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Have questions on Humanae Vitae? Social media discussion offers answers

Tue, 07/03/2018 - 16:11

Arlington, Va., Jul 3, 2018 / 02:11 pm (CNA).- A month-long social media conversation on Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae kicked off this week, facilitated by the Diocese of Arlington.

Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at The Catholic University of America, will host the primary conversation on Twitter. His account, he said, will be devoted to the cause.

While he will proactively be providing some content, Pecknold said that he will also be addressing any questions that are posed and encouraging “everyone to think out loud on social media about the points that are made in Humanae Vitae.”

As a professor, Dr. Pecknold hopes to see a productive question-and-answer style conversation, similar to what he sees in the classroom.

“I hope young people will do what they do in the classroom, which is try to be courageous and formulate a question,” he told CNA. “You… kind of learn how to have good discussion through having the courage to ask questions.”

Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI, affirms the Church’s teaching against contraception. It talks about the dignity of human life and sexuality, and outlines the use of Natural Family Planning as a morally valid method of planning and spacing children.

Amy McInerny, respect life director for the Diocese of Arlington, helped in the genesis of the diocesan conversation project. She said she hopes to spread Humanae Vitae’s message to a world hungry for something “substantial.”

“If you look at Humanae Vitae, it’s a beautiful document bubbling over with truth, designed to make people happy and holy. And so many people, as we know, reject the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception,” she said, adding that the diocese wants to “[take] the message to where the people are” - social media.

In the encyclical, Paul VI predicted that if the use of contraception became widespread, society would see devastating consequences, including an increase in marital infidelity and general decline of moral standards, the possibility of governments using coercive measures to force contraceptive use upon people, a loss of respect for women, and a general decrease in humility regarding humanity’s dominion over the human body.

Each of these predictions has come true in the modern era, said Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington.

In a statement reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the papal document, the bishop said that “the truths of Humanae Vitae are eternal.”

“Its practical approach to intimate love, marriage, and the dignity of the human person can transform society and the Church, drawing all people closer to God through a proper understanding of how he made us to share life and love in the sacred bond of marriage,” he said.

Both Dr. Pecknold and McInerny encouraged participation in the conversation.

“These are open fora,” said McInerny.

There will be “2-3 tweets a day for the first three weeks, and then a social media symposium” on July 25, the anniversary of Humanae Vitae’s promulgation, she said. The symposium will be hosted on Twitter and people will “be able to engage live with Professor Pecknold.”

Those who are interested in participating can follow the Arlington Diocese on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as Pecknold on Twitter. Two hashtags will be used: #HV50 and #AskTheQuestion.

Those who do not use social media can visit a website with all the conversation content from each day.

Dr. Pecknold emphasized the importance of studying the document as a community.

“Like a lot of Church teaching, it has to be received afresh,” said Dr. Pecknold. Whether or not people have read the document, it should be a time to reflect on its ever-relevant teachings, he said.

“People are tired of polarization,” he said, “they want to think about the common good. And Humanae Vitae is really about the fundamental common good of human life.”


Keep immigrant families together, bishops plead at border

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 20:27

McAllen, Texas, Jul 2, 2018 / 06:27 pm (CNA).- Immigration reform requires seeing the faces of immigrants, and hearing their stories, according to five U.S. bishops who have completed a two-day pastoral visit to the U.S. border with Mexico in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

The bishops spoke at a press conference Monday night, reflecting on their experiences with immigrants, among them children separated from their parents and held in federal custody, during their pastoral visit.

“Our faith is not just a system of concepts,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, president of the US bishops’ conference, during the July 2 press conference. “Our faith is in a person, the person of Jesus Christ.”

DiNardo told the story of a Honduran man he met during a visit to a Catholic-run respite center for immigrants. The man told the cardinal that he entered the United States illegally in order to protect his family, after receiving death threats from gangs in their home country.  

“He had his son with him,” the cardinal said. “Did he cross the border? He did. That part is illegal. But I am not looking at an abstraction when I look at him. I am looking at a person. And that person is shaken.”

“These are all human beings here,” DiNardo added.

Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton, Pa., affirmed the cardinal’s sentiment. Bambera said that talking with immigrant families reshapes perceptions about illegal immigration, and challenges political preconceptions.

“When you have the opportunity to sit down with a family...labels melt away,” Bambera said.

