The Church and Modern Slavery: Responding with Strength and Humility

Author: David Hollenbach

November 14, 2022

Published in La Civiltà Cattolica, this article by Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., argues that the Catholic 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. He argues that 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. 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, as 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, Hollenbach contends that 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.

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