Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that the Church’s sex abuse scandal has taught him the importance of listening to victims, and that this motivates his work against human trafficking.
Speaking to the Press Association, Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said: “Over the last 15 years in my life, and I think in the life of the Catholic Church more broadly, there has been real difficult lessons to learn about understanding victims and opening your heart to victims, and realising how early experiences and experiences of total vulnerability can have a lifelong impact on a person.
“So while for us the most dramatic expression of that has been with childhood abuse, it has, I think, challenged me to understand the perspective of the victim much more.”
The cardinal said it was harder for the Church to help victims of abuse, because “they are understandably angry with us”. But victims of trafficking had no reason to be angry with the Church.
Cardinal Nichols has made the fight against human trafficking a central theme of his time as archbishop. He has been heavily involved with the Santa Marta group, an international project which co-ordinates efforts by politicians, police chiefs and the Church.
In London, a group of nuns work closely with the Metropolitan police in helping trafficked women. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Britain’s most senior police officer, has said that the international network of the Catholic Church is key to fighting trafficking.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that 20.9 million people around the world are victims of forced labour.
Cardinal Nichols said that every part of Britain was touched by human trafficking. “We like to think of Britain on the whole as reasonably genteel and proper, but we are exploiting and being exploited,” he said.