Blocking out porn

One of the surefire ways to let our voices be heard is to speak with our wallets. This is a pretty simple and direct action that can quickly grab the attention of corporations, business owners and advertisers. Often, we hear about this type of activity when concerned citizens strongly disagree with a business. So, customers take their wallets elsewhere.

Equally, it can make a difference when we bring our business back or become a new customer. So that’s why the next time you’re looking to grab carryout, why not support a restaurant or fast-food chain that is finally deciding to take a stand against one of the most pressing issues of our day. It’s an issue that’s of great concern to moms, dads and the Catholic Church: the epidemic of pornography.

Both McDonald’s and Starbucks, after discussions with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) and the advocacy group Enough is Enough, announced in mid-July that they are adding internet filters to their public Wi-Fi. In a statement, a spokesperson said that because McDonald’s is a family restaurant, it only makes sense that the fast-food chain wants to make sure families — its major customer base — feel welcome and safe.

“McDonald’s is committed to providing a safe environment for our customers, and we are pleased to share that Wi-Fi filtering has been activated in the majority of McDonald’s nearly 14,000 restaurants nationwide,” a spokesperson said.

Starbucks is making the same move, with NCOSE explaining it is joining an expanding list of those becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of pornography.

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NCOSE says a petition, as well as the growing evidence regarding the harmful effects of pornography, made a difference in terms of the recent announcements.

“McDonald’s, Starbucks and Dr. Carla Hayden — the newly confirmed Librarian of Congress — have noted the necessity of filtering pornography out of public Wi-Fi. Internet filtering accuracy has come a long way since the 1990s. Thanks to unprecedented advancements in technology, we know that quality internet filtering services are more than capable of excluding pornography without blocking access to legitimate health or educational materials. Further, internet filtering is necessary to protect children from the harms of pornography,” said Dawn Hawkins, executive director of NCOSE.

Hawkins explains that some 27 percent of young adults first saw pornography before the age of puberty, which is alarming, she added, because pornography use is linked to a number of problems, including compulsive use disorders and sexual aggression.

Last November at its fall conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a special letter, “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography,” addressing the crisis that the bishops say affects everyone in some way.

Talk to any priest and he will tell you that pornography is the most common sin brought to them in the confessional. And they’re hearing from younger and younger users and from women as well as men. According to NCOSE, the impact on marriage is also devastating, with some 56 percent of divorces citing internet pornography as a major fact in the breakup of the marriage.

We have a long way to go in the fight against the spread of pornography. And even though it took some effort on the part of the public and activist groups to get a response, this should be a reminder that we still can have a say when it comes to changing the culture — one Happy Meal and double latte at a time.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.