Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, has filed a formal canonical lawsuit with the Vatican, asking that the Catholic identity of his alma mater, Georgetown University in Washington D.C., be protected.
The novelist, who attended Georgetown, a Jesuit institution, in the 1940’s on a four-year scholarship, was moved by his devotion to the institution to support and sign a canon-law petition that requests the “Catholic Church to require that Georgetown implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a papal constitution governing Catholic colleges.”
According to Joan Frawley Desmond at the National Catholic Register, the petition that was signed by Blatty and 2,000 other Catholics calls for “the removal or suspension of top-ranked Georgetown’s right to call itself Catholic and Jesuit in any of its representations.”
The author, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay adaptation of his novel, The Exorcist, said, “Today’s Georgetown isn’t Georgetown, but more like a living Picture of Dorian Gray.”
The canon-law petition has been waiting in the wings as Blatty’s attorney, Manuel Miranda, another Georgetown alumnus, developed a legal document of more than 200 pages, with over 480 footnotes and 99 appendices.
According to the Register, Miranda has collected 124 witness statements and commissioned a 120-page institutional audit of Georgetown. The documents and the petition were delivered to the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, Congregation for Education and the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Miranda stated that the timing of the petition is perfect, mainly because Pope Francis, during his prior roles as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the head of the Argentine bishops’ conference, and chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina, implemented Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic colleges and universities.
In addition, Miranda observed that then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio also was supportive of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 decree that removed consent from the University of Peru to call itself “Catholic.” As a result of the high-profile case, the university lost its designation as a Catholic and pontifical institution of higher education.
Miranda stated his petition is focused on similar issues, including Georgetown’s failure to incorporate Ex Corde Ecclesiae into its bylaws and execute a faculty recruitment policy that gives preference to Catholics. He also noted the many similarities between the Peruvian university and Georgetown, including the fact that both are Jesuit and pontifical institutions.
In 1991, Miranda was successful in a canon-law action that forced Georgetown to drop its funding and support for a pro-abortion student-advocacy group.
“It was a success that reverberated, as other universities announced the defunding of similar clubs,” Miranda said.
On its website, Georgetown University provides the following description of its identity:
Established in 1789, Georgetown is the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university. Drawing upon this legacy, we provide students with a world-class learning experience focused on educating the whole person through exposure to different faiths, cultures and beliefs. With our Jesuit values and location in Washington, D.C., Georgetown offers students a distinct opportunity to learn, experience and understand more about the world.
According to the Register, Rachel Pugh, Georgetown’s director of communications, has consistently challenged any attempt to imply that the university has moved away from its Catholic mission.
Regarding the recent news about the canon-law petition, Pugh said that the “Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger. Academically, we remain committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition.”
Pugh cited Georgetown’s offering of “as many as seven Masses” on Sundays in one of the Catholic chapels on the university’s campuses and that all undergraduates “take two semesters of theology and two semesters of philosophy before graduation” as evidence of Georgetown’s commitment to its Catholic identity.
But Blatty countered that he and his fellow Catholic alumni are “appalled to learn that a low percentage of Georgetown’s theology faculty are actually Catholics, and so we have a plethora of theology courses such as ‘Buddhism and Politics’ and ‘Muslims and Politics.'”
Among the titles of Georgetown’s theology courses are:
The Problem of God
Muslims and Politics
Political Theology: The Case of Islam
The First Christians and Christianity Today
Buddhism & Poetry
Islamic Religious Thought and Practice
Judaism: Ancient Tradition and Contemporary Practice
The Latino Church Doing Justice
Qur’an, Pluralism, Fem. Theology
Politics of Gender in World Religions
“And over in the philosophy department,” Blatty added, “where once we studied logic, epistemology, cosmology and ontology in an effort to intellectually defend Catholic beliefs, we now have the likes of ‘Democracy and Star Trek.'”
However, though Miranda said he had received a “green light” for the canon-law petition from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., Chieko Noguchi, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, told the Register, “The archdiocese received the petition and continues to work with Georgetown to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae. We have no further comment on this.”
Blatty and other Georgetown alumni have been shocked by recent events at the university, such as a “lavender commencement event” for students with same-sex attraction, and the invitation to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s 2012 commencement.
Many Catholic dioceses, organizations, and business owners are currently engaged in lawsuits against Sebelius and the Obama administration over the HHS mandate, a part of ObamaCare that requires most employers to provide free contraception, sterilization procedures, and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees through health insurance plans.