Summit on Human Dignity - Spring 2018
A Forum to Examine and Address the Widespread Injustices Related to Pornographic Culture and Media, Sexual Exploitation, Criminal Networks, and Habits that Perpetuate the Trafficking of Human Beings and Enslavement of People by Threat and Economic Imbalance in Light of the Gospel’s Call to Respect and Promote the Human Dignity of Each Person.
The curse of the many ways a human being can be unjustly treated as a commodity is still with us today. The slave trades of history have reached into our modern times with children, women, and men living lives in forced labor, in the sex trade, and in bound servitude. They live in fear of terrifying repercussions if they do not put their bodies at the disposal of dark industries that satisfy the world’s appetite for sexual exploitation, submissive and cheap labor, and fantasies of control. It should not be difficult to conclude that this kind of evil has no place in our societies; however, according to A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, a study published by the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime, nearly 25 million human beings are trapped in some form of modern-day slavery. Seventy-one percent of those trafficked are women and girls and over five million persons are forced into the global sex trade, most of them children.
Taken across borders, abused, and threatened into submission, trafficked human beings are now a business commodity that brings crime syndicates over $150 billion every year. For example, at a recent open marketplace in Libya, human beings were being bought and sold. However, human trafficking and its related trades are not just problematic in other parts of the world. The demand for commodified victims also exists in the United States, with the U.S. State Department reporting that as many as 300,000 children are victims of labor trafficking and the sex trade in this country.
The issue of human trafficking often focuses, rightly so, on the heartbreaking stories of the victims. But a very important question is often left unasked - why are human persons being bought and sold? Dr. Gail Dines, a professor of sociology at Wheelock College states “we know that trafficking is increasing — which means demand is increasing. There are only two conclusions here: That men are naturally willing to do this to women — biology — or that they are being socialized by the culture to lose all empathy for women... I refuse to accept that men are born rapists, porn users, or johns. The biggest sex educator of young men today is pornography, which is increasingly violent and dehumanizing, and it changes the way men view women.” The very legal and prolific pornography industry in the United States is a powerful influence and business that turns the human person into a commodity.
The statistics on porn use, access, and effect on American culture are staggering. Every second, 28,258 users are watching pornography on the internet. Forty million American people regularly visit porn sites and 35 percent of all internet downloads are related to pornography. According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 47 percent of families reported that pornography is a problem in their homes and 93 percent of males reported using porn on the internet prior to age 18. Their average age of first exposure was 14. Pornography is popular culture.
Why are human persons being used as means to so many illicit, sexual, and selfish ends?
For the last decade, the Catholic bishops of the United States and the church community throughout the world have placed combating human trafficking as an important priority in their public advocacy, educational outreach, and in providing services to trafficking survivors. The Catholic bishops of the United States and Mexico have also spoken out on the issue, calling upon both governments to work together to apprehend traffickers and destroy trafficking networks. The USCCB Anti-Trafficking Campaign was created in 2014 to educate people of faith on the scourge of human trafficking as an offense against fundamental dignity of the human person; to advocate for an end to modern day slavery; and to provide training and technical assistance on this issue.
In a similar way, the USCCB’s 2015 pastoral response to pornography, "Create In Me a Clean Heart," provides resources and interventions to help Catholics challenge the pervasiveness of porn culture. Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, then-chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, which directed the statement's development, said: “this statement shows our collective concern for the widespread problem of pornography in our culture today...virtually everyone is affected by pornography in some way. So many people...are in need of Christ's abundant mercy and healing.”
Jesus upheld the dignity of each person, teaching that every life has value. But, he also truly believed he was sent to save those who were enslaved by sin. His hope for liberation was the very language of the Old Testament prophets and reflected the salvific moments of the Exodus where God acted powerfully in love to free God’s people. Jesus warned about the temptations and thoughts that lead to the commodification of the human person. He taught that anyone who even looks at someone with lustful intent has already committed a grave sin. He calls us to rethink and act justly to free captives and respect the human body which, as St. Paul taught, “is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
With all of these things considered, in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition, the Brophy community will be asked to consider four primary questions during this Summit on Human Dignity:
Who are those most affected by forms of commodification and how are global citizens complicit in their prevalence?
How are forces such as the media, entertainment, economics, and politics perpetuating these injustices?
How can faith inform a personal and social path away from objectification and dehumanization in our world?
What would the path toward freedom look like for those who have been hurt?