CMU student in nude pope parody will perform community service
Bishop David Zubik hopes a Carnegie Mellon University student will learn from the controversy about her half-naked portrayal of the pope and avoid letting it ruin her future, a diocese spokesman said on Monday.
“Bishop Zubik said from the beginning our real concern was the lack of respect for the religious beliefs of others,” Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh spokesman Ronald Lengwin said. “He's hoping the community service can also be a learning experience for her.”
Prosecutors will withdraw the indecent exposure charge filed against Katherine B. O'Connor, 19, if she completes 80 hours of community service by Oct. 21.
“It is not uncommon to dispose of misdemeanors in this way,” said Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. “In this case, all the parties involved, including school officials and school police officials, were in agreement on handling this matter this way.”
CMU spokesman Kenneth Walters declined comment. University President Jared Cohon has publicly apologized for the parody but said the university would not discipline O'Connor or another student charged with indecent exposure as part of a campus parade.
CMU police charged O'Connor on May 10 once Zubik decried the parody as offensive. O'Connor, an art student, was part of the April 18 parade sponsored by the College of Fine Arts. She wore mock papal robes from the waist up but was naked from the waist down.
O'Connor told police she initially submitted a proposal for a humorous approach her performance but was encouraged to “develop a concept with a political edge,” although court documents do not say by whom.
Police charged Robb S. Godshaw, 22, of Wilmette, Ill., accusing him of dressing as an astronaut and disrobing atop a float during the parade.
Photographs on Godshaw's Facebook page show him disrobing and riding the float naked, police said in court documents.
The charge against Godshaw will be withdrawn if he completes 80 hours of community service, Manko said. Godshaw's attorney did not return a message seeking comment.
Attorney Jon Pushinsky, who represents O'Connor, said arrangements have not been made to determine what community service O'Connor will perform.
“I think it's a good conclusion for all involved,” he said.
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.