In light of recent events, the positive reception to our publication, and the ongoing dearth (though not nonexistence) of Black voices in the Catholic audio landscape, the BCM team agreed that it was time to establish a podcast.
From this has emerged the Black Catholic Messenger show, a space where we will affirm Blackness and Catholicism as well as we know how, expanding on what has to this point been a strictly text-based project. It is to be a place where our voices are not only seen but also heard.
Our first episode dealt with Amanda Gorman’s powerful speech at the inauguration of President Biden, but also the backlash she faced for her past comments on women’s rights and abortion. In the same way that Biden himself has faced accusations of not being a “real” Catholic, Gorman now faces some of the same disparaging comments.
EWTN wasted no time seizing on the moment, publishing next to nothing about Amanda’s speech, poetic corpus, or parish—unlike other news orgs—but instead posted a screed concerning her position on abortion.
But this is not new for the US’ largest Catholic media network. By now, we should know their game. Amanda Gorman, for her association with Joe Biden, was bound to become a target of their ideological urge, which unsurprisingly seems to land most squarely on Black people.
You’ll notice, for example, that Lady Gaga, another prominent Catholic featured at the inauguration, merited no mention by EWTN whatsoever, despite her similar comments on abortion—in fact, on the same Alabama abortion ban that Gorman was responding to in her video. Sonia Sotomayor, another pro-choice Catholic participating in the ceremony, also escaped mention.
Indeed, it seems that only the self-proclaimed “skinny Black girl descended from slaves” was worthy of EWTN’s words, an off-putting critique that said more about the publication itself than about Gorman’s own faith. Instead of highlighting the present uplift of her witness, they sought out stereotypes and dog whistles. In this way, they chose violence.
This, despite Gorman’s outspoken dedication to social uplift, Black people, poor people, unseen people, and the least of these. Sadly, some will (and do) point to one position alone to make a determination on her faith and that of countless others.
We as a publication do not support abortion. We are against the unnecessary killing of human life, as the Church has taught us and we have received. However, the best way to reduce or eliminate the perceived need for abortion remains somewhat up in the air. This was discussed on our podcast as well, in our second episode.
Will making abortion illegal actually preserve unborn life in the 21st century? Will keeping it legal eliminate unnecessary barriers to Consistent Life advocacy? Do the policies most often supported by conservatives in fact reduce abortions? These are questions that ought to be considered.
Moreover, the weaponization of misleading rhetoric to harm Black people must end. And while I have little hope that the most powerful voices will change their ways, it would behoove publications such as BCM to continue to advocate loudly, in all spaces and at all times, for Black lives—womb to tomb—and against voices that selectively apply Catholic teaching.
The Black Catholic Messenger show
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).