The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC, has hung two copies of a painting of George Floyd in the role of Jesus Christ in the arms of the Virgin Mary, which some students are decrying as “blasphemous.”
The icon by Kelly Latimore, titled Mama, is exhibited outside the chapel at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law as well as in its campus ministry office.
Blayne Clegg, a junior at the university, said he was shocked when he spotted the painting hung on campus some weeks ago, calling the conflation of George Floyd with Jesus Christ “heretical, blasphemous idolatry,” Media Entertainment Arts WorldWide (MEAWW) reported Wednesday.
“There’s a fine line between recognizing the innate dignity and righteousness of human beings that are made in the image of God and embracing brazen, progressive politics,” Clegg told Fox News.
The university said that Latimore’s painting, which shows a mother mourning her dead son with George Floyd’s features, is meant to evoke Michelangelo’s sculpture La Pietà, which shows the Virgin Mary holding the body of Jesus Christ on her lap.
“Following the violent death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Latimore created this icon in June of that year,” says a didactic description accompanying the painting. “The image is evocative of the Pietà — the Mother of Sorrows,” it states. “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.”
Catholic University boasts of being “the only higher education institution founded by the U.S. bishops,” having been established in 1887 as a papally chartered graduate and research center.
Clegg told Fox News that “Jesus has been depicted as many different races, but Jesus is always depicted as nothing but Jesus.”
“There has never — to my knowledge — been any serious, respected Catholic theologian or icon maker who has depicted Jesus Christ as another human being,” he added.
The CUA Young Americans for Freedom student organization has launched a petition to have the painting removed from campus. It has garnered more than 1,000 signatures as of November 23, the Daily Mail reported.
“We are asking through this petition that the University’s administration remove these images from public display on our campus, as we believe they are disrespectful, and sacrilegious,” the petition declares.
The group has dubbed the painting a “political” statement while underscoring the separation of church and state. “No political or social cause ever justifies depicting another in the place of Jesus Christ,” it says.
One of the icons was stolen on November 23. John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America, wrote a letter to the campus community and a media statement in which he explains that where some see George Floyd in the icon, the university sees Jesus.