Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon warned of “new forms of cannibalism” that have emerged out of human trafficking and the illicit trade in organs around the world.
“Any international gathering on human trafficking needs to take cognizance of the nefarious new entrant into human trafficking vocabulary,” said the cardinal during a meeting in the Vatican on May 18.
“This is, understandably a controversial term. But its impending dangers are never to be minimized in our urge for caution,” said Cardinal Bo during the Santa Marta Group’s meeting at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican.
He said the new threat comes from the medical services with “unscrupulous tunnels of exploitation of the most vulnerable people.”
“Commodification of human body parts is a new feature of the global health-care market,” noted the cardinal, adding that the result makes it more or less legal to rent or purchase human body parts of socially disadvantaged persons.
“This is a billion-dollar market benefiting mostly the rich, often in collusion of not a few medical professionals,” he said.
According to Global Financial Integrity, the trade in organs and other body parts features in scale and profit alongside the illicit trade in drugs, wildlife and weapons, with an estimated annual profit of US$1.7 billion.
The International Labor Organization estimates that human trafficking generates US$150.2 billion in illegal profits each year, the third biggest illicit economy in the world, next only to arms sales and the earnings of the drug cartels.
Cardinal Bo said the emergence of the “cannibal market” has significant human, social, medical, economic, legal, religious, and ethical implications.
He stressed the need for “an urgent, proactive, preventive process” that must be “planned and implemented to resist this new kind of commodification of human beings.”
The cardinal said that because the phenomenon does not involve the actual movement of people, but controlling and commodifying their body parts, “a moral and ethical crisis has emerged.”
“The Church and the partners are confronted with a new unsettling reality impacting thousands of the most vulnerable, especially the women and children,” he said.
“Our active participation is needed in fortifying the efforts of the socially-conscious scientists and human rights lawyers,” Cardinal Bo told the Vatican gathering.
He said there should be “greater and wider involvement of the Church in creating awareness” on the unregulated organ trading markets and the unregulated markets to aid assisted reproductive technology.