Last June, William Blatty (COL ’50), author of The Exorcist, started a petition to sue Georgetown in canon court to strip it of its Catholic status. Blatty filed a complaint with the Archbishop of Washington, David Wuerl, on May 31, claiming that Georgetown does not comply with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s 1991 decree on Catholic higher education.
In the petition, Blatty writes that the theology and philosophy requirement, as well as offering Mass on campus, does not constitute a true Catholic identity. “It grieves me that Georgetown University today almost seems to take pride in insulting the Church and offending the faithful,” he wrote.
It goes without saying that if Blatty’s petition were successful, Georgetown would not be the same school it is today. Every student’s time here opens with a benediction at Convocation and closes with one at graduation. Without the guidance of chaplains-in-residence, without the exploration encouraged by those very theology classes Blatty so disdains, Georgetown would not be the school we chose to come to.
Blatty also ignores the most essential aspect of this entire case—that Georgetown is not a convent or a monastery, but a university. As Pope John Paul II wrote in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, “[Universities have] always been recognized as an incomparable center of creativity and dissemination of knowledge for the good of humanity. “If Georgetown adhered strictly to Catholic doctrine, many areas of student life such as the LGBTQ Resource Center and interfaith parts of campus ministry would be constricted. This paper would undoubtedly be heavily censored.
What Georgetown takes pride in is being a community of scholars, a place where students of all backgrounds can flourish. By allowing a diverse body of students to fully participate in student life, Georgetown opens the doors of Catholic spirituality to a community of intelligent young people.
The word “Catholic” comes from the Greek word “katholikos”, meaning “universal.” It continues to hold this meaning in both religious and non-ecclesiastical contexts, and Georgetown’s education embodies the best of this quality. The theology requirement and the Jesuit identity are an inextricable part of the school, soaked deep into the stones of Healey Hall. It’s a unique feature of our school and an important part of being a Hoya, and Blatty’s claims are completely ignorant of that fact.