The fight against human trafficking has been a worldwide movement. Above, activists in Berlin take part in a “Walk for Freedom” to protest human trafficking in 2018. CNS photo/Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

Editorial: Guiding hands

  • June 17, 2022

Distressing as it is that Canadians need urging to step up efforts against the scourge of human trafficking, it remains commendable that the Church continues to provide leadership and leaders for the fight.

As our reporters Quinton Amundson and Wendy-Ann Clarke write in this issue, the evil of sexual captivity appears to have been unchecked by the social change predicted for the pandemic era. A drop to 515 cases recorded by police in 2020 compared with 546 in 2019 might turn out to be only reporting bias. Consistently alarming are the statistics showing 96 per cent of trafficking victims are girls and women, 80 per cent of perpetrators are young men, and most horrendous of all: only about one per cent of the victimized manage to escape.

Against those depressing numbers, people such as Sr. Nancy Brown, featured in Clarke’s story, carry on undaunted through means such as the Covenant House movement in major Canadian cities. If the battle can’t yet be won, it’s crucial it continue to be engaged by care, support and counselling, and equally by legal means to limit the supply of victims and the demands of victimizers.

Away from the front lines, that demand side is where the Church might best concentrate its longer-term efforts. The focus need not be just at the acute level of criminality but at the lasting level of cultural change. As the abomination of the African slave trade was legally abolished because of a profound spiritual and moral shift within the British Empire, so too might the outrage of human trafficking be eradicated by a recognition that what the Church teaches on such matters is true and also immensely practically effective.

The Catholic Catechism, for example, condemns prostitution itself not out of some kind of misbegotten prudery but as a “social scourge” that reduces each participant to being a mere “instrument of sexual pleasure” and thereby “injures” the very “dignity of the person who engages in it” either as buyer, seller or forced actor. Surely this is absolutely consonant with the language of equality and equity that now pervades society, i.e., no one should be compelled to live a life in bondage to the gratification of power.

Likewise the Catechism’s censuring of pornography, which is of course rife with human trafficking victims, emphasizes the grave sin of eviscerating the dignity of “its participants (actors, vendors, the public)” so that each “becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others.” As bad or worse: “It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world.”

The illusion extends beyond pornographic scenes or indulging in sex for hire. It is socially embodied in the shibboleth of the past 50 years that such behaviour turns on so-called “victimless” crimes. The distressing persistence of human trafficking confronts that fantasy head on and demands its proponents return to the real world. Fortunately, if they have ears to hear, the Church is here to lead and guide them. 

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