Dear Loyola Parishioners and Visitors,
Slavery may seem a strange topic to address on Labor Day weekend when we honor workers and unions and the labor movement, but that is what is on my mind.
Georgetown University has announced it will give admissions preference to the descendants of the slaves held by the Maryland Province Jesuits from whose forced labor the University profited. It is a partial act towards seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. The University announced other initiatives as well that it will take to seek pardon and demonstrate contrition.
The 2016 Colorado ballot measure, Amendment T would remove an exception to the prohibition of slavery in the State constitution that allows individuals to be held in involuntary servitude if convicted of a crime.
Worldwide, men, women and children are recruited, trafficked and held in slavery or involuntary servitude as domestic workers, agricultural and “the trades” laborers, housekeepers at lodging and resort facilities, sex workers, and “brides for sale.” The legal sanctioning of slavery in the United States and other nations of the world may have ended, but the institution persists. Trafficking in persons is the second most profitable international crime, following trafficking in illicit drugs. In 2011, it generated an estimated $31.6 billion, with roughly 2.5 million people trafficked annually.
While St. Paul’s letter to Philemon (today’s second reading) reveals Paul’s care, concern and love for the slave, Onesimus, it still reveals the attitude that one human being may own and possess another human being to serve him or her. It still reveals Paul’s concern that Philemon act freely and consent to Onesimus serving, being slave to ‘but more than a slave’, one or the other of them. Slavery is not the only way in which some humans act out of their belief that they can possess and own another human being.