The Catholic understanding of the “right to life” is rooted in its understanding of the fifth commandment, “You shall not kill”. The Church’s deep and multifaceted understanding of this commandment includes a respect for bodily integrity, which states: “Kidnapping and hostage taking bring on a reign of terror; by means of threats they subject their victims to intolerable pressures. They are morally wrong” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2297). Additionally, Church social teaching “forbids acts or enterprises that… lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit” (CCC, #2455).
Human labor trafficking and sex trafficking activities directly violate its victims bodily integrity and inherent human dignity: the “reign of terror” associated with these activities’ psychological, physical, and spiritual effects are inherently opposed to a respect for life. Unfortunately, this violation of human dignity is quickly becoming a very local problem: Maryland’s proximity to major transportation corridors and airports make it an attractive location for human trafficking, and trafficking activities in Maryland are on the rise: 2014 saw a 54 percent increase in the volume of victims assisted by the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, compared to the year before.
In the public square, the Church works to combat labor and sex trafficking through through its spiritual, charitable, and advocacy activities: on a local level, the Maryland Catholic Conference supports this mission through the joint efforts of the Respect for Life Department and Social and Economic Justice Department. Together, these offices jointly work to advocate for policies that weaken the trafficking economy, support its victims, and increase awareness.