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Reflecting the Mind of the
Vatican since 1850
The Church and Modern Slavery: Responding with strength and humility
The Church should address the reality of modern slavery with a combination of two qualities of spirit that are rarely associated with each other: strength and humility. Strength of spirit is surely needed, for the realities of modern slavery can easily tempt one to despair over the continuing abuse human beings continue to inflict upon each other. In the face of possible discouragement, Christians will need an inner strength of heart if they are to take the vigorous action required to overcome the abuses that modern slavery and trafficking inflict on the human dignity of men, women and children today.

At the same time, if Christians are to address contemporary slavery and trafficking in an appropriate way, the Church community will have to do so in a spirit of deep humility. Such humility will be essential because the Christian community, throughout nearly all of its history, not only believed that slavery was morally and religiously legitimate, but her members and leaders enslaved others.

To avoid facing a legitimate charge that its opposition to slavery today is markedly hypocritical, the Church must clearly acknowledge its own past failures to recognize and to actively respect what human dignity demands that we take for granted today. Indeed, the Church needs to admit, in a spirit of both humility and repentance, that her members behaved in ways that today she regards as shameful. This is a challenging task, for the strength of spirit needed to work against current serious abuses of humanity and the humility that the history of the Church’s way of dealing with human enslavement requires will not be easily combined.
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