Conversations That Matter: The Intersection of Racial Justice and Life Issues

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Pope Francis decried the sin of racism, saying, "We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life." He addressed racism again in his recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, describing it as "a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting" (§20). 

The Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity will host a free, three-part webinar series through spring 2021 addressing the integral relationship between racial justice and the culture of life, from conception to natural death.

This webinar series is intended for a general audience and designed to assist anyone in more effectively advocating for a just society which supports human flourishing for every man, woman, and child. Each session will begin with a 45 minute talk, followed by time for Q&A. This series will be recorded and available for viewing later.


Ernest Morrell
April, 14, 2021- 1:00 p.m. EDT/ 10:00 a.m. PDT

"Why Black Education is a Life Issue: Racial Justice and the Church’s Call to Action”
Third grade reading levels have been correlated to incarceration rates ten years later. High school dropouts are more prone to experience health disparities, lower life expectancies, and endure lives of poverty. These disparities are exacerbated by the racial inequalities in our society; we know that Black children in America are far more likely to experience “Education debt.” This talk will focus on the possibilities of global education in the Catholic Social Tradition to enhance civic, social, spiritual, and personal futures. Particularly Ernest will focus on Catholic Schools and the role they can play in combating racism and in fostering lives of decency and dignity for our most historically vulnerable populations. 

About the speaker: Ernest Morrell is the Coyle Professor, a member of the faculty in the English and Africana Studies Departments, and Director of the Center for Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame. Ernest is also director of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) James R. Squire Office for Policy Research in the English Language Arts. He is an elected Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, a past president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and a co-convener of the African Diaspora International Research Network. From 2015-2021 Ernest has been annually ranked among the top university-based education scholars in the RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings published by EdWeek. Ernest is also the recipient of the NCTE Distinguished Service Award, the Kent Williamson Leadership Award from the Conference on English Leadership, and the Divergent Award for Excellence in 21st Century Literacies. His scholarly interests include: Critical Pedagogy, English Education, Literacy Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and African Diaspora Schooling and popular culture. 

Ernest has authored 90 articles, research briefs, and book chapters and ten scholarly monographs including Educating Harlem: A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community (Columbia, 2020), Stories from Inequity to Justice in Literacy Education (Routledge, 2019), New Directions in Teaching English, and Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools, which was awarded Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine of the American Library Association. Ernest has earned numerous commendations for his university teaching including UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He received his Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of California, Berkeley where he was the recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation award in 2001. Ernest is chair of the Planning and Advisory Committee for the African Diaspora Consortium and he sits on the Executive Board of LitWorld.

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​Sam Rocha
March 23, 2021- 1:00 p.m. EDT/ 10:00 a.m. PDT

"The Strange Fruit of Immigration”
Colonial settlers, immigrants, and refugees are different from those indigenous to a particular place, but how do we understand the moral and political significance of the enslaved person in the same place under radically different conditions? Here we find the historical origin of a particular form of anti-Black white supremacy: racism emerging from the self-loathing and self-hatred of other historically oppressed people, including people of color. This lecture will explore these structures of sin and life issues through history, theology, and philosophy.

About the speaker: Sam Rocha is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia specializing in philosophy of education, and winner of the 2019 Killam Teaching Prize. He is the author of four books and a musician with six albums or singles. His popular Catholic writing has appeared in America, Commonweal, Our Sunday Visitor, Church Life Journal, and more. For more information, see his website:

Related Resources:

"Educational Theory Stifles Education," by Sam in Church Life Journal

"No One Matters Until Black Lives Matter," by Sam in Solidarity Hall

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Check out the discussion guide and recommended reading list


Gloria Purvis Circle

Gloria Purvis
February 3, 2021- 1:00 p.m. EST/ 10:00 a.m. PST

"Racism: The Perduring Assault Against Human Life and Dignity”
What is racism? Why is it evil? What are its origins in the US? Why did the end of slavery and the establishment of civil rights not end racism? How do any of these impact and intersect with the pro-life movement?

About the speaker: Gloria Purvis is a graduate of Cornell University and she worked for nearly two decades in the mortgage industry before becoming a risk management director at a major financial services company. She served on the National Black Catholic Congress' Leadership Commission on Social Justice, and as an Advisory Board Member on the Maryland Catholic Conference's Respect for Life Department as well as the Archdiocese of Washington's Pastoral Council. She also taught Natural Family Planning and helped prepare engaged couples for marriage as a member of a Pre-Cana team in the Archdiocese of Washington. She has appeared in various media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, PBS Newshour, Catholic Answers Live, and EWTN News Nightly, and hosted Morning Glory, an international radio show. She is Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic of the Year for 2020.

Currently, she is a full-time stay-at-home mother and a consultant for U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Religious Liberty. Gloria is the creator and host of the EWTN TV series, Authentically Free at Last, that deals with the modern challenges to the expression and understanding of authentic human freedom. She is dedicated to promoting the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the dignity of the human person.

Related Resources:

"The Gift of Blackness to the Church," a Church Life Journal interview with Gloria conducted by Sam Rocha

"Gloria Purvis on Sin, Conversion, and Racial Justice," a Church Life Today podcast episode

Registration for this session has closed.

View the Recording Here

Check out the discussion guide.


Missed our fall series about the intersection of justice and pregnancy? Check out the recordings on our series page!

Learn more about our fall series