A student and an alumnus at Catholic University of America (CUA) told The Star News Network that they are unhappy with the school’s paintings that depict George Floyd as Jesus Christ.
“George Floyd obviously didn’t deserve to die, but he’s not Jesus Christ,” Blayne Clegg, a junior at the school and president of the CUA College Republicans, told The Star.
Clegg said he’s been following the news of the paintings since it was first reported, and said the reaction on campus has been “overwhelmingly negative.”
“I haven’t seen a serious theological argument in favor of it, and Catholic theology ought to be the single most important thing to our university,” he said. “I’m not sure if the university knew or cared that this would upset a lot of people, but they do now, and the ball is in their court.”
The Daily Signal first reported that the paintings hang in CUA’s office of campus ministry, and in CUA’s law school.
Kelly Latimore, a St. Louis activist and artist, created the painting that hangs in the law school. The painting is called “Mama.” During Floyd’s arrest at the hands of now-convicted ex-Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, he could be heard on video yelling “mama.”
In an April interview, Latimore explained how the painting came about.
“It was commissioned by my partner Evie Schoenherr as a way to mourn George Floyd. In my first sketch, Mary was looking at the savior, but we ended up shifting her gaze to the viewer,” he said. “It was Evie’s idea. That subtle shift was powerful. It wasn’t focusing on the death, which was horrible, but the viewer, and guiding us to communal thought and prayer and action.”
He did not explain how the painting ended up at CUA, and neither did the university.
“The image is evocative of the Pietà—the Mother of Sorrows,” a description under the painting says. “May Mary, the Mirror of Justice hear the cry of all who have known the sorrow of losing a loved one to violence and injustice. Amen.”
Ryan Ellis is a CUA alumnus. He is displeased by what he says is a leftward turn on the part of the university.
“I’ve been horrified to see my alma mater descend into just another liberal Catholic college over the past few years–only without the fame of a Notre Dame or a Fordham,” he told The Star.
“It’s the worst of all worlds,” he said. “They have a multicultural office on campus. They just finished an internal audit on how racist they are. They ban the Latin Mass on campus while cozying up to Black Lives Matter, Critical Race Theory, and radical alphabet people groups who hate the Catholic Church.”
In March, CUA held a ceremony upon the unveiling of the law school painting.
“With the conclusion of Catholic Law’s Black History Month program, which boasted an impressive list of events throughout the month of February, the Catholic Law community held an unveiling and blessing of a new icon for the Law School’s Mary Mirror of Justice Chapel,” the law school’s website says.
Dean Stephen Payne assured the community during the ceremony that “diversity is a divine gift we should cherish.”
In July, school President John Garvey announced that he had appointed Associate Dean of Engineering Mel Williams, Jr. to oversee diversity and inclusion programs.
“With personal humility and mindful respect for everyone in the Catholic University community, I look forward to remaining a servant leader who assists others in our collaborative pursuit of common goals,” Williams said at the time. “My approach will be to listen intently, to advise, to add value by performing the needed work in support of cognizant University leaders and our community, and as President Garvey has indicated — to help create at Catholic University a truly hospitable campus culture for all nations, peoples, and cultures.”
CUA refused to address the concerns of students and alumni.
“‘Mama’ by Kelly Latimore depicts the Virgin Mary supporting the body of the dead Christ,” CUA’s Vice President for University Communications Karna Lozoya told The Star by email. “You can identify Jesus by the marks in the halo.”
She did not respond to a follow up inquiry about what exactly that means.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “The Catholic University of America” by The Catholic University of America.