Is Marriott a Pimp? Are the Christian Brothers?

It used to be you had to go out and find porn. It was always furtive because it was always public. Whether walking into a sticky theater or a smelly porn shop, almost always in some broken down neighborhood, you had to declare yourself in front of strangers – “may I have that” – and even risk being seen by people you knew.

Porn used to be a smaller business because most folks were not willing or able to go out and get it. And the time between temptation and purchase was at least long enough for the better angels sometimes to take over. No longer. Porn addiction is skyrocketing in the United States for all ages and both sexes because porn is now immediately and privately available.

Your Internet provider gives you unlimited access to the most degrading images of human sexuality. Your local cable company likely offers dozens of hard-core movies to choose from in its pay-per-view menu. Not only do you not have to seek out porn in dangerous neighborhoods; the porn merchants have now invaded our private spaces. They now come into our neighborhood, into our homes, and there is little we can say about it.

The largest purveyor of hard-core porn in America is a smarmy company called Vivid Entertainment, whose “actresses” (no more than prostitutes), are called “Vivid girls.” One of Vivid Entertainment’s closest collaborators, however, is Marriott Hotels. Millions of porn viewings occur in the hotel rooms of the good Mormon Bill Marriott, or through pay-per-view channels offered by Time-Warner, Comcast, and Verizon, or through Internet service provided by these same companies. These so-called mainstream businesses are the hard-core porn merchants of today and they make hundreds of millions of dollars at it.

While it is shocking that seemingly good American companies make money on hard-core pornography, even sadder is the Catholic dimension to this sordid business. The largest investor of Catholic money in the world is Christian Brothers Investment Services. It handles the funds of 1,000 Catholic institutions including dioceses, religious orders, and even Catholic organizations like the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights.

The Christian Brothers have an investment policy on pornography. They do not invest in companies “whose primary line of business is products or services aimed exclusively at inducing sexual excitement or a prurient interest in sex.” This means that they have no problem investing in companies whose secondary or tertiary line of business is hard-core porn. The Christian Brothers are not so nuanced on tobacco investing or investing in “militarism and violence.” Putting money into such companies is ruled out by the Christian Brothers.

Do the Christian Brothers own companies that peddle hard-core porn? Thomas Stobhar, an investment expert who follows such issues, says yes. He says that the Christian Brothers own stock in Lodgenet, the largest purveyor of hard-core porn to hotel rooms. They promote such titles as “Black Inside Me,” “Young Girl Fantasies,” “Ultimate Threesomes,” and “My Horny Neighbors.” They also invest in hotels and telecommunications companies that are among the largest sellers of porn in the world.

In a BBC interview aired last year, the president of Christian Brothers Investment Services-European Union, Brother Louis De Thomasis, was asked about this. Thomasis said the Christian Brothers remain in such companies in order to change them from within. When the interviewer pointed out that over the previous years the Christian Brothers had offered not a single stockholder resolution on porn – though they had offered dozens of others on such topics as tobacco, the environment, and arms’ sales – Thomasis said his conscience was clear and ended the interview.

It’s not like companies cannot turn off the porn spigot. They just have to forgo porn profits. And some have been willing to. Apple recently banned all iPhone applications that are pornographic or even sexually suggestive. Though it is not advertised, Apple also has the best porn filter/blocker of any computer company. Before it was sold, the Adelphi cable company based in Philadelphia did not offer porn on its pay-per-view service. Some hotel chains, like the Midwestern Drury chain, do not offer in-room porn. The Wi-Fi service just started this week on Amtrak’s Acela trains blocks porn sites. It is possible to block porn even in the most public spaces.

Imagine a Catholic businessman far from home, a long day on the road, frustrated, and lonely, emotional guard way down. He checks into his room, decides to watch a movie and there on the pay-per-view menu he sees the word ADULT tempting him to profound impurity. Imagine a teenage girl misspelling the name of Britney Spears in an Internet search engine and being swarmed by hard-core sites. Marriott profits from this. Time-Warner profits from this. The Christian Brothers profit from this. Are they pimps? Pimps are those who profit from the work of prostitutes. You decide.

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.