According to The New York Times (NYT), Blatty died of multiple myeloma on Thursday, January 12, in Bethesda, Maryland.
What most people don’t know is that the best-selling author and Academy-Award screenwriter was a devout Catholic who was so bothered by the fact that many moviegoers believed the demon won in the end of his famous movie that he convinced director William Friedkin to issue a re-edited director’s cut making the triumph of good more obvious.
The issue concerned the movie’s climax which depicts the younger of the two priests (played by Jason Miller) goading the demon into leaving the girl and entering him instead. Once done, the young priest jumps to his death, which many perceived to be a win for the demon.
Blatty not only managed to get Friedkin to issue a new edit of the film, but he also rewrote parts of the original book for the 40th-anniversary edition of The Exorcist that was published in 2011.
As the NYT reported: “It was essential to him, he told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans in 2000, that people understand the point of The Exorcist: ‘That God exists and the universe itself will have a happy ending’.”
At the time of his death, Blatty was working toward producing another important clarification which concerned a matter very dear to his heart – the erosion of the Catholic identity at his alma mater, Georgetown University. He initiated a petition to the Vatican seeking the enforcement of canon law to reform the University which has been the source of many scandals in recent history as it moves further and further away from its Catholic identity.
Writing for the National Catholic Register (NCR), Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, disclosed that Blatty took steps before he died to name Manuel Miranda, former president of the Cardinal Newman Society and the Georgetown alumnus who helped him organize the petition, as the man responsible for seeing the effort to a successful conclusion.
Miranda is well-qualified for the job, having served as Blatty’s counsel and the man who helped him found the Father King Society which is comprised of concerned Georgetown alumni, students, parents and faculty members. The case has reached the Vatican’s highest court – the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – and Miranda is scheduled to meet with them about the petition this week.
More than a thousand people signed onto the petition in protest of the many scandals that have rocked the once venerable Jesuit institution. These scandals include extending invitations to speak at the campus to the likes of Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama Administration who was an ardent supporter of abortion and orchestrated the implementation of the infamous “birth control mandate” forcing Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage to employees for health care procedures that violated their beliefs. Georgetown also allowed Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards to speak last year.
“At Blatty’s request, the Newman Society produced a dossier documenting the numerous Catholic identity abuses at Georgetown. Many but not all of these abuses have been reported, but the full dossier and petition have not yet been made public,” Reilly reports.
In May 2013, the petition was submitted to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington with the support of more than 1,200 “alumni, students, parents, teachers, and other laity from around the world.” The petition was 198 pages long and contained 476 footnotes, 91 appendices, 124 witness statements and a 120-page institutional audit of Georgetown. It also documents 23 years of scandals and dissidence.
The Archdiocese responded by recommending that the petition be sent to the Vatican. On April 4, 2014, Archbishop Angelo Zani, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education wrote to Blatty, informing him that he was in receipt of what he called a “well-founded complaint” which the Congregation intended to take seriously.
“The petition has since been appealed to the Apostolic Signatura,” Reily reports. “It is not clear what communications have resulted between the Vatican and Georgetown University, but the Catholic identity abuses at Georgetown have continued with no indication that administrators will conform with Ex corde Ecclesiae.”
Reilly concludes: “William Peter Blatty, requiescat in pace. It now remains for other good Catholics to continue your noble effort.”