Gloria Purvis has been interviewed on a lot of podcasts, but she has never hosted…
Gloria Purvis: ‘Racial justice is not contrary to the Church’s teaching’
Because of the vitriol, hate and recriminations she has received over the last year for speaking out against systemic racism and police brutality, Gloria Purvis said she understands the reticence some Catholic leaders have in also speaking more forcefully on racial justice.
“But I’m begging them, for the sake of those very same people’s souls, that they need to say something, because I really believe these people’s souls are in jeopardy as they are in the clutches of the Evil One,” Purvis told Our Sunday Visitor.
Purvis’ life hasn’t been the same since she and the world saw the video of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020.
At the time, Purvis was co-host of EWTN Radio’s “Morning Glory” show and began speaking more often on racism and police brutality against Black people. Her words angered some listeners, and the Guadalupe Radio Network — EWTN’s largest affiliate — dropped “Morning Glory” in late June 2020 citing a “spirit of contention growing among the hosts.” At the end of last year, EWTN canceled the show.
“I’ve had hateful, abusive interactions, online trolls and people just telling outright lies about me and misrepresenting what I’ve said, but I’ve also had people who have been very encouraging,” said Purvis, who was named one of Our Sunday Visitor’s 2020 Catholics of the Year and today works with Catholic groups, diocesan agencies, universities and student associations on issues related to racial justice.
In a conversation with Our Sunday Visitor, Purvis reflected on the state of race in the country and in the Church over the past year since Floyd’s death, including the April 20 conviction of Chauvin on murder and manslaughter charges.
Our Sunday Visitor: What did you feel when the Derek Chauvin guilty verdicts were announced?
Gloria Purvis: Relief. Honestly, I didn’t realize how on edge I was until the verdict was read, and then I just felt tension leave my body. It was this realization dawning on me that a Black person just can’t be killed without consequences by an agent of the state.
After that relief, I have to say that I was then kind of bewildered by the rage that I saw from people who, whether they’re Catholic or not, say they are pro-life. It was actually quite shocking. These people were seriously angry and believed that justice wasn’t served. It was surprising that they would say of the verdict, “it’s mob rule” and not consider that people looked at the evidence in front of them, saw it with their eyes and heard from experts that it was murder, which is something I knew from the beginning when I saw the video of George Floyd being killed. It’s disappointing.
Our Sunday Visitor: How do you begin to make sense of those reactions?
Purvis: Why is it so difficult to say George Floyd is made in the image and likeness of God, and his life was worthy of dignity and respect? This is to me what clearly shows a gross problem in the pro-life movement. If you can’t affirm the dignity and respect of George Floyd and his life, clearly, then, to me you have a contradictory witness, and you can’t really give a convincing argument to anyone about why life in the womb should be respected, when you clearly could not, in a clear full-throated voice, say, “George Floyd was made in the image and likeness of God, and his life was worthy of dignity and respect.” Simple.
Frankly, that specific message is what we 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.
Our Sunday Visitor: Over the last year, have you seen any indication that Catholic clergy are taking the issue of racial justice more seriously?
Purvis: You have it in certain pockets where bishops and clergy are on the ball, at least about racial justice. And some are not. Some clergy have basically been, in my opinion, spreading the message of the anti-Gospel in raging against “the mob” when they should be raging against the Evil One. To me, they themselves have been deceived, and they have just not encouraged the flock to accept the hard Gospel truth about George Floyd, the dignity of the human person, and how if you want peace you have to work for justice — and that includes racial justice. What they want is a lazy peace that doesn’t require them to do the labor for justice.
Our Sunday Visitor: Would you say that you have become more outspoken on racial justice over the last year?
Purvis: I think this is something that has had a lot more people wanting to hear and understand, so they have invited me to come and talk to them. I think more people are thirsting for a message of fidelity. I’m a loyal daughter of the Church. I believe what the Church teaches. For them to hear from someone who, for some reason, people don’t necessarily think would be equally animated about racial justice, I think it was just something new and surprising. It also made people feel like they could trust what I was going to say because I believe what the Church teaches on everything. People want to hear how did I arrive at this, why do I believe this. For me, it’s because I believe what the Church teaches. I believe in the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death, and I really sincerely believe that. It’s no ifs, ands or buts.
Our Sunday Visitor: Are you seeing more of an openness on the part of white Catholics to have this conversation?
Purvis: People are starting to hear it, but I think the hurdle is still the discomfort. Hearing it, and what to do about it, but then having people personalize it and reacting like, “What are you saying? What does this say about me as a white person?” You then hear from white people who think all this is anti-white ideology, and I’m like, “oh my gosh, they completely miss it.” All this is about what’s harming the human family.
Then there are people who assume that they’re supposed to be comfortable living in the presence of hearing the Gospel and learning the truth, so they get angry because they’re uncomfortable learning about racism, the history and its impacts and effects of these sins today. And I’m like, who in their right mind expects to have a pang of conscience and remain comfortable? But you see a lot of the rage and “how dare you make me uncomfortable.” And I’m like, “didn’t we just celebrate the passion of Our Lord. You think he was comfortable carrying that cross?”
Our Sunday Visitor: How can the Church be a better ally in anti-racism?
Purvis: Our priests and bishops who are normally so full-throated about defense of the unborn, which is correct, I would like to see that equal full-throatedness about the dignity and respect due to George Floyd. Racial justice is not contrary to the Church’s teaching.
Our Sunday Visitor: How would you say your life has changed since George Floyd was murdered a year ago and protests demanding racial justice began across the country?
Purvis: I feel God has in a very specific way been showing me that he is with me. It’s as if God said, “My daughter, if you follow me in what I say, you have no need to worry.” And I don’t. I have no regrets. I am at peace and so free from any of the doubts and thoughts like, “If I hadn’t done this, this wouldn’t have happened.” And I only can believe that this is the Lord’s way of confirming for me that I was right to speak even when people didn’t want to hear about police brutality, about racism, about the dignity of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
My life has also changed in that I feel God has been letting me see his hand in all of this, and how he has given me opportunities with a lot of different people and groups, including bishops. Many are eager to fight the demon of racism, and they are unafraid. And I am happy to help them.
Brian Fraga is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.