The Washington Post has an interview feature with William Peter Blatty, author of the blockbuster novel The Exorcist, the basis of the equally blockbuster film of the same name. The occasion of the interview is the 40th anniversary of the release of the film. Blatty is a serious Catholic, and the interview brings this to light.
On Catholic education (and particularly his disappointment with his alma mater, Georgetown University):
Mere steps away from lunch is evidence of the fallen, in his eyes: his beloved alma mater, which he believes has drifted perilously into secularism. This month, Blatty submitted to the Vatican a petition with thousands of signatures and a 120-page institutional audit that calls for the removal of Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit designations if it does not comply with every little rule in “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” John Paul II’s constitution for affiliated colleges. The university, for its part, says the “Catholic and Jesuit identity on campus has never been stronger.”
Bill, what are you doing? people have asked him.
Bill, times change. Let it go.
Bill, why are you punishing the school you love, the school whose scholarship money rescued you from a childhood of restless poverty in New York, the school that made possible your life, that cemented your faith?
“If you truly love someone that you think needs to be in rehab, you’ll do everything you possibly can to get them into rehab,” Blatty says.
The last straw, he says, was Georgetown’s invitation of Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to be a commencement speaker in May of last year. Sebelius has a record of supporting abortion rights, and abortion is the issue that really sets Blatty’s nerves on fire.
He describes, his voice trembling, a particular abortion procedure in graphic detail.
He pauses. His voice is nearly a whisper.
And on his book, which he says is primarily not about sensationalistic horror, but about faith:
One reason “The Exorcist” has endured, Blatty thinks, is because it shows that the grave does not mean oblivion. That there is something after death . . . . [Out of work as a screenwriter, he had decided to] write a novel using a story he heard in a theology class at Georgetown. Something about a case of possession in Maryland. The project, he says, was purely apostolic. The obscenity, the occult, the suspense — mere devices, he says, in the service of sharing the faith.
You can read the whole interview here.