Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Working With the Vatican Against Modern Slavery

Referencing that he is the first Roman Catholic Secretary of State in 33 years, Secretary Kerry has written an op-ed with the above title in the Boston Globe. In addition to highlighting the joint efforts of United States and the Holy See, Secretary Kerry makes an important observation about human trafficking:

[A]s we dive deeper, we begin to see that modern slavery, like so many other 21st century challenges, doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's interconnected with so many of our other foreign-policy concerns, from environmental sustainability to advancing the lives of women and girls to combating transnational organized crime. Wherever we find poverty and lack of opportunity — wherever the rule of law is weak, where corruption is most ingrained, and where populations can't count on the protection of government and law enforcement — we find not just vulnerability to trafficking, but zones of impunity where traffickers can more easily prey on their victims.

This is a point often missed in media discussions of human trafficking. It is easy to be against human trafficking. Who could not oppose the activity labeled "modern day slavery?" However, it is more challenging for states and stakeholders (including consumers of low priced goods) to acknowledge that trafficking cannot be regarded as a silo that can neatly be cabined off from other activity – some of which is criminal and some of which is not. Combatting human trafficking requires combatting poverty and corruption – two of the more stubborn ills that affect human beings seeking a life of dignity throughout the world.

The comments of Secretary Kerry follow many recent efforts by the Holy See to highlight Human Trafficking. They also underscore the view articulated by the Holy See far earlier and seemingly more frequently than many other stakeholders: that trafficking in persons is a denial of basic human dignity and a primary method of combatting it includes instilling that notion of dignity through more than just words but through economic, immigration, and other social policies.

While the media highlighted Pope Francis's recent speech on human trafficking, less attention was paid to the fact that this was an address to welcome participants to an international conference on human trafficking hosted by the Holy See. This conference focused on the productive partnership between the international law enforcement and religious communities throughout the world. It acknowledged the reality that religious orders and local dioceses have been working with victims for many years (see here, here, and here for examples). It ended with the Santa Marta Commitment by these global police chiefs.

Work such as this is comprehensive and grounded in reality. It is a positive step to see the State Department focusing on the substantive position and work the Holy See is doing as it takes on a leadership role regarding this issue.


Leary, Mary G. | Permalink