William Peter Blatty, author of "The Exorcist" and alumnus of Georgetown University, has received a response from the Vatican on a petition he submitted in fall 2013 demanding that the school be stripped of its Catholic label.
Blatty submitted the petition with 2,000 signatures asking that the Church “require that Georgetown implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a papal constitution governing Catholic colleges,” the National Catholic Register reports.
In the event that this effort fails, the petitions calls for “the removal or suspension of top-ranked Georgetown’s right to call itself Catholic and Jesuit in any of its representations.”
Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, the secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education, responded to Blatty in a letter on April 4 saying Blatty's petition "cannot be considered grounds for a hierarchical recourse." He did say, however, that the congregation was looking into the matter.
“Your communications to this dicastery in the matter of Georgetown University … constitute a well-founded complaint,” wrote Archbishop Zani, according to the Register. “Our congregation is taking the issue seriously and is cooperating with the Society of Jesus in this regard.”
Georgetown Assistant Vice President for Communications Stacy Kerr send a statement to The Huffington Post saying the school had received no formal correspondence from the Vatican regarding Blatty's petition. "Georgetown supports the largest campus ministry in the country," Kerr said.
"Our Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger...In the past month we have been proud to partner with the Vatican and the Archdiocese of Washington to promote our shared Catholic identity through major cultural events - most recently a concert last week celebrating the sainthood of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII and a three day cultural conference, which was the Vatican's first Courtyard of the Gentiles event in the United States."
Blatty, however, expressed optimism at Zani's response in an interview with the Register. "I am deeply gratified that the prayers of my 2,000 fellow petitioners have been answered,” he said. “There is still more work to be done, and I promise them that we will persevere.”
Georgetown's Catholic identity has been disputed, particularly among conservative Catholics who say the school has not adequately adhered to the Ex Corde Ecclesiae. This document, released by Pope John Paul II in 1990, outlines instructions for Catholic schools and universities on best practices and conduct.
Among the requirements outlines in the Ex Corde Ecclesiae are:
1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life
In her statement, Kerr said the attack on Georgetown's Catholic identity is unfounded.
"Academically, we remain committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition. All undergraduate students, for example, take two semesters of theology and two semesters of philosophy before graduation... And we are proud of the countless ways that our students put their faith into action through service and justice programs."
CORRECTION: A statement from Georgetown University has been added to this piece.