Forging partnerships against human trafficking

Human trafficking affects millions of victims worldwide in shadowy networks that relatively few people realize exist.

A daylong conference in Rome hosted by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and St. Thomas University School of Law May 18 will bring new light to what authorities call modern-day slavery. Organizers also hope it will lead to long-term partnerships that involve the Catholic Church and the corporate sector.

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who runs the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the conference’s keynote speaker, told Catholic News Service that the church can create broader awareness of the evil of trafficking.

Explaining how people are forced into commercial sex will stress the need to fight demand for it, said CdeBaca, a lifelong Catholic. In addition, he explained, shedding light on the fact that laborers work in slavelike conditions to harvest fresh produce, mine precious minerals or manufacture consumer goods from chocolate candy bars to designer clothing, will inform people so they can ask questions about the products they are buying.

“You can’t (fight trafficking) by catching the bad guys and helping the victims,” he said. “You have to fight modern slavery by getting people to make the right choices.

“It’s how can we look and see what our own slavery footprint is.”

By involving the Catholic Church, CdeBaca said he hopes the conference will lead to stronger connections with businesses so that corporate officials are better aware of the insidious nature of human traffickers.

The conference will feature a series of panel discussions on the role of faith communities, corporations and average people in reducing and perhaps eventually eliminating human trafficking. Archbishop Antonio Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, will give the invocation.

Among the presenters are Miguel Diaz, U.S. ambassador to the Vatican; Salesian Sister Estrella Castalone of the International Union of Superiors General and its Talitha Kum network that focuses on human trafficking; the Rev. David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility; Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America; and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who has worked on child sex trafficking issues.

They will be joined by corporate representatives from information giant LexisNexis, hotel operator Carlson and Body Shop International, which sells health and beauty products. They will discuss their efforts to expose trafficking networks.

Infallibility redux

VATICAN CITY — In a letter informing Australian Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba of his dismissal, Pope Benedict is said to have described the church’s teaching against women’s ordination as “infallibly” taught by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

That the present pope would use such language is not surprising. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he said the same thing in a 1995 written statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — a statement which was itself approved by Pope John Paul.

The year before, in 1994, Pope John Paul had issued his apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” (“On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone”), declaring that “the church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church’s faithful.'”

The 1995 doctrinal congregation statement, as well as later Vatican documents, said the teaching against women’s ordination had been “set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal magisterium.” We wrote about the significance of that statement here. The point being made was that such teachings are infallibly taught and must be accepted as definitive by Catholics, even if they have not been defined as infallible by a solemn act of the pope.

In 1998, in a commentary on Pope John Paul’s apostolic letter “Ad Tuendam Fidem” (“To Defend the Faith”), the doctrinal congregation made two related points: It said there was no difference in the “full and irrevocable character of the assent”‘ owed to church teachings that are set forth as divinely revealed or that are taught definitively. And it said that when a pope confirms or reaffirms a doctrine, declaring that it belongs to the ordinary and universal magisterium as a truth that is divinely revealed or a truth of Catholic doctrine, “such a doctrine is to be understood as having been set forth infallibly.”

The Vatican documents of the mid-1990s prompted discussion among some theologians and canon lawyers, some of whom questioned the Vatican’s assertion that the teaching on ordaining only men had been “infallibly taught.” We covered it extensively at the time. That debate has now resurfaced with the removal of Bishop Morris.

According to the Australian public broadcasting network ABC, Bishop Morris said that in his letter, Pope Benedict asserted that “Pope John Paul II had said irrevocably and infallibly that women cannot be ordained.”

The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, declined to comment on Pope Benedict’s letter to Bishop Morris or confirm its contents. However, on the infallibility issue, he pointed to the 1995 doctrinal congregation document and to the Second Vatican Council’s document on the church, “Lumen Gentium” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), which in section 25 spoke of infallibility and how it is understood.