William Peter Blatty, the author of The Exorcist, now eighty-five years old, is planning on suing Georgetown University in Catholic Court for not being Catholic enough. I guess when you haven’t written anything that’s earned any attention in the last forty years, you have to do something to get your name back into circulation, even as your person may soon be leaving circulation rather permanently.
Old – literally – Blatty objects that a University might allow free thought and not, in his opinion, adequately censor the speakers they bring in to speak to their students, who are clearly incapable of making their own choices despite being old enough to vote and serve in the military. We desperately need to control their access to information or, the next thing you know, they will start thinking for themselves! When that happens, they are likely to ask questions – like how it is the Roman Catholic Church can even consider the expense of such Church legal actions when it has dioceses in bankruptcy all around the world!
There’s a lot of nonsense being sputtered by the Church in all its forms about religious freedom. Actually, the nonsense in question is a thinly veiled attempt to impose religious indoctrination upon people under the guise of religious freedom – but that’s not what’s religious freedom is at all. The Constitution says that the State shall not establish an official religion. That guarantees us of the freedom to choose to practice, or not practice, whatever religion we like. You might say, it guarantees freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion if that’s what an individual prefers. Despite the non-establishment clause, and the fact that religious are supposed to be bearers of truth and not spin, Churches in America – no doubt sensing their imminent demise – are pushing harder and harder, by any means necessary, to impose themselves on every corner of American life.
What the Catholic Church has never understood about America is that, in America, Universities are about academic freedom, not religious indoctrination. Religious Universities can certainly require students to take some religion classes and whatever other courses they deem appropriate, and students have the right to examine the graduation requirements before deciding to attend a College or University. What a Church cannot do, at least if it wants to receive Federal Financial Aid on behalf of its students, is restrict the academic freedom of its Professors. In short, you can’t teach nonsense, even if it is religious nonsense, and try to pass it off as truth – and it doesn’t matter what William Peter Blatty, Archbishop Dolan, the Pope, or anyone else, thinks about it.
The truth is that as I get older I am becoming more, not less, convinced that beyond a certain age people should have to pass a psychological evaluation of their ongoing cognitive ability before being able to initiate any sort of action that has more impact than the moving of their bowels. I have instructed my wife, who is younger than I, that should I start doing foolish things as I age to gently pull me aside, sit me down, and say, “Honey, when you were younger you told me to not let you embarrass yourself by being a demented ass in public, and that moment has arrived.” Being reminded that I told her that, I will most likely agree. If not, I have instructed her to lock me in a room with my prayer beads and some old movies to watch – but not The Exorcist. One demented ass in a room is more than enough.