In the wake of a year’s worth of controversy surrounding Georgetown’s Catholic identity, a prominent alum is challenging the university’s right to be affiliated with the Catholic Church and the Society of Jesus.
Academy Award winner William Peter Blatty (C ’50), best known as the novelist and screenwriter responsible for “The Exorcist,” announced plans today for the creation of The Father King Society to Make Georgetown Honest, Catholic and Better. The organization, which is named for the late Fr. Thomas King, S.J., of the theology department, intends to petition the Catholic Church to strip Georgetown of the ability to describe itself as Catholic or Jesuit in fundraising and informational materials.
Though the organization was planned before the announcement of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius as the speaker at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Tropaia awards ceremony, the development prompted Blatty to launch his initiative this week.
“This is simply the last straw,” Blatty said. “The scandals that Georgetown has given to the faithful are too many to count and too many to ignore any longer.”
The Father King Society is now threatening the university with a canon law action, a lawsuit filed within the Catholic Church. The outcome will be judged by archbishops and possibly the Vatican.
This is not Georgetown’s first encounter with canon law action. In 1991 and 1992, then Dean of Students John J. DeGioia came under fire as dean of students for authorizing university funding for GU Choice, the predecessor to current pro-choice advocacy group H*yas for Choice. Catholic alums quickly organized in response, filing a canon law action with the Archdiocese of Washington. Cardinal James Hickey deferred the matter to the Vatican. Threatened with the removal of Georgetown’s Catholic affiliation, then-President Fr. Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., reversed DeGioia’s decision upon his return from Rome.
Blatty’s Father King Society has close ties with the Cardinal Newman Society of Washington, which called on Georgetown to cancel the Sebelius address in a Wednesday Washington Post opinion piece by organization founder, President and CEO Patrick Reilly.
Reilly said he supports Blatty’s initiative as a last resort to address what he sees as Georgetown’s noncompliance with Catholic teachings.
“We’re thrilled that … Blatty has invited us to assist him and others in their efforts to defend Georgetown’s Catholic mission from those who would undermine or abandon it,” he said. “Such intervention is necessary only because Georgetown’s leadership has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to uphold Georgetown’s obligations under canon law.”
Blatty stressed that he aims to return the university to its Catholic roots.
“In the months to come, The Father King Society will ask Georgetown and the Church for explanations and decisions,” he said. “It grieves me that Georgetown University today almost seems to take pride in insulting the Church and offending the faithful.”