“When you talk to somebody whose deepest desire is not to exploit a country and take everything they can, but to provide for their children, and keep their children safe, then labels melt away.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, vice-president of the bishops conference, told reporters that immigration is “not just a matter of politics. It’s a matter of humanity.”

The immigration discussion, he said, “is really talking about men and women, parents and children, brothers and sisters.”

“It’s a global reality...we all are participating in the same humanity and we are together trying to find the solution to this situation,” Gomez added.

The bishops called Catholics to advocate for immigration reform. DiNardo said that call should begin with prayer.
“I certainly think that praying is more sufficient than people even imagine,” DiNardo said.

“Prayer is important. But in addition to prayer, we have to petition Congress. We have to talk to them, we have to make it really intense. Not nasty, but really intense. My hope would be to write, to call, to include Congress, in calling for an integral immigration reform.”

Gomez said that families should be prioritized in legislative efforts.

“If we want something from the administration and from congress, it’s family unity. Because that’s essential for the human person. And we are willing to do whatever we can to help make it happen.”

“The way they came here-we can address the legal requirements of our country to make the decisions that are correct- but with family unity,” he added.

DiNardo was grateful that policies seperating children from their parents at the border have come to an end, but said the bishops “have some concerns about family detention.”

The cardinal called for the use of case-management programs as a “cost-effective alternative” to family detention, and said that Catholic-run charities would be glad to assist the government in case-management initiatives.

Undocumented immigrants waiting legal proceedings “need to be accounted for.” he said.

Through case-management programs, families, many of whom want to find employment quickly, are “able to live with a little more. I call it hope. When you go through this kind of thing, whether you’re a family or an unaccompanied minor, there’s an element of real trauma that happens to you, and you can see it on their faces.”

DiNardo said that he doesn’t believe U.S. officials intend to traumatize immigrants, but said that “case management gives them some chance to breathe, and some hope.”

The delegation of bishops visiting the border, which also included Bishop Robert Brennan, auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre, toured two federal facilities, along with the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

DiNardo said the visit was a prayerful and pastoral visit.

“We have had a full 2 days and they have been a very beautiful 2 days,” DiNardo said.

“Some parts painful, but very beautiful.”

DiNardo praised the hospitality of federal officials and local Church leaders, especially singling out Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, a member of the delegation and its local host, along with Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

"There are lots of challenges here, there are lots of things we found, but we have found is that we have received incredible cooperation at every site we visited,” DiNardo said.

“All of the people who are involved in this were incredibly helpful. I want to make sure everyone knows that,” he added.

DiNardo said that the bishops are especially calling for the reunification of families separated at the border.

“The children who were separated from their parents need to be reunited- that’s already begun, but it’s not finished yet. It must be done, and it’s urgent,” he said.

Gomez reiterated that point.

“I think it is so important that these children be reunited with their parents,” he said. “I think it is important [for the Church] to really help in that process of reunification. To make sure that we are there and to participate as much as possible in that process.”

For his part, Flores emphasized the gravity of situations that motivate Central American to flee to the United States.

“We have spoken to mothers in Guatemala or in Honduras who have told me ‘my son will be killed here, they will shoot him. He’s 16. What am I supposed to do?’”

“Many people would much prefer to stay home if they didn’t feel that their children’s lives were at stake,” he said.  

I don’t think we have gotten the message out how dire it is in certain parts of Central America...and a wider conversation to address the hemispheric situation is part of our responsibility, as a Church and as a nation.”

Gomez, who said that he asked children to pray for his native Mexico’s squad in the World Cup, said that comprehensive immigration reform, addressing the complexity of the situation, is possible.

“What we all need to understand- our government and administration officials- is that it’s possible to address the needs of immigration reform. You just need to make the decision that we can do it. Once we do that, with everyone working together—we can find a solution…that the borders be protected, and that the people who are already here become very productive.”

“There are ways to move people around and respect the border and the laws of every country,” he added.

“Our country is a country of immigrants,” Gomez said. “It’s a great country.”


Archbishop Gomez: Hearing immigrants' stories should make us grateful

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 18:13

Brownsville, Texas, Jul 2, 2018 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During a visit to the United States’ southern border, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles called for Catholics to lobby Congress to fix the United States’ “dysfunctional” immigration system.

Archbishop Gomez and several of his fellow bishops were able to visit Catholic Charities’ Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, and met with migrants who are living at the center. The experience caused Archbishop Gomez to reflect on the current state of American immigration policy, and question what could be done to fix the situation.

“Family separation did not begin with this administration,” Gomez wrote in Angelus News, the news site for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “But reports of thousands of children being held in detention facilities across the country has struck a chord in our national conscience.”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” policy under which all illegal border crossings would be criminally prosecuted rather than sent before an immigration judge. This shift to the criminal justice system led to families being separated, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail with their parents.

Following outcry over the policy, Trump issued an executive order in late June to end the practice of separating families, and instead detain parents and children together in family housing units.

Archbishop Gomez was part of a six-bishop delegation visiting the U.S.-Mexico border on July 1-2. Led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, the delegation met with U.S. government officials, members of the Catholic community, and migrants.

In his reflection on the visit, Archbishop Gomez suggested that Americans take a look at their own lives and the situation in Central America, and what could be drawing people from that area into the United States. The country is viewed by immigrants as a “beacon of hope, a land where it is possible to find honest work” and a better place to raise children, he said.

Gomez himself was born in Mexico and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1995.

It is important to know the stories of those crossing the border illegally, Gomez said, so that we can hopefully understand their plight and the situation they are fleeing. And while this cannot change the fact that laws were broken, “knowing their stories will make us thank God every day that we are not forced to make these kinds of choices in our own lives, for our own families.”

“When you are in a border town, you realize even more the truth that every nation has the duty to secure its borders and enforce its laws,” the archbishop said.

Unfortunately, Gomez said, the current immigration system in the United States is dysfunctional, to the point where enforcing the current laws is leading to “new injustices and cruelties.”

The only thing that will help, he said, is pressuring Congress to pass a “commonsense and compassionate solution on immigration.”

But this cannot happen, Gomez said, if politicians from both parties use immigration as a “winning issue” that brings people to the polls. As long as this is the case, no one will be motivated to make any real change.

“What we are waiting for is politicians with the courage to do what is right,” he said. “And we have been waiting for 25 years.”

In addition to wondering how much longer the country will have to wait on immigration reform, Gomez questioned how it would be possible to justify what has been done - or what has not been done - to assist the children who have been separated from their parents after crossing the border.

These children, “care nothing about our politics,” and just want to see their parents, he said.



Amid policy debate, US bishops hear from migrants at the border

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 15:24

Brownsville, Texas, Jul 2, 2018 / 01:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seeking to hear the stories of migrants and how they have been affected by U.S. detention policy, a delegation of Catholic bishops is visiting the U.S.-Mexico border this week.

“The bishops are visiting here so they can stop, look, talk to people and understand the suffering of many who are amongst us,” said Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas. “It’s part of the purpose of Christian life to talk to people and hear their suffering.”

The bishops’ delegation had a purpose, said Flores. “To talk, to see, because that’s what the Lord shows us… And then respond,” he said, according to the Los Angeles archdiocesan news site Angelus News.

Flores was part of a bishops’ delegation that visited the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. On Sunday, July 1, the bishops met with Central American migrants hosted at the center.

One man, Pedro Marquez from Intibucá Department in Honduras, spoke of threatening street gangs in his hometown called “maras.”

“The maras make it impossible to live,” he told the bishop. “They tax us to live in our own house, tax us to have a business, and if we don’t pay, we get killed,” he said. Government crackdowns on the gangs seem only to strengthen them.

Marquez took his 11-year-old daughter Yamilet with him during the three-week journey from Honduras. They aimed to take a Greyhound bus to Philadelphia, where they have family members.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said as many as 250 people per day pass through the center, which provides short-term hospitality for families that have been processed by the Department of Homeland Security. The center provides immediate medical assistance, food, clothing and information about how to comply with immigration proceedings. The volunteer-staffed center is located in a rented storefront.

“We’re in constant triage – that’s the word that comes to mind,” said Brenda Riojas, Brownsville’s diocesan relations director.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops, headed the delegation. Other delegation members were Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, the vice-president of the bishops’ conference; Auxiliary Bishop Robert Brennan of Rockville Centre; and Auxiliary Bishop Mario Alberto Avilés of Brownsville.

Their visit aims to understand the human side of the border crossing situation, said Bishop Flores. The visit comes amid continued controversy over the Trump administration’s immigration policy. One aspect of the policy, separating migrant family detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, was recently changed after strong outcry.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark had suggested the visit at the U.S. bishops’ annual spring meeting last month.

Bishop Flores told the Washington Post that the bishops specifically want to address the Trump administration’s policy of detention of immigrants in family detention centers, including centers at military bases.

“We really have to keep our eye on the developing situation—to see how families are going to be housed,” Flores said. “Part of the delegation, I hope, is the chance to really ask some questions about how this is going to unfold, so that we’re prepared for it.”

At the Humanitarian Respite Center, Cardinal DiNardo and the other bishops served chicken soup and tortillas to children who had just arrived with their parents from a detention center run by the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement Center. Many of the children refused to leave the arms of their parents.

The adults at the center wear GPS ankle bracelets to track them to ensure they attend their immigration court date closest to their U.S. destination.

Sister Pimentel said the community gathered together “to make sure that we take care of these families, and that we welcome them.”

“We must offer compassionate and humane processes that care for these families who are victims of structures that are corrupt and abusive in their home countries,” she told the Washington Post.

Earlier that Sunday, the bishops celebrated Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle, a national shrine in San Juan, Texas regarded as pilgrimage site for migrants. The basilica exceeded its capacity of 1,800 people for the Mass.

During the Mass, Bishop Flores said in his bilingual homily “The plan of the Lord is to always be attentive to what’s right in front of Him… That’s Jesus’ way.”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston celebrated a high-profile border Mass in 2014, while Pope Francis prayed on the Mexican side of the border during his 2016 visit.

On Monday, the bishops were scheduled to meet with U.S. government officials and members of the Catholic community, with their visits intended to focus on family unity. Stops on their schedule included the U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s Ursula Processing Center in McAllen, Texas and the Southwest Key Casa Padre detention center in Brownsville. The latter center, hosted in a former Walmart building, has become a place for unaccompanied minors.

The Austin-based Southwest Key programs, a federal non-profit contractor, operates 26 shelters in Texas, Arizona and California, CNN reports. It has cared for 19,000 children in the most recent fiscal year, but has been the focus of news coverage due to hundreds of citations by Texas state regulators inspecting its shelters in the last three years.

After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” border policy, the average population of its shelters increased by 300 people in under one month’s time.

The U.S. bishops’ delegation is set to hold a press conference at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle at 6 p.m. Central Time, to be live-streamed on YouTube.


How knowing your fertility can catch diseases early

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 18:04

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2018 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When Maggie* was in high school, she stayed after class to talk to ask a teacher what to do about a very personal concern she felt her physician was not taking seriously.

What she learned led to the discovery of a brain tumor, and treatment for the growth, which had been affecting the teen for years. The tools she needed to find and treat this growth came from an awareness of her fertility and natural cycles.

“It wasn’t so much that I was trying to avoid pregnancy or get pregnant – it’s that there was something legitimately wrong with my body,” Maggie told CNA.

By the time she was in her late teens, Maggie had noticed that her cycles had never regulated, and had no idea what that meant except that it wasn't normal. While for the first years after a young woman begins to menstruate her cycles are of varying length and heaviness, they typically regulate within a few years. But several years after her own cycles began, Maggie was concerned that they never had settled into a normal pattern – in fact, she sometimes would have as few as one cycle a year. In addition, she also faced rounds of headaches.

One day, Maggie approached her college-level biology teacher, who also happened to be a practicing Catholic, looking for an explanation for her concerns and asking what to do. The teacher told her to ask her pediatrician, but also put her in touch with her church’s fertility instructor to see what could be done.

Maggie said her pediatrician immediately assumed that she was pregnant: an impossibility, because she was not sexually active. When the pregnancy tests came back negative, the doctor responded, “‘I don’t know what your problem is’ and brushed me off,” she recalled.

Meanwhile, the local parish’s natural family planning (NFP) instructor saw the teen’s distress and put her in touch with a Catholic fertility physician who could teach Maggie how to observe and chart the signs of her fertility.

Understanding Fertility

“A sign of health in a woman is a normal, regular cycle,” Dr. Lorna Cvetkovich, a gynecologist and obstetrician at Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., explains. “We know what a normal cycle looks like,” she continued, “so at any time the parameters fall outside of those, then that’s a clue that maybe they’re not ovulating, they may have a luteal phase defect, they may have fibroids. It can show you all sorts of things.”

For women whose cycles fall within a normal range, normal bodily processes present themselves in a predictable pattern.

In the first part of a woman’s cycle, called the follicular phase, hormonal signals from the pituitary gland trigger the follicles (egg-containing structures within the ovaries) to prepare an egg for ovulation and to secrete estrogen into the woman’s body. This rise in estrogen levels triggers changes in the kind of fluid the cervix secretes, as well as thickening the uterine lining, making them more able to support the conception process.

After ovulation a woman's body secretes progesterone, which causes a sharp increase in a woman’s basal, or resting, body temperature, as well as a preparation of the uterine lining for possible implantation. If a pregnancy occurs, the basal body temperature and hormone levels may continue to rise, whereas if pregnancy does not happen, the resulting dip in hormones triggers a drop in temperature, menstruation, and the beginning of a new cycle.

In a healthy woman who is not pregnant, this cycle will repeat every 21-35 days.

These changes can be observed by any woman, and can be used by married couples as a valid method to achieve or delay pregnancy, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, which teaches that it is immoral to disrupt this natural cycle with the use of contraceptive pills, implants, barrier methods, or by having incomplete intercourse. Using these observations to help in the discernment of family size is known as natural family planning.

However, the same observations and data – commonly collected into charts for easier analysis – can be used to help diagnose gynecological issues such as ovarian cysts and growths in the uterus, called fibroids, as well as hormone deficiencies and other abnormalities affecting bodily functions. The information can also be essential in pinpointing issues surrounding pregnancy, such as the exact date of conception, infertility, and miscarriages.

This information is such a valuable insight into a patients health and symptoms – and an invaluable tool for doctors practicing reproductive medicine. “I just think it’s invaluable, and I don’t really know how people practice [gynecology] without having the charting,” said Cvetkovich. “There’s just so many uses, and it adds so much to your evaluation of the patient.”

Cycles and Diagnosis

Disorders in other bodily systems – such as the endocrine system – can manifest in a woman’s menstrual cycle and her chart. “Thyroid plays a role in almost every function of the body, so it may show up as a sign in the cycle,” explained Cvetkovich.

For Christine, charting her bodily signs helped her to catch an issue with her thyroid that might otherwise have been missed. After charting for four years, she started noticing that some months there was no ovulation that could be detected by temperature or with chemical tests for the hormones that trigger ovulation.

“I had what looked like a really long cycle, and then eventually, what to the uninformed observer would look to be a light period. But because I knew I hadn’t peaked, I was able to identify it as estrogen breakthrough bleeding and not a real cycle,” she explained.

“It seemed like my body was trying to ovulate, and not really getting there.”

She approached her doctor, explaining she was not ovulating and that she would like to find the cause for something that was out of the ordinary. The doctor then ordered comprehensive blood tests, and found that some of her thyroid-stimulating hormone levels were elevated beyond normal – in fact, her levels were twice as high s they had been a year ago.

After receiving treatment, her cycles returned to their normal pattern.

“I didn’t have a lot of signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism, aside from missing ovulation,” Christine noted, saying she wouldn't have picked up on the disorder had she not been charting. “ I wouldn’t have realized there was an issue,” Christine she added, reflecting on the fact that she probably would not have even received the treatment she needed.

“Whenever I’m sharing my experience with NFP with somebody, I’m always quick to point out not only all of the standard benefits, but that it enabled me to know my body and know there’s a problem that so many people wouldn’t be aware of."

How Fertility Awareness Helped to Find a Tumor

After a local NFP instructor put Maggie in touch with physicians familiar with fertility awareness, she became more aware of what was going on in her own body. She learned to observe her basal body temperature and cervical fluid signs – and noticed that while sometimes she had a more typical menstrual cycle and her chart showed the usual peaks and dips of a healthy young woman, at other times her cycle was irregular and her temperature was more elevated.

Even though she was not sexually active, “my body was acting like it was pregnant,” Maggie said. The doctors at the Catholic fertility clinic sent Maggie out for blood work, which showed a high level of prolactin – a hormone present during pregnancy and breastfeeding. She took this information back to her pediatrician, and then to an endocrinologist, who ordered an MRI scan of her brain.

“There was a tumor pressing into my pituitary, pressing into my frontal cortex,” Maggie explained.

“When I first heard the word ‘tumor’ I freaked out,” she related, but thankfully, “it wasn’t cancerous,” but a benign growth which explained both her irregular cycles and some of her headaches.

Maggie received the treatment she needed to shrink the tumor, and told CNA that “things are pretty much normal now.” While the tumor is still there – “it’ll never really go away, unless I get surgery," she related; “what’s happened at this point is that it’s checked.”

While since receiving treatment she has no need to monitor as rigorously all of her signs and symptoms, knowledge of her fertility and its signs has given Maggie tools she can use use if the tumor starts to grow again.

“I have this, and I know these are indicators to know [if] something is wrong with my prolactin.”

Fertility – 'A Public Health Issue'

Cvetkovich suggested this level of awareness can be useful for any woman looking to take care of their health.

“I think that anytime you put someone more in tune with your body,  they’re just going to know that things are wrong earlier. I think that’s what it’s all about, knowing what’s normal for you, and being in tune with it.”

She commented that many of her fellow physicians, as well as the general public, have grown accustomed to relying on hormonal contraceptives to address disorders, a practice she said “makes people very distant from their bodies and from their cycles.”

“We’ve lost the idea that having a normal monthly cycle is health – that’s normal. Being fertile is normal. I think that’s where NFP brings us back to, really: to reality.”

Maggie agrees, saying that some of her initial struggle in receiving treatment was a result of people  “missing the point that fertility isn’t sort of an accessory to being a human woman – it’s an integral part of how our bodies work.” Awareness of how women’s bodies work, and how to tell when they’re not working correctly, is important for everyone.

“It’s a public health issue.”

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

This article was originally published July 31, 2015.

Human trafficking remains a problem in US, advocate says

Sun, 07/01/2018 - 08:01

Washington D.C., Jul 1, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the Department of State released its 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report this week, an apostolate which helps trafficking victims said that the practice remains a problem around the world, including in the US.

The Trafficking in Persons Report features narratives on each country, and the countries of the world were divided into three tiers. Tier 1 consists of “countries whose governments fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.”

Although the United States is classified as Tier 1 country, human trafficking is still a problem here, Children of the Immaculate Heart President Grace Williams told CNA in an interview. Children of the Immaculate Heart is an organization in San Diego that assists those affected by trafficking.

Trafficking is the “fastest growing illegal industry worldwide, and it’s the same here in the United States,” said Williams.

Williams said that the vast majority of people trafficked in the United States are native-born citizens, and not people who were brought across the border. The average age of someone trafficked, Williams said, was 16 years old.

“The number one vulnerability factor, I can say in Los Angeles' court for trafficked minors, was child neglect,” Williams explained, followed by child abuse. Williams told CNA that she believes providing a support system, as well as stemming the culture’s sexual appetite, are key to stopping abuse.

“Kids who don't have the love and support that they need are the ones that traffickers are picking up on, and so that's where our primary work as an American society lies.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday at the release of the 18th annual TIP Report that ending human trafficking should be a bipartisan issue.

In this year’s report, Pompeo highlighted the work done by local communities around the world not only to stop human trafficking, but also to aid the survivors of these crimes.

“Human trafficking is a global problem, but it’s a local one too,” Pompeo said June 28. “Human trafficking can be found in a favorite restaurant, a hotel, downtown, a farm, or in their neighbor’s home.”

Below Tier 1, Tier 2 contains countries that may not meet the TPVA standards, “but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”

A “Tier 2 Watch List” consists of countries that are similar to Tier 2, but have other issues, such as an increasing number of trafficking cases or a lack of improvement on previously-implemented anti-trafficking efforts.

Tier 3 countries are those “whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.”

While no country in Africa is classified as Tier 1, Pompeo noted that 14 of the 48 African nations in this year’s report had been upgraded since last year’s TIP Report and offered praise for the work taken by the continent.

“Despite significant security threats, migration challenges, other financial constraints, and other obstacles, the region improved significantly,” said Pompeo.

“We commend those countries taking action, but we also will never shy away from pointing out countries that need to step up.”

First among these was Libya, where Pompeo mentioned the existence of “modern-day slave markets” arising from “trafficking and abuse of African migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers.” Many Africans seeking entry to Europe pass through Libya, which has not had a well-functioning government since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Pompeo said the US has engaged the Government of National Accord, recognized by the UN as Libya's legitimate government, “to bring the perpetrators to justice, including complicit government officials. We welcome its commitment to doing so and look forward to seeing real action.”

Praise was offered for Tier 1 Argentina, which recently convicted government officials who were complicit with trafficking, and Estonia, which passed a law that will assist survivors of trafficking.