I’m so proud of our Pope for calling attention to this. This has long been a mission for Catholic Charities and Catholic anti-trafficking organizations like Dignity House, here in Phoenix. There’s a long history of the Church fighting for the rights of trafficked women.
The issue of human trafficking was vital to St. Augustine, whose parishioners led direct-action missions to free people held by slavers on their ships and in their drop-houses, who himself conducted interviews with those who have been freed by his church to provide the first written account of how the African slave-trade worked, and who used the court system and church funds to free the women and men who had been enslaved.
“Even the examples of this outrage that I have personally encountered are too many for me to list, if I wished to do so. Let me give you just one example, and you can estimate from it the total extent of their activity throughout Africa and along its coasts. About four months before I wrote this letter, a crowd of people collected from different regions, but particularly from Numidia, were brought here by Galatian merchants to be transported from the shores of Hippo (It is only, or at least mainly, the Galatians who are so eager to engage in this form of commerce). However, a faithful Christian was at hand, who was aware of our practice of performing acts of mercy in such cases; and he brought the news to the church. Immediately, about 120 people were set free by us (though I was absent at the time), some from the ship which they had to board, others from a place where they had been hidden before being put on board. We discovered that barely five or six of these had been sold by their parents. On hearing about the misfortunes that had led the rest of them to the Galatians, via their abductors and kidnappers, hardly one of us could restrain their tears.”
It was vital to St. Patrick, himself a former slave who returned to convert the nation whose people who had enslaved him. One of the two known texts written by St. Patrick was a smashmouth letter to a brutal pagan king, Coroticus, ordering him to stop selling young women into slavery to be prostituted into brothels.
And so, now you, Coroticus -and your gangsters, rebels all against Christ, now where do you see yourselves? You gave away girls like prizes: not yet women, but baptized. All for some petty temporal gain that will pass in the very next instant. “Like a cloud passes, or smoke blown in the wind,” so will “sinners, who cheat, slip away from the face of the Lord. But the just will feast for sure” with Christ. “They will judge the nations” and unjust kings “they will lord over” for world after world. Amen. Wisd. 5:14 Ps. 68:2, 3; 3:8
I bear witness before God and his angels that this will come about, just as he has revealed my lack of learning. To repeat: these are not my words, but God’s own words-and the apostle’s and the prophets’, which I have merely chiseled out in Latin: and they have never lied. “He who is found to have believed will be saved; but he who did not believe will be condemned, God has spoken.” Mk. 16:15, 16
My chief request is that anyone who is a servant of God be ready and willing, to carry this letter forward; may it never be hidden or stolen by anyone, but rather, may it be read aloud before the whole people-Yes, even when Coroticus himself is present.
May God inspire these men sometime to come to their senses in regard to God again, so that they may repent, however latter day, of their grave crimes, namely homicide against the brothers of the Lord, and that they free these baptized women whom they have taken, so that then they may deserve to live to God and be made whole once more, here, now and for eternity.
Peace to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Now that’s speaking truth to power.
It was vital to St. Nicholas, who secretly gave gifts to the poor to keep their daughters from being sold into prostitution because of their parents’ debt-bondage and lack of dowries. Think about that. We traditionally give gifts at Christmas because St. Nicholas didn’t want girls to be sold into prostitution.
Pope Francis is following in a long Catholic tradition of caring for the most vulnerable.