I recently had a great interview with Gloria Purvis for a special section in Our Sunday Visitor that focused on the nation’s ongoing reckoning with systemic racism a year after George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.
Purvis, a longtime pro-life speaker and activist who has also been very vocal on issues of racial justice, spoke at length on issues pertaining to racism, the Catholic Church’s somewhat uneven response to the call for racial justice, the deflections that she has seen from fellow Catholics when this topic comes up for discussion, and the reasons why she thinks some bishops, priests and lay Catholics don’t seem to want to prioritize the call to end racism.
In remarks that I didn’t have room to include in the Our Sunday Visitor interview – which my managing editor has given me permission to publish here – Purvis – who now hosts a podcast on America Media – offered her opinion when she hears Catholics – the vast majority of them being white – bring up Black Lives Matter or, more recently, critical race theory:
“What you see are lazy attempts to make Black Lives Matter the organization a scapegoat for all that’s wrong with any movement for racial justice. It’s easy, it’s a strawman, and it’s deceptive. But it has been a very successful thing to do, to deal with that instead of asking, ‘Why were these people out in the street marching?’ Colin Kaepernick tried to tell us about all this, and we got got mad at him when he was kneeling. That was a quiet (protest). But people still got really angry with him.”
“We’ve allowed the wrong groups to coopt what is the Gospel message, and make it just a message of political party, political power, and political points of view to say either you’re progressive or conservative. It’s just tiresome.
Purvis’ thoughts on those who bring up prior arrests, drug use, etc., when speaking about George Floyd and other Black people who are killed by police:
“I’m discovering that people want to spread lies and deceptions about who’s made in the image of God, and who’s to be treated with dignity and respect. They want to make widespread exceptions, and they refer to people in the most horrible ways to take away from their humanity. And they do this publicly without shame. It’s an embarrassment. And I think, woe to them on the day of judgement because the way in which they’ve judged, they too will be judged.”
Purvis said the Catholic clergy needs to step up on this issue:
“Where are our priests who are normally so full-throated about the defense of the unborn, which is correct. I would like to see that equal full throat-ness about the dignity and respect due to George Floyd. Racial justice is not contrary to the Church’s teaching.”
“Because I’ve been the target of the rage of some white Catholics who don’t believe that racism exists and systemic racism exists, I understand the reticence of some priests and bishops, because these people are ferocious. So I understand, but I’m begging them, for the sake of those very same people’s souls, that they need to say something because souls are in jeopardy. Hopefully the priests and bishops will overcome whatever that fear and reticence there is for the love of their sheep who are in the clutches of the Evil One.”
Purvis said Church leaders need to condemn racist messaging in partisan media outlets:
“I don’t hear enough about the Tucker Carlsons and the Candace Owens of the world, the people who put forward these coded, clearly racist dog whistles. Where is the full-throated rejection of that? Because as much as (the clergy) is quiet, their sheep is being seduced by all that language. If they can’t talk, then they need to rebuke the Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Newsmax, Oann, inasmuch as they become the anti-gospel.
“It seems we have a dedicated part of our clergy who can talk to what people perceive as left-leaning errors. Where are those clergy who can also talk to the errors of the right, particularly with the failures regarding the dignity of the human person outside the area of abortion. To me it should be a no-brainer. George Floyd was a person worthy of dignity and respect, but the talking point from that side of the political section has been contrary to what the Church’s teaching is. Where is that full-throated defense of her teaching in that area? That’s how they could be a better ally. Frankly, that specific message is what we’ve needed to hear from our notably pro-life clergy and bishops, because their flock was obviously confused and couldn’t apply the Church’s teaching in this case.”