Catholic Social Teaching

Resources from Catholic Social Teaching on Human Trafficking

From U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking

“The FRANCIS Factor in Abating Human Trafficking” by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA

This is a compendium of references about the efforts of Pope Francis to end modern slavery. 

From the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, Seattle, Washington

Catholic Social Teaching on Human Trafficking

From The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

 Selected Quotes from Pope Francis on Trafficking


“[T]rade in people” is a vile activity, a disgrace to our societies that claim to be civilized! Exploiters and clients at all levels should make a serious examination of conscience both in the first person and before God! (5/24/13)

Today throughout the world the World Day Against Child Labor is being celebrated with a special reference to the exploitation of children in domestic work: a deplorable and constantly increasing phenomenon, particularly in poor countries. There are millions of minors, mostly young girls, who are victims of this hidden form of exploitation that often entails abuse as well, mistreatment and discrimination. This really is slavery!

I sincerely hope that the international community can initiate more effective measures to confront this real scourge. All children must be able to play, study, pray and grow, in their own families, and do so in a harmonious context of love and serenity. It is their right and our duty. Many people instead of letting them play make slaves of them: this is a scourge. A serene childhood allows children to look forward with confidence to life and the future. Woe to those who stifle their joyful impulse of hope! (6/12/13)

I have always been distressed at the lot of those who are victims of various kinds of human trafficking. How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labor? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone! This infamous network of crime is now well established in our cities, and many people have blood on their hands as a result of their comfortable and silent complicity. (11/24/13, no. 211)

Such trafficking is a true form of slavery, unfortunately more and more widespread, which concerns every country, even the most developed. It is a reality which affects the most vulnerable in society: women of all ages, children, the handicapped, the poorest, and those who come from broken families and from difficult situations in society. In a particular way, we Christians recognize in them the face of Jesus Christ, who identified himself with the least and those most in need. (12/12/13)

Together we can and must employ our energies so that these women, men and children can be freed, thus putting an end to this horrible trade. It is believed that there are millions of victims of forced labor, victims of human trafficking for the purposes of manual work and of sexual exploitation. This cannot continue. It constitutes a grave violation of the human rights of those victimized and is an offense against their dignity, as well as a defeat for the worldwide community. People of good will, whether or not they profess religious beliefs, must not allow these women, men and children to be treated as objects, to be deceived, raped, often sold and resold for various purposes, and in the end either killed or left devastated in mind and body, only to be finally thrown away or abandoned. It is shameful. (12/12/13)

Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence. (12/12/13)

What is called for, then, is a shared sense of responsibility and firmer political will to gain victory on this front. Responsibility is required towards those who have fallen victim to trafficking in order to protect their rights, to guarantee their safety and that of their families, and to prevent the corrupt and criminals from escaping justice and having the last word over the lives of others. Suitable legislative intervention in the countries of origin, transit and arrival, which will also facilitate orderly migration, can diminish this grave problem. (12/12/13)

It is precisely on this level that we need to make a good examination of conscience: how many times have we permitted a human being to be seen as an object, to be put on show in order to sell a product or to satisfy an immoral desire? The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of this injustice. (12/12/13)


Enslaving people, human trafficking and war crimes are recognized as crimes against humanity, both by international law and by many national laws. It is a crime against humanity. (10/23/14)

Every human being — man, woman, boy and girl — is the image of God; God, who is love and freedom, gives himself through interpersonal relations; therefore every human being is a free person, destined to live for the good of others in equality and brotherhood. Every person and all people are equal and their freedom and dignity must be recognized. (12/2/14)

That is why we declare in the name of all people and of everyone of our own Creed that modern slavery — in the form of human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution or the trafficking of organs — is a crime “against humanity”. The victims of this are from every walk of life, but most are found among the poorest and the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. (12/2/14)

Despite the great efforts of many, modern slavery continues to be an atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale. (12/2/14)

We call to action all people of faith, leaders, governments, businesses, all men and women of good will, to give their strong support and join in the action against modern slavery in all its forms. (12/2/14)

Sustained by the ideals of our confessions of faith and by our shared human values, we all can and must raise the standard of spiritual values, common effort and the vision of freedom to eradicate slavery from our planet. (12/2/14)

Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbours, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end. (12/8/14)

There are other causes which help to explain contemporary forms of slavery. Among these, I think in the first place of poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, especially when combined with a lack of access to education or scarce, even non-existent, employment opportunities. . . . Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. . . . Further causes of slavery include armed conflicts, violence, criminal activity and terrorism. . . . There is also need for a threefold commitment on the institutional level: to prevention, to victim protection and to the legal prosecution of perpetrators. (12/8/14)

