Academy Award winner William Peter Blatty, whose best-selling book and blockbuster film The Exorcist were situated at his alma mater, Georgetown University, announced today that he will lead alumni, students and other members of the new Father King Society to petition the Catholic Church for remedies up to and including the possible removal or suspension of top-ranked Georgetown’s right to call itself Catholic or Jesuit in its fundraising and representations to applicants.
According to a press release from the Father King Society, the move comes on the heels of an unprecedented rebuke of Georgetown and its first lay president by His Eminence, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, over Georgetown’s invitation to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to be a diploma ceremony speaker today. Georgetown, however, has not backed down.
The editors of the Archdiocesan newspaper wrote in an editorial last Sunday regarding Georgetown: “When the vision guiding university choices does not clearly reflect the light of the Gospel and authentic Catholic teaching, there are, of course, disappointing results.”
The Father Kings Society’s Canon Law action, based on Georgetown’s failure for more than two decades to comply with the requirements of Ex corde Ecclesiae (ECE), the 1990 Apostolic Constitution for Catholic Universities, was already being planned before the Sebelius scandal.
“This is simply the last straw,” said Blatty. “The scandals that Georgetown has given to the faithful are too many to count, and too many to ignore any longer.”
On the Father King Society website announcing the Canon Law action, Blatty writes: “Of course, what we truly seek is for Georgetown to have the vision and courage to be Catholic, but clearly the slow pastoral approach has not worked. …Georgetown is being dishonest. Together, we need to end that!”
Blatty does not mince words about who is to blame for Georgetown’s slide:
“Many believe that to make Georgetown truly Catholic is to turn back the clock hands and somehow limit its very nature as a university, as if the notion of ‘Catholic’ and ‘university’ are new to each other, or inherently at odds. On the contrary, to make Georgetown ‘Catholic’ is to move the clock forward; it is to make the University better than it now is! Of course, there are always those who are afraid of change—who lack vision. They may need to step aside.”
“John Paul II exhorted us all to preserve for the Church the highest places of culture—our universities. Generations of alumni have long been seduced to ‘go along’ by dinners, medals, and board seats. We have all been negligent for too long: the laity, the clergy, and the bishops as well.”
The Fr. King Society has enlisted the help of The Cardinal Newman Society, which for nearly two decades has been a leader in the movement to promote strong Catholic identity. The Cardinal Newman Society will provide expert advice, research assistance, and public relations support.
In 1991-1992, Georgetown was the stage for a similar Canon Law action based on Ex corde Ecclesiae. Then-Dean of Student Affairs Dr. John J. DeGioia, now GU’s first lay president, authorized funding and support for a pro-abortion student advocacy group. Cardinal James Hickey rebuked Georgetown but held that the matter needed resolution in Rome, and the petitioners appealed directly to John Paul II. Georgetown’s Jesuit president was called to Rome.
A few weeks later on a Friday afternoon, the support for the pro-abortion student group was reversed, and the Canon petition became moot. It was a success that reverberated as other universities announced defunding of similar clubs.
According to the Father King Society, the new planned Canon Law suit will be much larger in scale and potential consequences than the previous 1991-1992 petition, and it comes at a critical time when the U. S. bishops are presently evaluating the implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae.