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Opinion: Gloria Purvis deserved better

In the wake of EWTN's widely-condemned decision to remove Gloria Purvis from the air, Black Catholic author Alessandra Harris speaks out in her defense.

Gloria Purvis was one of the most outspoken Black Catholics in 2020 on the issue of racial equality.

Whether on "Morning Glory", the show she co-hosted with Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers and Msgr Charles Pope, or in countless interviews for various media outlets (including a New York Times profile) and numerous webinars, Ms. Purvis consistently defended the lives of all African-Americans with an authentic and prophetic voice.

With racial tensions across the country ignited by the killing of African-Americans (most notably George Floyd), millions of people throughout the world joined voices and marched in the streets, calling for an end to racism.

On Morning Glory, Gloria Purvis and the other hosts' passionate conversations about racial injustice mirrored this widespread racial reckoning.

Unlike Ms. Purvis, far too many American priests and bishops refused to confront the sin of racism head-on, and others outright condemned the movement for racial justice spearheaded by the mantra "Black Lives Matter."

Many Black Catholics like myself lamented the weak response from the USCCB and the vitriol from too many of our white brothers and sisters in Christ who refused to acknowledge systemic racism and labeled Black activists as anti-Christian.

We pointed out the hypocrisy of many in the pro-life community who only seemed to care in theory about unborn Black babies, but wouldn't lend their voices to affirm the sacredness of Black life after birth or call for an end to police brutality and institutionalized racism.

With the roots of racism and oppression running deep within the United States and the American Catholic Church, the backlash against Ms. Purvis came to fruition when Guadalupe Radio Network suspended airing Morning Glory on June 26, 2020, citing "numerous complaints."

As reported here yesterday, EWTN has announced that they’ve removed Morning Glory from their lineup—replacing it with a show of all White hosts.

Unlike EWTN's majority-Caucasian programming, the Catholic Church is made up of people from every corner of the globe, including virtually all ethnicities and racial backgrounds.

And though there are only three million African-American Catholics, the Church is growing fastest on the continent of Africa and continues to flourish among people of African descent in the Caribbean and Latin America.

For EWTN to remove its only two African-American hosts from the air demonstrates that, all too often, American Catholic media refuses to acknowledge the true diversity of the Church and appreciate the unique spiritual gifts of Her members.

In St. Pope John Paul II's 1987 speech, "The Church and The Black Community," he stated:

"Your great concern, both as blacks and as Catholics, is—and must always be—that all your black brothers and sisters throughout America may hear and embrace the saving and uplifting Gospel of Jesus Christ. I willingly join my voice to those of the Bishops of your country who are encouraging you to give priority to the great task of evangelization, to be missionaries of Christ’s love and truth within your own black community."

More than ever, we need Catholic media outlets like Black Catholic Messenger to give a voice to Black Catholics that are too often overlooked, ignored, and silenced. Ms. Purvis spoke to the hearts of Black Catholics and reminded them they are entitled to a seat at the table.

I'm praying Ms. Purvis will find the right outlet to continue to speak her truth, which is sorely needed in the Catholic Church and this country.

Alessandra Harris is author of two novels and is a wife, mother of four, and co-founder of BCM. She earned degrees in Comparative Religious studies and Middle East Studies and currently studies in the Diocese of San Jose's Institute for Leadership in Ministry. She has also contributed to publications such as America Magazine, Grotto Network, and US Catholic. Her third novel is due in 2022.

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