After undergraduate student Blayne Clegg came across the painting in the law school building, he began searching for a serious theological argument in favor of anything of its kind.
"I've spoken to my friends across the aisle, and I've asked them," Clegg tells American Family News. "I haven't encountered one beyond 'I think it's a pretty picture.'"
The university president has released a statement informing the community that the painting had been stolen and replaced with a smaller version.
"I want to condemn the theft of the painting in the strongest of terms," says Clegg. "Whoever stole that painting should return it immediately. It's unfortunate that it's come to that point, but two wrongs don't make a right," he adds. "The painting should never have been there to begin with."
He points out that The Catholic University of America is supposed to be uniquely Catholic.
"We're the only Vatican-recognized university in North America, so whether the painting or paintings like this exist at other universities, I'm not sure; I don't know," the student admits. "But I think that it has a special sting to it when it happens at The Catholic University of America."
The university did not respond to AFN's email seeking comment but has issued the following statement to the media:
The icon "Mama" is a pieta depicting Mary and her Son, Jesus Christ. The letters in the halo are Ὁ ὬΝ, which is shorthand in Greek for "I Am." The letters are used in icons only in connection with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
There are those who would like to see George Floyd as the male figure in the icon. That is not how we read it. The image represents to our community a good-faith attempt to include religious imagery on campus that reflects the universality of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic University of America is a faithfully Catholic university in the nation's capital city. We are proud of our Catholic identity, and we welcome and are hospitable to all who seek a Catholic University education.
To that, Clegg points out that the artist of the painting has admitted publicly multiple times that the painting depicts George Floyd. He also reiterates, "There's no serious Catholic theological argument in favor of this, and thus, the university has an obligation to remove it, or at least to not support it."
Many news outlets have reported on this story, including Fox News, where a video shows Clegg acknowledging, "Jesus has been depicted as many different races, but Jesus is always depicted as Jesus, the sinless Son of Almighty God."