Guest speaker Gloria Purvis’ takes on being Catholic, anti-racist and pro-life

Gloria Purvis spoke at a virtual event on March 9 on “the gift of Blackness and the dignity of life.” Headshot of Purvis taken from the flyer for the event.

Carolyn Kroupa
Contributing Writer

Sponsored by the Fr. William J. Ferree Chair of Social Justice, guest speaker Gloria Purvis gave a virtual presentation about racism from a catholic perspective on March 9. 

Purvis is the former host of the radio show “Morning Glory” on EWTN and has been featured in media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post and several others.

Purvis views the pro-life movement and the racial justice movement as interconnected because “at the core, they are about respecting the dignity of human life.”

“It’s a both/and; these movements are not enemies,” Purvis said.

She believes there is “common ancestry from God that bonds us together.”

Purvis categorizes racism as a sin, stating: “Racism to its core is such a lie to God’s word; it’s a contradiction.”

Racist ideas have historically been perpetuated by the catholic church. Purvis detailed examples such as bishops not advocating for the end of slavery, religious orders owning slaves and not letting Black men and women be ordained into religious life.

Purvis explained how there has been “myth making around Blackness” since chattel slavery that contributes to prejudice still present today. This has resulted in centuries of social conditioning for how society views Black people.

Social conditioning has led people to see Blackness in a negative light and has normalized the power imbalances among races. There has been progress made in outlawing explicit discrimination. However, this does not undo years of social conditioning. 

One example of conditioning in the catholic church Purvis discussed is the prominence of imagery and icons depicting White saints and the exclusion of Black saints. Additionally, images of Jesus, Mary and other important religious figures are popularly portrayed with White features. Purvis disclosed that when she has shared images of Jesus portrayed as a Black, Japanese or Middle Eastern man, she received backlash and hate messages online.

Purvis credits social conditioning for the lack of representation of Black saints and historically accurate portrayals of religious figures. 

Purvis believes that showing Jesus in diverse ways is important because people can perceive value and worthiness via artwork and representation.

“We can pass laws all day long, but that doesn’t change minds and hearts,” Purvis said. “White people can see liberty of Black people as diminishing their own liberty, but this is about liberating all of us from the lies of racism.” 

“We have to engage and recognize how racism has affected how people view Black liberation as a threat and danger,” Purvis said. “A true cry for justice should not be a threat.”

She believes racism has been made into a political issue when really it is a matter of human dignity.

“We have to advocate for the dignity of the human person,” Purvis said.

She asserted that no member of the human family should be excluded from being seen as worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their age, skin color or other characteristics.

“Taking charge against anti-Black racism is the right thing to do…it’s going to take effort to wash away the stain of racism,” Purvis concluded.

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