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Is Georgetown University ‘Catholic enough’?

A sign in front of Healy Hall welcomes prospective students to Georgetown University in April  2014 .                  (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

William Peter Blatty, the famous author of “The Exorcist,” a graduate of Georgetown University, and a doctrinaire Catholic, submitted a petition to the Vatican last year asking church officials to strip his alma mater of  the labels Catholic and Jesuit because, it says, neither the faculty nor the student body are, in fact, Catholic enough.

My colleague Michelle Boorstein wrote in this story that the Vatican has responded. She wrote:

In a letter dated April 4, Archbishop Angelo Zani, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, said the case could not be handled in the way Blatty had asked, because Blatty himself had not “suffered an objective change” at the hands of Georgetown.
However, the letter, first reported by the National Catholic Register, also said this: “Your communications to this Dicastery in the matter of Georgetown University . . . constitute a well-founded complaint,” Zani wrote. “Our Congregation is taking the issue seriously, and is cooperating with the Society of Jesus in this regard.”

There is precedent. The Register notes that in 2012,  then-Pope Benedict XVI stripped a university in Peru, formally known as the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, of the titles “Catholic” and “pontifical.”

What did Georgetown do to incite such a petition?

According to the Register:

[O]ver the past decade, the university has drawn sharp criticism for a number of high-profile actions that raise questions about its adherence to Catholic teaching.
In recent years, it has opened a LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) resource center and hosts an annual “Lavender” graduation ceremony.
In 2012, Kathleen Sebelius, then the Obama administration’s secretary for Health and Human Services, was invited to speak at a graduation event after she approved the contraception mandate, condemned by the U.S. bishops as an unprecedented threat to religious freedom.

So is Georgetown “Catholic enough?” Here are some of the responses to Boorstein’s story:

5/13/2014 6:51 PM EST
Who gets to decide what is ‘catholic enough’? It seems to me that if your faith is so weak it cannot stand up to other opinions, ideas or discussions……………. then it’s YOUR faith that is the issue and not whether Georgetown is catholic enough.
BluDog Ex-Dem
12:16 AM EST
Catholicism is a faith rooted in communion with Christ, who established the Eucharistic meal (Mass) and selected the 12 apostles, set Peter as his rock, and told him & them feed His flock, share the Gospel (red letter and whole life), and to bind and loose. It’s important to be in communion with Rome (in actual teaching, not mischaracterizations in Time or Newsweek or the Post)
5/13/2014 5:32 PM EST [Edited]
One of the wonderful things about Georgetown is the commitment to interreligious dialogue and the presence of students, faculty, and staff who are from all religions traditions — and from no religious tradition. The school has its own Imam, Rabbi, Protestant chaplains in addition to the Jesuit priests. You can see non-Catholic students observing the Mass of the Holy Spirit in the Fall, and Christian students participation in Seder or attending Muslim prayers or discussion. People LEARN about religion if they want at Georgetown. They talk about how serving others has affected them. Some of the most wonderful young people in America go to Georgetown, and no I am not a paid shill or a member of the communication staff.
Blatty misses the point of how and why Georgetown was founded, what Patrick Healey intended, and what he built. I find it interesting that Blatty made a fortune on the school and now thinks he should be able to obliterate it. He insults all of the campus ministry staff through his actions and intentions.
5/13/2014 4:59 PM EST
I don’t get why so many people are upset that someone would want a school to actually reflect the religion they purport to be affiliated with. If a school clearly isn’t religious don’t claim a religious title, it’s as simple as that.


5/13/2014 5:09 PM EST
It’s not the religion per se that is at issue, it is a particularly conservative, restricted, and narrow view of that religion that these people are pushing. Why not just bring back the Inquisition and be done with it? By the way, I am a Georgetown graduate.
Ken Shabby
5/13/2014 4:47 PM EST
Uh, does the Vatican know that Blatty has been married four times?