John Clark is an author and speechwriter. His first book Who’s Got You? reached #1 in the Amazon Kindle “Fatherhood” category and his new book How to Be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford A Decent Cape was just released by Guiding Light Books. He has written hundreds of articles and blogs about Catholic family life and apologetics in such places as Seton Magazine, Catholic Digest, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review. A graduate of Christendom College, John and his wife Lisa have nine children and live in Virginia.
In October of last year, a group of faculty, staff, and students petitioned the executive leadership of Notre Dame with a simple request: “that the University implement a filter to make pornography inaccessible on the Notre Dame Wi-Fi networks.” While realizing that some students may still find ways to access pornographic materials, their hope was that restricting access would send an “enduring message that pornography is destructive and exploitive.”
In a letter dated February 4 of this year, Donna Rice Hughes—who serves as the President and CEO of the anti-pornography organization called Enough is Enough—wrote a letter to ND President Rev. John Jenkins, imploring him “to listen to the call of these courageous students to make the University of Notre Dame a safe and wholesome environment as the unintended consequences of not filtering public Wi-Fi are immense.”
In the letter, Hughes points out that “pornography is highly addictive and a fueling factor in sexually aggressive and destructive behavior,” citing a number of studies that confirm this point and adding that “One in five women and one in six men are sexually assaulted while attending college.”
Hughes illustrates how easy it would be to filter such filth by using “readily-available technology” that is already widely in use in America. (There are free router filters that take less than five minutes to set up.). Hughes closes by offering to speak with the president of Notre Dame or his staff to facilitate the implementation of “filtering solutions.”
In answer to all these points, research, and the offer to help, the president of Notre Dame provided this written response to Hughes:
Thank you for your letter of February 4. Although we do not believe a mandatory filter is the best solution for us, we are taking steps to encourage students and others to adopt filters voluntarily. Thank you for your thoughts on this matter.
This executive response would be disappointing from any school, but from a university named after the Immaculate Mother of God, it’s pretty demoralizing—to put it mildly. Let’s look at the issue in practical terms. Say a student is watching hardcore scenes of graphic rape on his MacBook on a table in a social lounge. Another student wanders by and views these scenes—images that no one should ever see. He then goes to complain and the response he gets is that the administration is “taking steps to encourage students and others to adopt filters voluntarily.”
Right. Good luck with that.
What possible legitimate reason would a Catholic student have to access hardcore pornography sites? For which class is he researching? For that matter, what encouragement is offered to young students who are trying to overcome temptations against chastity? And what kind of encouragement is offered to help young Catholic men and women heal from exposure to pornography?
In her letter, Hughes points out that burger-giant McDonald’s has already undertaken filtering measures that Notre Dame could replicate. Turns out, back in 2016, McDonald’s announced that it had begun filtering such content in many of its thousands of restaurants. It is profoundly disappointing that on this issue there has been clearer moral leadership from the Golden Arches than from Notre Dame’s Golden Dome. That might leave a bad taste in the mouth of many Catholic parents who are considering Notre Dame for the education of their children.