Update (12:27 a.m.) In response to a request for comment, University spokesperson Stacy Kerr recommended using the quote from President John J. DeGioia‘s letter: “We are a university, committed to the free exchange of ideas.”
As if Georgetown’s relationship with Catholics couldn’t get any worse, Georgetown alum and Academy Award winning writer William Peter Blatty (COL ’50) threatens to file a canon lawsuit on Georgetown for its allegedly deteriorating Catholic identity. Blatty spoke to several media outlets stating that the University’s decision to host Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was the “last straw” in a series of building up tensions Georgetown has with several Catholic groups around the nation.
In an online petition, Blatty asks signatories to cease any donations to Georgetown. He claims that for the past decade the University has continually defied and broken Catholic canon law. “Georgetown is being dishonest. Together, we need to end that!,” Blatty writes on the petition. Canon law is a Catholic legal system with courts, lawyers, and judges, which does not have any binding power. Blatty claims that Georgetown has strayed too far from Catholic values for 21 years and his new organization may decide to submit a canon lawsuit asking the Church to revoke Georgetown’s “right to call itself Catholic.”
Blatty’s recently-founded organization is called The Father King Society: to Make Georgetown Honest, Catholic, and Better. In the website, there is a list of Georgetown’s “scandals” against Catholic teachings. Among these scandals in the list include performances of “the vile play The Vagina Monologues” as well as the University’s hosting of speakers such as Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and President Barack Obama. The organization alleges that all these speakers, who are either openly pro-choice or support abortion rights, prove Georgetown’s noncompliance with Catholic values.
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This morning, an informal gathering of about 10-15 pro-life protesters set up shop on Georgetown’s campus. Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary, spoke to the Georgetown Public Policy Institute earlier today. According to the Washington Post, an anti-abortion protester interrupted her speech and shouted “You’re a murderer!” and was escorted out. Attendants at the event said the graduates booed the individual out of the hall.
Albert Stecklein III, one of the protesters on Georgetown’s campus today, said that the demonstration was organized informally. He urged that Georgetown’s decision was not a reflection of free speech and open dialogue. “To say that, ‘well you have to support diverse opinions,’ well anyone who supports slavery would not have the same reception,” he said.
Photos and reporting by Lucia He
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Earlier today, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) spoke to a half-full Gaston Hall defending the Catholic community’s criticism of his budget. Halfway through the lecture, ten students from GU Occupy unfurled a banner from the upper balcony that read: “Stop the war on the poor. No social justice in Ryan’s budget.” The protestors were approached by security officers but not removed from the event.
Over 90 Georgetown faculty and administrators sent a letter on Tuesday to Ryan expressing stern disapproval of the budget’s plans to cut antipoverty and social welfare programs. Ryan’s response? “Some Catholics think they have a monopoly on Catholic social teaching.”
Ryan went on to respond to claims that his budget hurts America’s impoverished by arguing that “the overarching threat to our society is our spiraling government debt.” He added that cutting social programs and assistance to the poor would in fact reduce poverty.
After the event, GU Occupy joined Washington-based group Catholics United in a demonstration of twenty people stood across Gaston Hall on Copley Lawn with another banner. The protest included singing and a theatrical reading of a document the activists dubbed “the Gospel of the Rich.”
James Salt, Executive Director of Catholics United, said the real world impacts of Ryan’s budget were left out of the speech. “He hasn’t studied the Gospels,” Salt said. “He didn’t talk about the actual effects of his policies on those who are suffering. What’s lost today is the dignity of the mother of three on welfare…if Paul Ryan knew what poverty was we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
With a dose of patriotism, Ryan said during the lecture that “no one ever got rich betting against the United States.” Despite this, many members of Georgetown’s Catholic community remain concerned about the potentially devastating effects Ryan’s budget will have on the marginalized segments of American society.
Reporting by Gavin Bade
Photo: Gavin Bade
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