The Devil Made Him Do It: Exorcist Author To Sue Georgetown For Not Being Catholic Enough

In a demonic twist, the man who terrified us with demons now seems to think there's too many running the show at Georgetown. Nice day for an exorcism, yes?

In a demonic twist, the man who terrified us with demons now seems to think there’s too many running the show at Georgetown. Nice day for an exorcism, yes?

In a slightly bizarre case of synchronicity, last night I watched, for the billionth time, that great, horrifying, terrifying Satanic scare-fest, The Exorcist. Even while the 40-year-0ld film, adapted from a book by William Peter Blatty, shows its age in both style and sensibility, the tale of spewing demons in the Georgetown home of a besieged mother and daughter saved by the arcane and dark Catholic art of exorcism remains sharp and specific, particularly in its dogmatic view of both the belief and the practice. Where the synchronicity comes in? This morning I stumbled on the following news item: William Peter Blatty, a 1950 graduate of Georgetown University, intends to file a canon lawsuit, and has currently filed a petition of complaint, against his alma mater where the movie was filmed. Why? To put it simply, he believes the university is not Catholic enough. At least not Catholic enough to call itself Catholic.

And just how Catholic is that? Well, in the complaint filed with Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., the Academy-award winning horror-meister and cohorts (of which there are purportedly “more than 1,200 alumni, students, parents, teachers, and other laity from around the world”) claim the university does not comply with the “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” former Pope John Paul’s 1991 decree regarding the parameters of “Catholic” higher institutions of learning. The very expansive list of grievances outlining the non-compliance is dry and detailed (though one wonders what “failure to invite respect of Catholic Doctrine and Morals” refers to. We’ll get to that in a minute.), but the gist is quite simple:

… The university failed to ensure “that all official actions and commitments [are] authentically Catholic,” to recruit personnel that are willing and able to “promote Catholic identity,” to respect Catholic doctrine and that the university employs a majority of non-Catholics. [Source. Emphasis added.]

Dear God, no! Non-Catholics work there? But wait, there’s more:

Another problem for Blatty: a large coalition of Georgetown faculty protesting against Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) for misuse of Catholic social teaching in defending his budget, which hurts the poor.

Ah, so it’s not Catholic enough to exercise your right to free speech but is Catholic enough to design a budget plan that dismisses the needs of the poor? Interesting, since wasn’t it just last year the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came out against Ryan’s budget for doing just that, failing to meet the “basic moral test” and hurting the poor? I wonder if Blatty figures the Catholic bishops are just so Catholic there isn’t much he can say to them, but the Georgetown faculty, well… some of them aren’t even Catholic, so… you have that.

But wait! There’s more! The complainants then narrow in on even more nefarious issues (emphasis on the “narrow”):

Blatty’s petition claims there are 22 years of GU scandals that are “defended by Georgetown leaders in a Jesuitical garble.” Those scandals include hosting “the vile play ‘The Vagina Monologues’,” hosting openly gay Georgetown alumnus Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) on campus and allowing sexual health education on campus. He also complains about Georgetown allowing pro-choice politicians and government officials [i.e., Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and President Barack Obama] at campus events. [Emphasis added.]

There it is. In a nutshell. Once again, Catholicism takes on sexuality. That damned, dreaded, demonic sexuality:

THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES??? What was Georgetown thinking? It’s bad enough women have vaginas, but a play with the word in its title? And that play being presented at a Catholic university (where vaginas are not spoken of much less used or dramatized)? That the play utilizes the “vile” vagina as a symbol of female empowerment, individuality and triumph is, apparently, not relevant to the conversation. They’re simply “un-Catholic.”

And SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION ON CAMPUS?? Stunned, we’re stunned! It’s bad enough there is sex and apparently young people need to be educated about it (though who in their right mind isn’t by college age? Maybe Catholic kids?), but on campus?? Forget the fact that even the Vatican II Declaration on Education called for “positive and prudent sexual education” with the Catholic school performing its services “as partners of the parents”; forget that. It’s more important to be really pissed off about a university even having a sex education program.

And REP. DAVID CICILLINE?? He’s GAY, for God’s sake, and from Rhode Island, tenth state to ratify marriage equality. Right there, you’ve got a double-whammy of demonic. And Albright, Pelosi and Obama? Our heads are spinning.

Seriously, my head is spinning. I guess this is what “failure to invite respect of Catholic Doctrine and Morals” refers to: Apparently what “isn’t Catholic enough” is anything that speaks to issues of human sexuality, open sexual education, sexual freedom, sexual orientation, reproductive rights, women’s right to choose, anything with the word “vagina,” anything that has a vagina, even men who don’t prefer vaginas, etc. I’ve always maintained that sex terrifies the religious (well, some… most… certainly those in Blatty’s group). The man may be a kick-ass writer, but considering where his head is, he’s clearly kicking himself.

Some believe this tactic is part of a new wave of activism by Catholic “traditionalists” to up the ante on attacking more liberal Catholic higher education. From InsideHigherEd:

In a statement, Blatty said that Georgetown has become a “Potemkin village” of Catholicism.

A spokeswoman for Georgetown said that the institution has not seen the complaint and so can’t comment. But Georgetown officials — when faced with similar criticisms in the past — have noted that Georgetown has masses every day (up to seven on Sunday) and a wide range of programs that reflect the university’s Catholic and Jesuit identity.

Imagine the 224-year-old university, the oldest Jesuit and Catholic university in the country, having to defend its “wide range” of Catholic programs to assuage Mr. Über-Catholic and his cabal? But defend it they do… from the Georgetowner:

Georgetown University officials disagree with the allegations by Blatty and other of not being as true to Catholicism as it once was. “Our Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger,” said Rachel Pugh, university spokesperson.

The university maintains its academic standards of requiring theology and philosophy courses. Students of Georgetown University have numerous ways to expand their knowledge of Catholicism and strengthen their faith, including the opportunity to attend one or more of as many seven Masses on Sundays in Dahlgren Chapel, which is only one among the five Catholic chapels Georgetown campuses.

“All undergraduate students, for example, take two semesters of theology and two semesters of philosophy before graduation,” said Pugh. “Georgetown supports the largest ministry in the country.”

But none of that is enough for Mr. Blatty. He’s encouraging like-minded Catholics to “curtail your donations for one year” in an open letter he filed along with his complaint. And now that the complaint has been filed with the good archbishop, all involved are waiting to see what the next steps will be in regards to his threatened lawsuit. Because we all know you can legally adjudicate just what is Catholic enough

Yep. Nice day for an exorcism…