Sunday, November 04, 2018

Men of Notre Dame University Request Porn Filter: Three Reasons for Concern

At first glance, it seems to be a very positive initiative on the part of those at Notre Dame University. Over one thousand male students, faculty and staff have signed a petition asking that “the University implement a filter to make pornography inaccessible on the Notre Dame Wi-Fi networks.” Finally, some sanity seems to be taking hold in Catholic higher education.

An even more positive fact is that the majority of the signers are young male students who are requesting this censorship. They are demanding that moral standards be enforced. This is a refreshing counter-cultural move that runs so contrary to what everyone is saying about youth. Indeed, these youth desire something of order and dignity. Nothing could be more positive.

However, a closer look at the text of the petition reveals three reasons for disappointment and concern. 

The Cries of the Victims

The first disappointment is directed toward the administration to whom the petition is addressed. Faithful Catholics expect more from an institution of higher learning than to have a porn-accessible network in the first place. The Notre Dame Internet Compliance Policy already prohibits the access of pornographic material, but the University has not enforced the ban. Surveys show that nearly two-thirds of male students have accessed pornography through the university’s Wi-Fi network.

Catholic universities exist for the intellectual and moral development of students. The fact that students have to take the initiative to ask the administration to enforce its policies indicates that the university has lost something of its Catholic identity and mission.

Indeed, priests and religious should take the lead and even direct a crusade to rid the institution (and society in general) of this scourge that ruins the lives (and eternities) of so many men. It is afflictive to see the victims must cry out for help.

A Secular Document with Omissions

The second concern is the language of the petition itself. This criticism is directed toward the petitioners. The text of the petition is well-written and documented. It correctly outlines the social harm associated with pornography addiction. It highlights the abuse of women and minors that are associated with this plague. Pornography offends human dignity and rights.

“This filter would send the unequivocal message that pornography is an affront to human rights and catastrophic to individuals and relationships,” reads the petition. “We are calling for this action in order to stand up for the dignity of all people, especially women.”

However laudable these goals may seem, they should not be the main reasons why pornography must be opposed on a Catholic campus. There are grave omissions in the text. There is no mention of God, morals, purity or sin. It reads like a United Nations document outside of any moral context. It is not Catholic or even Christian.

Why Pornography is Wrong

That leads to the third and gravest concern about the petition that is directed toward both the petitioned and petitioners. The petition, praiseworthy though it may be, reflects a secular vision of a society where a traditional notion of God and personal salvation are no longer officially relevant.

Church teaching is very clear. Pornography is wrong because it offends God. This is the most important reason why it must be opposed. The love of God calls for all to oppose those things that offend Him and violate the natural order He put in society.

Thus, pornography is wrong because it is sinful. Those who willfully engage and view it commit mortal sins that expose them to the danger of going to Hell for all eternity. No university networks should facilitate the damnation of souls. Everything must be done to prevent this.

A truly Catholic institution should be concerned about the salvation of all souls under its care—even those who are not Catholic.

The Spirit of the World

However, sin appears to be a remote or no concern for all involved. In an attempt to be inclusive, the petitioners left out these issues, focusing on the harms to individuals. By omitting any reference to the Faith, they leave out the most powerful reason for opposing pornography—and for signing the petition.  

Unfortunately, language like that in the petition reflects the secularization of Catholic higher education. Through this warped vision of things, Catholic education has joined the spirit of the world and its follies. They favor a naturalistic and individualistic mindset outside of the supernatural sphere. Instead of strengthening the Faith in souls, these universities have become places where students lose it.

Because of this wrongheaded mindset, Catholic universities erroneously believe they must accommodate all viewpoints, behaviors and religions. Religion becomes relegated to a personal experience without real moral consequences. Everything must be permitted because individual gratification and fulfillment are the criteria by which things are judged. However, when an action hurts another, like pornography, it is permissible to oppose it.

Relativism with a Capital R

This mentality is tragic because it means that many modern Catholic universities no longer have sanctity as their guiding light. They no longer seek after Truth with a capital T. Rather, they run after the tyranny of Relativism with a capital R. By abandoning their mission, administrators may think they are benefiting students by allowing them to compete in the marketplace with the skills that they may learn at their secularized institutes.

However, they do not realize that by remaining true to their missions they can fulfill both goals. Sanctification does not hinder the pursuit of knowledge but helps it. Sanctification leads to the perfection of individuals and therefore toward their full intellectual and moral development.

Sin, on the contrary, destroys lives. It offends God and deprives souls of the life of grace. It leads to their condemnation.

Concern over the petition is not tantamount to saying that all signatories agree with this secular outlook. There are surely young Catholics on the list that value purity, grace and the love of God before all else. These young men would be attracted to a bold “Catholic petition” that would give full expression to their desires. As the present Culture War has demonstrated over the decades, moral issues are powerful. They should be expressed unequivocally, in terms of right and wrong.

Bland secular petitions, however worthy the cause, do not have the power to solve grave moral problems like pornography. Real solutions come from a true love of God that changes lives and denounces sin.


DeVos rewrite of Title IX sex-assault rules will allow cross-examination of accusers, report says

Education secretary considers reversing campus rape guidance
The new people in charge want to look more closely at the rights of the accused under Title IX; Kristen Fisher has more for 'Special Report'

Students accused of sexual assault will be allowed to cross-examine their accusers, according to new federal rules governing how campus sexual assault cases will be handled.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will likely publish the rules this month, with a public comment period to follow, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“Courts have recognized that cross-examination is an essential part of the process of figuring out the truth in cases where credibility is a factor,” said Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates for more due process for those accused of campus sexual assault.

