The Catholic University of America, which proudly boasts that its status as a pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the United States, features a number of paintings throughout its campus that imitate classic works of art, including Michelangelo’s sculpture, the Pietà, with one appalling difference — it depicts George Floyd as Jesus Christ.
In the original 1499 sculpture currently housed in St. Peter's Basilica, the famous Pietà depicts Jesus Christ being held by his mother Mary following His crucifixion.
As detailed by the Daily Signal, the Pietà displayed by the Catholic University is a painted emulation of the Michelangelo sculpture created by artist Kelly Latimore. The painting, titled Mama, shows “the Virgin Mary supporting the body of the dead Christ” with the likeness of George Floyd in place of Christ.
Two copies of the painting hang at the school; one at the Columbus School of Law and the other outside of the chapel.
The artist, Latimore, has indicated repeatedly that his painting depicts both Floyd and Christ, contradicting the school's claim that it only depicts Christ as a dark-skinned man.
The school’s vice president for university communications, Karna Lozoya, told the Daily Signal that “you can identify Jesus by the marks in the halo,” and refused to acknowledge that it depicted Floyd.
Despite the school’s denial, the Daily Signal photographed a description posted with the painting which stated: “Following the violent death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Latimore created this icon in June of that year.”
In an interview with the Christian Century in April, Latimore acknowledged that the painting did indeed depict George Floyd.
“It was commissioned by my partner Evie Schoenherr as a way to mourn George Floyd,” said Latimore, “The common question that people asked was, ‘Is it George Floyd or Jesus?’ The fact they’re asking that question is part of the problem. My answer was yes. This non-answer frustrated the hell out of a lot of people.”
A spokesperson for the artist told the publication that the canvas was done as a Pietà depicting “the mother with her son of colour who was unjustly murdered by the state.”
Students who alerted the Daily Signal to the painting’s existence expressed outrage over the work, describing it as a blasphemous depiction of Christ.
“The icon has no place at The Catholic University of America; it is blasphemous and an offence to the Catholic faith, but it is not surprising at all that it was put there,” a student stated, “It is just another symptom of the liberalization and secularization of our campus.”
“There are many students, faculty, and staff who are concerned about this, but there is nothing we can do,” the student added, “And if we sound the alarm, we will be labelled racists.”
“George Floyd is not Jesus Christ. … He is not a saint, nor a martyr, and to, in any way, compare him to the sinless son of Almighty God is to do a damning disservice to the vast majority of Catholics and Catholic theology… It is damning anywhere, but especially at The Catholic University of America, where this painting was purchased, unveiled, and hung up without input from student leaders,” another student said.
“It highly disappoints me that someone else is being depicted as Jesus Christ in the Pietà to begin with, [and] being right at the doors of a chapel makes matters worse. … Replace it with a photo of Floyd, I can care less, but to put up something clearly blasphemous defeats the mission of the university,” said a student.