Why is the Pope Not So Vocal About the Church's Abuses?


Pope John Paul II highlighted the sexual exploitation of women and children as the one of the most serious problems posed by worldwide trafficking in human beings, in a message read to an international conference here Wednesday.

"The alarming increase in the trade in human beings is one of the pressing political, social and economic problems associated with the process of globalisation," the pope said in a message delivered by Vatican Foreign Minister Monsignor Jean Louis Tauran.

"In particular the sexual exploitation of women and children is particularly repugnant aspect of this trade and must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human rights," read the pope's message. The two-day conference in Rome, "21st Century Slavery, The Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings", organised by the US embassy to the Holy See and the Vatican, will hear from experts from 35 countries.

The conference host, Washington Ambassador to the Holy See James Nicholson, said his goal was "to elevate awareness worldwide about what is really going on. There's nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come and our goal with this conference is to make sure that the time has come when society will no longer tolerate this horrendous crime."

People must get "energized, enraged," to put pressure on governments, said the ambassador, a former chairman of the Republican party of US President George W. Bush. Sexual exploitation of women was pointed up as one of the main by-products of a worldwide increase in human trafficking at the conference.

The problem is worldwide, and vast. At least 100,000 illegal immigrants are working as prostitutes in the United States, according to the United Nations. The UN's Global Report on Crime and Justice states that 40,000 to 50,000 Thai women are working as prostitutes in Japan.

Father Oreste Benzi, who runs a support centre for prostitutes to help reintegrate them into society, said 500,000 women had turned to prostitution in Western and Central Europe as a result of trafficking from the third world or the countries of eastern Europe. Benzi put the figure for Italy alone at 70,000. He accused the governments of Italy and other European governments of "lacking the political will to tackle the problem seriously and eradicate it once and for all."

"The government here does not want to lose the votes of people who use prostitutes," he said.

In his message, Pope John Paul said the conference offered an opportunity "for sustained relection on the complex human rights issues produced by trafficking." It reflected the growing international consensus that the issue of human trafficking must be addressed by promoting effective deterrence, "to halt this iniquitous trade, to punish those who profit from it and assist in the reintegration of its victims."

The pontiff said the conference needed to explain "the deeper causes of increased demand which fuels the market for human slavery and tolerates the human cost involved." Human trafficking is "an affront to the fundamental values which are shared by all cultures and peoples." The victims, he said, "are often the poorest and most defenceless members of the human family." (Agence France Presse May 15, 2002)