The provisions fall under Title IX and will restrict eligible cases to those that occur on campus.

DeVos scrapped Title IX guidance in 2017, preferring to issue her own on the matter.

But a lawsuit against the Trump administration claims DeVos' decision to lower the standard of evidence used in campus sexual assault cases is motivated in part by sexism.

“What you see is that this administration is buying into the sex stereotype that women and girls lie about these types of things, and they’re making policy based on that view,” Karianne Jones, counsel for Democracy Forward Foundation, told the Huffington Post.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education called the suit baseless and politically motivated.

“She [Secretary DeVos] and OCR staff met with a number of people on this important issue -- including survivors, falsely accused students, college presidents and university GCs -- and the message was very clear from all of them: We have to get this right on behalf of students and the current process isn’t serving students well," the spokesperson said.

"[Secretary DeVos] and OCR staff met with a number of people on this important issue ... and the message was very clear from all of them: We have to get this right on behalf of students and the current process isn’t serving students well."

— Education Department spokesperson

The cross-examination rule reflects concerns voiced by some who believe students accused of sexual assault should be given more opportunities to defend themselves.

In a speech last year, DeVos likened the campus process used to adjudicate sexual assault cases to "kangaroo courts."

— Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

An Education Department spokesperson declined to comment on the rules before they are published.

According to the provision, cross-examination would be mandatory, but questions could be asked through a neutral party and the students could be seated in separate rooms.

Questions about the accuser's sexual history would not be allowed.

However, some worry the new rules could discourage victims from coming forward.

“If someone tells their story and then they need to be questioned on it, that can be an incredibly invasive and traumatizing experience,” said Anurima Bhargava, an Obama-era Justice Department official who oversaw civil rights enforcement in educational settings.

President Trump has voiced concerns about young men accused of sexual misconduct being presumed guilty and subjected to an unfair process.

He suggested the #MeToo movement targeted young men, calling it a "very scary time for young men in America" when "you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of."

University officials said the Obama-era rules put a hardship on their ability to handle sexual assault cases, with many schools fearing any mistake could result in a federal investigation.

The new rules will not contain a definition of gender. The Trump administration is looking at issuing a legal opinion stating its belief that gender under Title IX is determined by a person's genitals at birth.


Student Cancels Petition Seeking Removal of Clarence Thomas’ Name From Campus Building

An alumna of a Georgia college has canceled her petition demanding that the college remove Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ name from a campus building.

More than 2,400 people had signed an online petition calling on the Savannah College of Art and Design to rename its Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation.

The petition webpage at was still up Wednesday afternoon, when The Daily Signal spoke with Sage Lucero, creator of the petition, in a telephone interview. But by Thursday evening, the petition had been taken down.

“I am disappointed to say that I am going to have to cancel my petition,” Lucero, a 2018 graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who listed herself as “S Anonymous” on the petition webpage, wrote in an Oct. 16 post that is no longer available. She added:

Threats have been made against me and I no longer feel safe moving forward with this.

Although the building’s name won’t change, I am satisfied with how many of you support women’s rights to feel safe and speak out.

No matter what our political backgrounds are, women’s rights are something we should all agree on. Equality of women will be a never ending fight. And I plan to keep supporting women’s rights in the best way I can moving forward. I hope you do too.

Lucero’s petition sparked a competing petition Oct. 17. Lamar Bowman, a native of Brooks, Georgia, and parent of two graduates of the Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, published the petition to preserve Thomas’ name on the building.

“I am proud to know that there is a building on that campus that recognizes one of the most accomplished African-Americans of our time,” Bowman’s petition reads.

Lucero’s original petition, which she told The Daily Signal she started around Oct. 1, was titled “Take A Sexual Predator’s Name Off of SCAD’s Building.”

It called on the Savannah, Georgia, college and its president, Paula S. Wallace, to rename the building after Anita Hill, “a woman who stood up for herself despite being denied of true justice.”

Hill, now a professor at Brandeis University, accused Thomas of sexual harassment in 1991 and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the days leading to Thomas’ confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Thomas denied Hill’s allegations and at one point referred to the hearings as “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Thomas, who was vehement he had not harassed Hill, also said during a hearing, “I would like to start by saying unequivocally, uncategorically, that I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her.”

Lucero, 22, said in her petition that she was unaware that a building on campus was named after Thomas until the Senate committee convened confirmation hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. 

Research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when both were teens in the early 1980s.

Kavanaugh called Ford’s accusation, as well as other uncorroborated allegations from two other women, an “orchestrated political hit.”

Lucero, who studied advertising at the college and now works for an advertising company based in New York City, said in the petition that the college should remove Thomas’ name because he is a “sexual predator.”

Hill’s accusations, however, never resulted in criminal proceedings, much less a conviction. The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Thomas.

Lucero told The Daily Signal that in light of the Kavanaugh hearings, she thought the fact that the building still bears Thomas’ name is particularly troubling.

“It’s really telling women they’re not welcome here … having someone’s name [on] that building who did those things to another woman is offensive and not welcoming to other women,” Lucero said.

The Savannah College of Art and Design apparently has not issued a public statement regarding changing the name of the building.

“We hope that the board of directors will do the right thing and keep Justice Thomas’ name on the building,” Zack of Nations in Action said.

The college did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls from The Daily Signal requesting comment.


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