We may have lost The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty earlier this month, but apparently his influence is still being felt even after his death. Especially at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., the late author’s alma mater.
That’s because Blatty petitioned the Roman Catholic Church to officially declare Georgetown is no longer a Catholic university, according to CNS News. Blatty, who died Jan. 12 at 89, claims that despite being the country’s oldest chartered Catholic university by the Vatican – and one of only two – the school has long abandoned the Catholic principles of which it was founded.
Blatty had pointed to a decree signed by Pope John Paul II in 1990 known as “ex corde ecclesiae,” which says “all activities of the university must be consistent with its Catholic identity,” according to Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a group founded after the pope signed the document designed to promote Catholic education in schools.
Georgetown not only has moved away from its Catholic roots, it’s been both hostile and rebellious against the church, Reilly said. Students majoring in theology could actually focus on not only non-Catholic religions, but non-Christian religions, CNS reporter Barbara Hollingsworth said.
The school also invited Cecile Richards to speak at the university last year. She’s the president of Planned Parenthood, an organization the Catholic church feels runs contrary to its beliefs on contraception and abortion.
“Is it possible to get Catholic courses? Yes. I do think there are some professors there who are quite committed to that. But overall, not just the academics but the campus life and the general approach to education at Georgetown is decidedly opposed to what was always understood to be a Catholic education.”
Although Blatty wrote what may have become one of the most popular classic horror stories of the 20th century, he also was known as a devout Catholic his entire life.
It’s doubtful any change in designation from the Vatican would affect Georgetown. The school always has run independent of the church, and a majority of its nearly 18,000 students are not even Catholic, according to reports.
The school was founded in 1789, and has an endowment of more than $1.5 billion. Its alumni include former president Bill Clinton, late U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, and even actor Bradley Cooper.
Although the petition will continue through the Vatican court, an earlier ruling from a lower church court ruled that because Georgetown is independent, the most the Vatican could do is just “declare it no longer Catholic,” Reilly added.
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