Monday, March 18, 2013
The endless coverage regarding Pope Francis and the meaning of his selection has been interesting and exhilarating to observe. Many here at MOJ and elsewhere have attempted to draw predictions for the future from various events or actions in Pope Francis's history as a priest, bishop, and cardinal. As we all learn about Francis, many find encouragement (and others register concern) based on certain aspects of his previous actions.
I find myself encouraged by looking at Pope Francis's record on one of the most pressing issues of our generation. It is an issue the Church has labeled "a multidimensional problem and one of the most shameful phenomena of our era." This is the issue of human trafficking.
With conservative estimates of over two million people victimized by a $32 billion industry, this issue of modern day slavery can be seen as the moral issue of our time. With so many victims being served by Catholic affiliated organizations (often women religious), the Church has been actively working against human trafficking for decades. In the words of the Holy See, "trafficking in human beings is a dreadful offence against human dignity, which the social doctrine of the Catholic Church regards as the foundation of human rights."
According to the State Department, Argentina is a source, transit and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to both forced labor and sex trafficking. Therefore, I was eager to discover what, if any, attention Pope Francis has paid to the issue. I was encouraged to see it reported that "[o]rganizations working against labor and sexual exploitation in Buenos Aires counted him as an ally. He often visited victims of trafficking, was moved by their testimonies and denounced those responsible for these forms of slavery in his homilies." Even the New York Times reports that Pope Francis began an initiative to assist victims of human trafficking in 2008. This is significant because, at that time, Argentina was on the State Department's watch list of nations in need of improvement in their response to human trafficking.
While no one should be judged on one issue, it is encouraging that as human trafficking continues to grow and threaten human dignity throughout the world, the Holy See could play a strong role in combatting it.