‘Exorcist’ Author Petitions Pope: Heal Georgetown

Michael W. Chapman | October 31, 2013 | 6:01am EDT
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Georgetown alumnus William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist and its Academy Award-winng screenplay, is petitioning Pope Francis to require Georgetown University to comply with the Catholic educational document Ex corde Ecclesiae. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Georgetown University alumnus William Peter Blatty, author of the best-selling book The Exorcist and its Academy Award-winning screenplay, both of which take place in Georgetown, has sent a Canon Law petition to Pope Francis, appealing to him to make Georgetown University comply with the basic rules required to be a “Catholic” school.

If Georgetown University refuses to adhere to those rules, as spelled out in the papal document  Ex corde Ecclesiae by Pope John Paul II, then its official identity as a “Catholic” university, as a last possible measure, should be removed, says Blatty.

The petition, signed by more than 2,000 people so far,  is not a lawsuit but a document that faithful Catholics are allowed to send to the Vatican to make known their concerns and to call upon Church authorities, including the Pope, for help.

The petition has the blessing of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop for the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., in which Georgetown is located, said Blatty’s lawyer and fellow Georgetown alumnus Manual Miranda.

As Miranda explained in an Oct. 4 press release, “The very first remedy that we asked of the archbishop of Washington, His Eminence, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, was, ‘If the Holy Spirit leads you to it and your conscience will allow it, to declare publicly that Georgetown University is compliant with Ex corde Ecclesiae, orients its institutional initiatives according to standards that are consistent with the norms and morality of the church, and lives up to the title ‘Catholic.’ His eminence opted not to do that.’”

In May 2012, Cardinal Weurl’s archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard, said of Georgetown University in an editorial, “[M]uch of its leadership and faculty find their inspiration in sources other than the Gospel and Catholic teaching,” adding that the “vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching.”

Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the United States. (AP)

Also in 2012, then-Pope Benedict XVI, citing Ex corde Ecclesiae, removed the consent from the Pontifical University of Peru to call itself “Catholic” or “pontifical.” The current Pope Francis, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, was head of the Argentine bishops’ conference and chancellor of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina and he approved of the decision concerning the University of Peru.

Georgetown “College” was founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll.  In 1833, the college was given the status of a Pontifical University by the  Pope Gregory XVI, making Georgetown the first Catholic university in the United States. As a consequence, the school’s  board and administration “are accountable to the Society of Jesus (“Jesuits”) and to the Holy See,” said Miranda.

The petition concerning Georgetown that was sent to Pope Francis, states that in keeping with the “rights and duties we have under Article 4 of Ex corde Ecclesiae, as may apply, do hereby express my grave concern that my rights to know and follow the truth of the Catholic Church, to a Christian education, and others, have been violated by Georgetown University’s twenty-one year refusal to comply fully with the law of the Church through the implementation of the general norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae and its eleven year non-compliance with certain particular norms adopted for the United States, which has led directly and indirectly to the tolerance and promotion of deviations from authentic doctrinal and moral teachings by Georgetown University authorities and a long series of scandals to the faithful through actions inconsistent with a Catholic identity.”

In addition to making the concerns of Catholics about Georgetown known to the Vatican, the petition also calls for seeking “alternative forms of relief that may include a declaration by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority that Georgetown University is no longer entitled to call itself a Catholic or Jesuit university, or to order a Visitation, or to seek other remedies ….”

The petition includes 200 pages of information about how Georgetown apparently is not in conformity with the Catholic educational rules set by Ex corde Ecclesiae. Among those pages are 124 eyewitness statements and 480 footnotes. “We have documented 23 years of scandals and dissidence, more than 100 scandals in the most recent years alone,” said Miranda.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (AP File Photo)

One of those scandals, which the archdiocese also publicly chastised in an editorial, was Georgetown’s decision in 2012 to select Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as that year’s graduation commencement speaker.  Sebelius is pro-abortion and her department is imposing the Obamacare regulation that requires nearly all health insurance policies to offer contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs without co-payments.

The Catholic bishops in the United States have called that mandate “unjust and illegal," a violation of religious liberty, and several dioceses and Catholic institutions are suing the HHS and Sebelius to stop the regulation, which violates the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.

Commenting on Sebelius’s speech at Georgetown earlier this year, Peter Blatty told EWTN, “It’s one thing to invite who you want to speak to your campus. They honored her by making her a commencement  speaker. This is a woman, who as governor of Kansas, is so fiercely and aggressively pro-abortion that she was actually forbidden by her bishop to receive Communion. She vetoed every abortion bill safeguard bill that came across her desk. This [is who the] university chooses to address, at commencement, the graduates.”

Pope Francis. (AP)

Concerning the political and educational atmosphere at Georgetown, Blatty said, “Students tell us they get hooted at, ridiculed, and called stupid because of their faith. … It’s a Potemkin village. This is the oldest Catholic university in America. We want them to become better, honest, and more Catholic.”

Blatty, whose 1973 The Exorcist movie was partly filmed on the Georgetown campus, further said, “I love the Georgetown that I graduated from.  Along comes a new Georgetown. This is a Georgetown where I don't recognize it anymore. … We're trying to help them retain [their Catholic identity] and recapture it by going back to doing what they used to do, what they were intended to do from their origination, which is to nourish and strengthen the Catholic student's faith … their formation, and provide them along the way with the tools to defend it intellectually and through reason. We're hoping they comply with that.”

“This process is very much akin to trying to pressure someone that you love very much into going into rehab,” said Blatty, “and they can do that by recapturing their original intent, their original beauty as a defender of the faith and nourisher of the faith, as opposed to what they seem to be now.”

In the documents attached to the petition is a detailed explanation of where Georgetown apparently is at variance with Ex corde Ecclesiae. Part of that non-compliance list can be read here.  It includes information on the university’s reported “Failure to Guarantee Its Catholic Identity In its Structure and Regulations,”  a “Failure to Ensure that All Official Actions and Commitments Be Authentically Catholic,” a “Failure to Recruit Personnel Both Willing and Able to Promote Catholic Identity,” and a “Failure to Invite Respect of Catholic Doctrine and Morals.”

In addition to the Sebelius scandal, the petition notes that the director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University, Jacques Berlinerblau, wrote an article in 2012 for The Chronicle of Higher Education “arguing against the bishops’ stand against the HHS contraceptive mandate.”

In April 2012, Georgetown hosted an event for students and faculty where Sandra Fluke spoke about contraception access. The talk was moderated by Georgetown Professor Judy Feder who ran for Congress on a “pro-choice” platform in 2008.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. (AP Photo)

Also in April 2012, the Georgetown alumni association held a function in San Francisco that included a luncheon with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a staunch supporter of abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

In February 2012, Georgetown hosted a performance of the play The Vagina Monologues. In May 2011, as the non-compliance list states, “The speaker at Georgetown’s third annual Lavender Graduation for homosexual students was openly gay U.S. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a supporter of same-sex ‘marriage’ and abortion rights. The event was attended by University President John DiGioia, his vice president for student affairs and four deans.”

In 2011, the pro-abortion Madeleine Albright spoke at a Georgetown award ceremony, and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) , also pro-abortion, spoke at a different event.

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