institute, called the invitation a brave attempt to promote the university’s academic integrity in the face of “fascist attempts by the male hierarchy to impose its limited & limiting dogmas,” while Declan Spencer, a Religious Studies major studying the mythical underpinnings of religious language, said he hoped to meet Satan & thank him for his contributions to world culture.  Some faculty, however, have questioned the wisdom of the invitation. “Satan doesn’t actually exist,” said Fr. Eddie Cheever, Professor of Early Christian Literature, “so it will be interesting to hear what he says. Or doesn’t say.” And Professor David Evans, known for his support of traditional Church teachings, said the invitation further reflects the administration’s attempts to distance itself from the Church.  “It does make sense, given the administration’s recent policies,” he said, noting Fr. Despereaux’s endorsement of Phallic Fridays, in which students erect large phallic sculptures around the SSU chapel, cover them with latex, & ironically sing hymns to the fertility god Priapus, as well as the popular Religion-less Lent, instituted last year, in which Catholic students were urged to give up prayer & mass attendance during Lent.

As of this afternoon, Satan has not publicly responded to the invitation, though Prof. Evans suggested that since he is already quite at home at SSU, there is little doubt that he will accept.

Coming soon: The commencement speech by Satan at St. Sincerus. He’ll be giving it on Saturday afternoon, May 12; we’ll post it later that night.

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