Does Georgetown need ... The Exorcist?

After a week of controversy over her invitation to speak at Georgetown University’s commencement ceremonies, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finally delivered her speech to the graduates at the Catholic school.  With the cardinal of the archdiocese publicly rebuking university president John DiGioia over both the invitation and his non-sequitur defense, the stage was set for a confrontation — and sure enough, one erupted, if short-lived:

As promised, pro-life advocates interrupted the speech pro-abortion HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave at Georgetown University today. The speech has drawn condemnation from the Archdiocese of Washington, which has complained that the Catholic university should not be giving a platform to the abortion advocate. …

Father Frank Pavone, director of Priests for Life, criticized Georgetown for allowing Sebelius to speak there.

“It was outrageous when Notre Dame University awarded an honorary degree to President Obama during commencement exercises in 2009,” said Father Pavone, who was invited by pro-life students to lead an alternative graduation ceremony at the Indiana university. “Georgetown’s decision to invite Secretary Sebelius is just as bad. She is leading the assault on religious freedom that has grave implications for the Catholic Church. By inviting her to speak, Georgetown offers the image of a Church that is, at best divided and at worst hypocritical. What we need instead is a show of unity and resolve.”

Priests for Life in February filed the fourth of what are now 11 lawsuits against the Health and Human Services mandate that would require most faith-based employers to provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization services and abortifacient drugs.

Pavone’s not the only outside voice objecting to the Sebelius appearance in light of her support for abortion and the HHS mandate.  William Peter Blatty, a class of ’50 Georgetown alumnus and author of The Exorcist and John Goldfarb Please Come Home, has launched a drive to have his alma mater stripped of its Catholic affiliation and/or its leadership held to account (via Deacon Greg Kandra):

Georgetown University alumni, students and others are preparing a canon law suit to be filed with the Archdiocese of Washington and the Vatican, seeking 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.”

The effort is being led by the distinguished Georgetown alumnus William Peter Blatty, who won an Academy Award for his screenplay and book The Exorcist and has been honored by Georgetown with its John Carroll Medal for alumni achievement.

Blatty is urging Georgetown alumni, students, parents, faculty and anyone associated with Georgetown to join the lawsuit at The website includes an inspiring letter by Blatty and a description of Georgetown’s historical ties to the Jesuits, the Washington Archdiocese and the Vatican.

The press release from the Father King Society and The Cardinal Newman Society, which have partnered in this effort, also mentions that DeGioia faced a similar action twenty years ago — and Georgetown University got rebuked by Blessed John Paul II because of DeGioia’s activities at that time:

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.

Clearly, DeGioia didn’t learn from his last scrape, and just as clearly, the now-president of the school has an agenda that significantly deviates from church doctrine.  It looks as though Georgetown really could use an Exorcist these days.

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