Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh voiced dismay over the lack of respect shown to religious beliefs when a local college student publicly dressed up as a Pope, though nude from the waist-down.
On April 18, Katherine O'Connor – a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh – participated in a campus parade, passing out condoms while dressed from the waist-up as a pontiff, but otherwise naked.
She has since been charged with indecent exposure by university police.
After receiving complaints about the incident, Bishop Zubik commented about the case, noting the absence of tolerance and respect O'Connor showed for the Catholic faithful.
“Bishop Zubik's concern had been all the time the lack of respect for the religious belief of others in this,” Robert Lockwood, communications director for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, told CNA June 11.
“Bishop Zubik was never raising issues of what civil authority should or should not do, because it's never been his intention that her future be impaired in any way; what he was raising was the issue of public disrespect for the religious views of others.”
Carnegie Mellon had failed to take action on the incident until Bishop Zubik raised concern over it. O'Connor's charges for indecent exposure will be dropped if she completes 80 hours of community service by Oct. 21.
Father Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, has indicated that it is Bishop Zubik's hope that the community service “can also be a learning experience for her.”
O'Connor's act was part of the Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby, an on-campus parade sponsored by Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts.
She attends Carnegie Mellon after having gone to Catholic schools – namely, the nearly $20,000 per year Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, a girls' prep school in Villanova, Pa. The school's mission includes inspiring its students to “live the prophetic nature of the gospel, with a passion for justice and love for the poor.”
The Center on Central, a “home for creative arts” in Paoli, Pa., has taken pains to make a statement on O'Connor, who once had a summer job there.
“Ms. O’Connor presented last year as a candidate with strong credentials in art and in working with children,” reads the statement from the business. “The Center on Central offers the opinion that people do have the freedom to make choices in their lives, and those choices sometimes lead to consequences – both positive and negative…we wish Ms. O’Connor the best in her future choices.”
Both Paoli and Villanova are located in the Philadelphia Main Line, an affluent and exclusive part of the Philadelphia suburban area. O'Connor is an art student at Carnegie Mellon, and is reportedly a sophomore.