The following column is rated PG-13. Or maybe R.
“All have left the right path,
Depraved, every one;
There is not a good man left,
No, not even one” (Ps 14:3).
That’s the way I think about it sometimes.
Carnegie Mellon University is an institute of higher learning in Pittsburgh. As such, its College of Fine Arts has something it calls the “Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby” on campus, in which art students do silly things in silly costumes.
Among the silly things April 18 was a female student dressed as the pope distributing condoms. So creative.
But here’s what makes it PG-13. She was only partially dressed as the pope because there was no costume from the waist down. I mean nothing from the waist down.
Yet, it gets even more creative. Not only was she naked from the waist down — and now the column descends to an R rating — she had her pubic area shaved as a cross.
I’m embarrassed to write that. Yet, oddly, she was not embarrassed at all to walk around like that at a public event.
Every time I think we’ve reached bottom, I find out there is another bottom below it. In this case, a bare bottom.
I give Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh credit. He made clear that the “parody” was in the poorest taste. On the other hand, he didn’t get hysterical either, particularly in regard to the student.
“All of us when we are at college and experiencing freedom for the first time, we have all done some very dumb, dumb things,” he said. The stories I could tell.
At the same time, the statement from the diocese made clear that this was terribly offensive to “Catholics and the faith we hold sacred.”
What’s really offensive is that the diocese had to point that out. Nobody thought of it before that.
And that’s where things started to slip into Kafka Land.
Event: Girl mocking the pope, parading naked in public with her pubic hair shaved as a cross, passing out condoms.
Response: From media, what you would think with a naked girl, pope, condoms, anti-Church protest — big news.
Response: From students, that it was all in fun and, anyway, a matter of free speech.
Response: from the university, an apology “to all who were offended by this, for religious or other reasons.” About two weeks later.
Response: From radio call-in folk and readers of news stories, that the Church gets what it deserves because of the clergy abuse crisis.
So much about this story is appalling. First, if anyone has any doubt that anti-Catholicism isn’t the last acceptable bigotry in the United States, you just haven’t been paying attention. The exploitation of clergy abuse has given free rein to bigotry and a catch-all response to anything the Church says or does.
Second, just imagine if a white kid at the derby had smeared himself in black-face, dressed in a tutu, dribbled a basketball and proclaimed himself Jason Collins, the NBA player whose gay disposition announcement has been virtually canonized hither and yon.The kid wouldn’t have been able to get out of the event alive, let alone still be enrolled at the university. But anti-Catholic mockery and blasphemy? No problem.
Third, how does a college kid simply stand around buck-naked from the waist down and, well, mingle? It’s like that nightmare everybody has, but she did it wide awake.
Modesty. Decorum. Chastity. Self-respect. Respect for others. Respect for what others hold sacred. Dead and dying, my friends, at least when it comes to Catholics.
There is not a good man left. No, not even one. Nor a woman.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.