The president of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has apologized to the Catholic Diocese in Pittsburgh who were gravely offended by a female student who dressed up as a “Naked Pope”, while passing out condoms at the annual art school parade.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh and the National Catholic League has called for action to be taken by CMU against the student so far no disciplinary action has been taken. Witnesses told the diocese the student had shaved her pubic hair into the shape of a cross. This was confirmed with photographic evidence.
CMU President Jared Cohon told AP he had planned to remain silent until the school had completed its internal disciplinary review. However on Thursday he publicly apologized for the “highly offensive” behaviour.
After the incident Pittsburgh’s Bishop David Zubik said, “I think we all know that when we’re growing up we do stupid things but to cross over the line, in this instance, it shouldn’t happen with anybody.”
Patrick McNamara, director of communication for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told the Post Gazette, “Our big concern is that here we have somebody mocking the leader of the faith of 68 million Catholics in the United States and their leader is being mocked, and mocked not jokingly but grotesquely.”
The National Catholic League called for the suspension of the student. The league noted that CMU suspended fraternity members for taking sexual photos inside the frat and emailing them to other members.
In a statement they said, “If CMU tolerates this incident, invoking no sanctions whatsoever, then it is opening a door it may regret...What if instead of shaved pubic hair in the shape of a cross, a student chooses to depict a swastika?
“CMU’s decision not to suspend this female student, who publicly ridiculed Catholics and violated the local ordinance on public nudity, while invoking sanctions against the frat boys for offensive behavior behind closed doors, is legally problematic and morally indefensible.”
On Tuesday Zubik spoke to local NewsRadio 1020, he said he also wanted the student punished in some way. He added, “In terms of the symbol of the cross, it is the most sacred symbol for all Christians.”
The University issued a statement which read, “We are continuing our review of the incident. If our community standards or laws were violated, we will take appropriate action.”
A CMU student Ivy Kristov told the local news station KDKA, “It’s all in good fun and it’s not meant to harm anyone.”
Another student Kyri Baker said, “The beauty about living in America is freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I think that falls under that category.”
Zubik responded saying, “If you’re going to argue from that perspective, that this is freedom of speech, then God help us all.”
Bishop Zubik disagrees, he said, “What I do want to have happen is for this person to learn an important lesson - the prejudice and bigotry, there’s no place for it.”
Here’s Alan Sheehan’s report on KDKA news: