Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kidnapping, Slavery, Human Trafficking, and Bingo

Three women who had been held against their will in a Cleveland, Ohio, house are free: and, happily, seem to be in good physical health.

Their kidnapping, years of virtual slavery, and eventual escape, are international news. I'll be back on Friday with another 'in the news' post, but this seemed worth posting now:
  1. Not-So-Good Neighbors
  2. Good Neighbors
  3. Human Trafficking and Other Threats

Neighbors, Sex, and Slavery

The rules are basically simple:
In my native language, English, "love" can mean quite a few things, like: 'I love hamburgers;' I love golf;' 'I love my wife;' I love golf;' or 'I love God.' In this case, I'm talking about the sort of love that's "to will the good of another. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1766)

Slavery

The Catechism has quit a bit to say about loving neighbors. (Catechism, 2401-2449)

Some of it is what we should do, some is what we shouldn't do. Among other things, slavery is not allowed. We can't do it for ideological or totalitarian reasons: or for commercial purposes. It's wrong, and we shouldn't do it. (Catechism, 2414)

It's true that the Church did not 'make' people stop practicing slavery. Individual Catholics have occasionally tried to force their notion of 'proper' behavior down the throats of unwilling subjects: but that's a bad idea, and we shouldn't do it. (Catechism, 1782)

It took almost two millennia, but eventually several nations started acting as if people owning other people was a bad idea. I think the idea is catching on. (May 6, 2012)

On the other hand, we do have occasional lapses. Old habits die hard.

Prostitution

Despite the goofy assumptions that are mistaken for facts in some American subcultures, the Catholic Church doesn't abuse women. Again, some Catholics have behaved badly.

Among other things, unjust discrimination in employment is against the rules. (Catechism, 2433)

If the Church is against discrimination based on sex, why isn't prostitution allowed? Given America's recent cultural history, that's not an unreasonable question.

A half century back, it seemed 'obvious' to some reformers that prostitution was a good way for women to make money: and was illegal because a male-dominated society wanted to keep women in a subservient status.

The Church is against prostitution, not because sex is evil: but because prostitution hurts the dignity of the person who acts as a prostitute. Prostitution reduces a person to a mere object intended for sexual pleasure. It's not good for the prostitute's client, either, and is particularly bad when children are used. (Catechism, 2355)

Yes, I know about the pedophile priests. Moving on.

Sex

Sex is good. That's not just my opinion. Genesis 1:22, 28, and 31 make it fairly clear that God designed humanity with our sexual nature: and thought it was good. At that level of authority, I don't think there's a point in arguing.

Here's a very quick overview of the Catholic Church's view:
  • Sex is
  • Lust is a disorder (Catechism, 2351)
  • Rape is bad (Catechism, 2356)
Some folks don't act as if that's true, sadly: which brings me to some of this week's news.

1. Not-So-Good Neighbors

"Ohio abduction suspect was familiar figure in neighborhood"
Associated Press via FoxNews.com (May 8, 2013)

"In the tight-knit neighborhood near downtown where many conversations are spoken in Spanish, it seems most everyone knew Ariel Castro.

"He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands. He parked his school bus on the street. He gave neighborhood children rides on his motorcycle.

"And when they gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember two girls who vanished years ago, Castro was there, too, comforting the mother of one of the missing, a neighbor said.

"Neighbors and friends were stunned by the arrest of Castro and his two brothers after a 911 call led police to his house, where authorities say three women missing for about a decade were held captive...."
What three brothers did in that neighborhood was very wrong, and is now international news. The blame game may go into extra innings as folks vent their anger and frustrations. I think kidnapping is wrong. (Catechism, 2297) Forcing those three young women into slavery was wrong.

But I won't claim that the local police are to blame, that school bus drivers should all be deported, or that men who play guitars are evil. I don't have enough information to have an opinion about what law enforcement could have done: and the rest is simply silly.

I doubt that anyone will seriously propose that guitars be outlawed: but it's all too likely that some 'regular Americans' will decide that this appalling situation shows that non-WASPs should be driven out of 'their' country.

Locks and Hindsight

"...Castro's son, Anthony Castro, said in an interview with London's Daily Mail newspaper that he now speaks with his father just a few times a year and seldom visited his house. On his last visit two weeks ago, he said, his father would not let him inside.

" 'The house was always locked,' he told the newspaper. 'There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage.'..."
Ideally, Anthony Castro might have deduced that his father's behavior was sufficiently inappropriate to warrant calling the police: with a complaint that his father had put a lock on his garage???

It's easy to be wise after the fact. I think it's more sensible to remember that kidnapping and imprisoning those women was a bad thing, and that we shouldn't do that sort of thing.

2. Good Neighbors

"Cleveland officials hail bravery of missing women"
BBC News (May 7, 2013)

"Police have praised the bravery of three women found alive on Monday evening in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, after they vanished about a decade ago.

"Amanda Berry, who disappeared in 2003 aged 16, escaped with a neighbour's help while her alleged captor was away.

"Gina DeJesus, who went missing aged 14 a year later, and Michelle Knight, who vanished in 2002 aged about 19, were also rescued from the property.

"A school bus driver and his two brothers have been arrested.

"The three women were taken to hospital for a check-up and to be reunited with their relatives before being discharged on Tuesday morning.

"A six-year-old girl also rescued from the house was believed to be the daughter of Ms Berry, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told a news conference...."
I prefer to look at what neighbors did, as soon as one of them realized that someone needed help. As soon as Amanda Berry called for help: she got it, together with the release of her fellow-captives.

3. Human Trafficking and Other Threats

"Congressman calls attention to human trafficking in US"
Adelaide Mena, CNA/EWTN News (May 6, 2013)

"In a recent Virginia forum, U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) highlighted the largely unknown problem of human trafficking within the United States, offering suggestions for how to fight 'modern day slavery.'

"While many see slavery as a problem of history, Wolf said, 'slavery, of a different sort, still exists today.'

"He also stressed that human trafficking is a local issue, with girls being held in sex slavery within the state of Virginia.

"Wolf delivered his comments at a May 3 meeting with state and local officials in McLean, Va. The gathering, hosted by state delegates Barbara Comstock and Tim Hugo, was aimed at discussing ways to fight human trafficking in the state.

"According to the non-profit group Shared Hope International, over 100,000 American children are exploited through pornography or prostitution annually....
Representative Wolf may be looking at his reelection campaign, dispassionately interested in righting this wrong: or, more likely, motivated by a bit of both.

Depending on his constituency, he may be taking a risk. 'Good, decent, God-fearing folks' can get used to remarkably depraved things: and get huffy when someone rocks the boat, and that's another topic.

Porn

"...The congressman remarked that he has 'seen credible reports of nearly 80 establishments' in Northern Virginia that serve as centers for human trafficking and exploitation.

" 'We walk and drive by them every day,' he said.

"Wolf listed the internet and gangs as major components in the spread and success of human trafficking. He stated that sites such as Facebook and Backpage.com permit individuals to meet and take advantage of victims.

"The congressman also expressed concern that the opening of a casino in the Maryland National Harbor would lead to a growth in human trafficking in the region...."
(Adelaide Mena, CNA/EWTN News)
For some folks, pornography is 'stuff I don't like that relates to sex.' That can include anything from cosmetics advertisements and the auto parts store wall calendar to "The Moon is Blue." (1953) I really don't miss the 'good old days.' More topics.

As a Catholic, I think pornography is the deliberate display of real of simulated sexual acts. It removes the intimacy of partners, is a misuse of sex, and hurts the dignity of everyone involved. (Catechism, 2354)

Like prostitution, pornography was supposed to be a tool used by liberated women to make money: thereby freeing them from the trammeling bonds of male oppression. I think people should be able to earn money: but I also think porn is a bad idea.

Magazine ads for lip gloss and mascara are sometimes of debatable value: but that really is another topic.

The Internet and Bingo

I think Representative Wolf has a point, about online services like Facebook and Backpage.com being used by human traffickers. Happily, he doesn't seem to be trying to sell fear of Facebook. I don't see Facebook, or other social media, as a threat to society: but I'm one of those people who have a Facebook page, so maybe I'm biased. (Brian H Gill)

Wolf's concern about a casino interested me. I don't gamble, but I don't think gambling is inherently bad. Maybe the idea is that casinos are seen as 'ethics-free' zones: or, not. I've harangued about the Internet, Bingo, fear, and sin before. (November 18, 2012; September 28, 2012)

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