A Carnegie Mellon University student faces misdemeanor charges after she dressed as the pope during an art school parade last month. Police said her costume was indecent because it failed to cover her pubic hair, which was crafted to resemble a crucifix, not because she parodied the leader of the Roman Catholic church, CBS Pittsburgh reports.
Campus police charged the “pontiff” and another student in the parade with misdemeanor indecent exposure.
University President Jared Cohon addressed the charges in a letter to the campus community, saying that the university respects individuals’ freedom to express themselves, but public nudity, even as part of a demonstration, is against the law.
Cohon issued a public apology on the university’s behalf after the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh responded to the parade with outrage. Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik told CBS news radio station KDKA, "I think obviously all of us know that when we're growing up we do stupid things, but to cross over the line in this instance shouldn't happen with anybody." [See Zubik's interview in the video below.]
In an interview with the Associated Press, Zubik added, "It's not a matter of pointing to one young lady, we have to ask what could cause things in our society that would make her think it's acceptable to do something like this. I hope that this gives every one of us the opportunity to pause and think about what it is that we say to one another, and how it is that we say what we say."
Critics with the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights criticized the university’s slow response, calling it “legally problematic and morally indefensible.”