Cover Columbus! Show Porn!

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Two Notre Dame events that have received widespread publicity recently stand in strange juxtaposition. The first, which we described in a prior report, is the request to Father Jenkins by over 1000 petitioners, mainly students, for installation of a filter to block the torrent of pornography the university provides to students 24/7 through its Internet service.

Father Jenkins has been conspicuously silent about this for some three months, while a Notre Dame spokesman has indicated there will be no change.

The second notable event is Father Jenkins’s decision just a few days ago to cover up the series of murals in the Main Building dating from the 1880s that celebrate the achievements of Christopher Columbus. But for Native Americans, Father Jenkins declared, the discovery of America was “nothing short of a catastrophe.” So much for the murals.

We will report further on this episode, but the incongruity of the University’s covering up heroic images of Christopher Columbus while funneling rancid, sexually charged images to students is so striking that it should not go unremarked in this update on the pornography issue.

As to that issue, it is past time to hear from Father Jenkins. The students presented to him compelling documentation of the corrosive  consequences of pornography. Indeed, one wonders why that should be necessary at all for a Catholic priest responsible for deciding whether to limit Notre Dame’s indiscriminate dissemination of pornography to its students, for the Church’s teaching on pornography is unyielding:

[Pornography] offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.

But one discrete factor underscored by the students that should be of special concern to Father Jenkins is the link between pornography and sexual assault, which, as they observe, “has occurred all too frequently at Notre Dame.”

Indeed! We will report shortly on the university’s most recent “Sexual Climate” survey, but for present purposes it’s enough to note these startling results:

With about half the students responding, there were during the prior year:

  • 78 rapes, or about 9 rapes on average a month, and
  • About fifty other sexual assaults a month.

The only reaction to the student petition from the university so far has come from Paul Browne, the Vice President for Communications. He says Notre Dame has a rule against students watching porn on the Internet and that’s good enough because “God’s given us the choice of whether to be sinners or not.”

Does Father Jenkins really believe an unenforced, unenforceable, and widely disregarded rule is good enough for Notre Dame, that Notre Dame has no responsibility to do what it can to mitigate the effects of the porn it funnels to its students?

Not surprisingly, some Notre Dame students, we suppose many, agree with Mr. Browne. Two women students went on record in The Observer in favor of “good porn” and its role in promoting students’ “conversations about their likes and dislikes” in having sex.

Then there is the student who assailed the anti-porn students because they “stigmatized and undermined” the “profession” of  performers.

Finally, there is a free speech/academic “slippery slope” warning by the student pointing to Somalia, Sudan, China and the like as the end of the “censorship” line. (Prospective Onion headline: “ND Stops Supplying Porn to Students, Philosophy Professors Take Hemlock.”)

On the other side are the Holy Cross brothers who run Holy Cross College down the road. They’ve installed a filter. Their students know that these CSCs mean what they say when they condemn the vile products of a vile industry. What is it that makes one CSC school so different from the other?

The students have acted with courage and intelligence. They deserve a reasoned response from Father Jenkins. As do we all.

The students also deserve a helping hand from all alumni and others in the Notre Dame family who agree with them. The number of signatories on their petition has reached 1,700, mainly students.  Only a few hundred alumni have signed. We urge you to join the petition if you haven’t and to recruit others – alumni, relatives, friends of the University. (The petition is below.) 

And we encourage you also to take a few minutes to tell Father Jenkins what you think and ask him for his response to the students. His address:

Support the Students’ Petition

You don’t need to be a student to support their request for a pornography filter on Notre Dame’s Wi-Fi.  To add your name to the students’ online petition, please click on the image below.



ABC Nightline interviewed Notre Dame student Jim Martinson and several of his associates on their campus anti-pornography campaign for its feature “Renewed Pushback Against Online Porn.”

The program centers on Tumblr’s decision to ban adult content on its social networking site and the Notre Dame student petition to the University to install a filter that would stop the use of pornography on its Wi-Fi.

You can view the Notre Dame student portion of the Nightline program below and the full segment on ABC here.

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