I invite everyone, in accordance with his or her specific role and responsibilities, to practice acts of fraternity towards those kept in a state of enslavement. Let us ask ourselves, as individuals and as communities, whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others. (12/8/14)

I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, our fellow human beings, who are deprived of their freedom and dignity. Instead, may we have the courage to touch the suffering flesh of Christ,[12] revealed in the faces of those countless persons whom he calls “the least of these my brethren” (Mt 25:40, 45). (12/8/14)


We are all called to combat every form of slavery and to build fraternity — all of us, each one according to his or her own responsibility. (1/1/15)

Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption. (9/25/15, United Nations)

Migration is particularly dramatic and devastating to families and individuals when it takes place illegally and is supported by international networks of human trafficking. . . . Extreme poverty and other situations of family breakdown sometimes even lead families to sell their children for prostitution or for organ trafficking”. (3/19/16, no. 46)

Illegal work, without contracts, working “under the table” is occurring more and more frequently. How it has increased! Illegal work is truly pervasive, and this means that people don’t earn enough to live. This can lead to criminal behavior all the problems that occur in large cities due to these migrations caused by excessive technicization. I refer in particular to the agricultural environment and also to human trafficking in the mining industry. Slavery in mines is a major issue. It involves the use of certain elements in the treatment of minerals — arsenic, cyanide which cause diseases in the population. There is a very great responsibility in this. It all bounces back, it all turns around, everything has a rebound affect against the person himself. It can include human trafficking for purposes of slave labor or prostitution — sources of work to enable survival today. (7/21/15)

It is troubling to see the increasing number of young girls and women forced to earn a living on the street by selling their own bodies, victims of exploitation by criminal organizations and at times by parents and family members. This is a shameful reality in our societies, which boast of being modern and possessed of high levels of culture and development. Widespread corruption and unrestrained greed are robbing the innocent and the vulnerable of the possibility of a dignified life, abetting the crime of trafficking and other injustices which they have to endure. No one can remain unmoved before the pressing need to safeguard the dignity of women, threatened by cultural and economic factors! (9/17/15, Street)

Many are the faces, the stories and the evident effects on the lives of thousands of persons whom the culture of deterioration and waste has allowed to be sacrificed before the idols of profits and consumption. We need to be alert to one sad sign of the “globalization of indifference”: the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal (cf. Message for World Food Day, 16 October 2013, 2), or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of “using and discarding” and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution and trafficking in organs. “There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever” (Laudato Si’, 25). Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this. We have no right. (11/26/15, U.N.O.N.)


This is exactly what happened in the episode of Naboth’s vineyard. Jezebel, the queen, in an unscrupulous manner, decides to eliminate Naboth and puts her plan into action. . . This is not a story of former times, it is also a story of today, of the powerful who, in order to have more money, exploit the poor, exploit people. It is the story of the trafficking of people, of slave labor, of poor people who work “under the table” and for a minimal wage, thus enriching the powerful. It is the story of corrupt politicians who want more and more! This is why I said that it would be good for us to read St Ambrose’s book about Naboth, because this text is relevant to modern day. . . . That is where the exercise of authority without respect for life, without justice, without mercy leads. And that is where the thirst for power leads: it becomes greed that wants to own everything. (2/24/16)

Human traffickers must be relentlessly prosecuted. The old adage that certain things have been around from the beginning of time is unacceptable. (6/3/16 – Trafficking)

Rehabilitating victims and reintegrating them into society, whenever possible, is the greatest good we can do for them, for community and for social peace. Certainly this is no easy task; it must not end with sentencing, but continue by ensuring that victims and victimizers alike receive guidance, opportunities for growth, reinstatement and rehabilitation. (6/3/16 – Trafficking)

Today is the World Day Against Child Labor. United together, let us renew our efforts to eradicate the causes of this form of modern slavery, which deprives millions of children of their fundamental rights and exposes them to grave dangers. Today there are so many child slaves in the world! (6/12/16)

What is needed is a concerted, effective and dedicated effort, both to eliminate the causes of this complex phenomenon, and to encounter, assist and accompany the people who fall into the snare of trafficking. The number of these victims — international organizations tell us — increases, unfortunately, every year. They are the most defenseless, who are robbed of their dignity, their physical and psychological integrity, even their lives. (10/27/16)

One of the most troubling of those open wounds is the trade in human beings, a modern form of slavery, which violates the God-given dignity of so many of our brothers and sisters and constitutes a true crime against humanity. While much has been accomplished in acknowledging its gravity and extent, much more needs to be done on the level of raising public consciousness and effecting a better coordination of efforts by governments, the judiciary, law enforcement officials and social workers. (11/7/16)