THE OPTION FOR THE POOR AND VULNERABLE
“It is impossible to separate the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ from His social teachings, just as it is impossible to separate our Love of God from our Love of neighbor.” ~ Matthew Kelley (Rediscovering Jesus)
The theme of special care and love for the poor is one that is central to the biblical notion of justice. The Hebrew Scriptures emphasized that God expects those who are faithful to pay special attention to the “widows, orphans, and strangers.” Indeed, the treatment of the poor and vulnerable is one of the bottom-line tests of the Hebrews’ faith in God. In the New Testament, Jesus showed a marked preference for persons who were in need, especially the sick, the poor, and the marginalized. As His disciples, we are expected to do the same. In light of the social nature of the person, Catholics believe that human dignity can only be fully realized in community. A healthy community, in turn, can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society. The “option for the poor” is an essential part of society’s effort to achieve the common good.
In the following video, Father Nathaniel Haslam helps us to understand on a very personal level how we are to follow Christ’s example of making a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.
Almost everyone will agree that as Christians, we are called to and should help the poor, the vulnerable; the marginalized. As the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis gave us a first-hand example on his first visit to the U.S. According to the National Catholic Register, after delivering the first-ever address by a Pope to the U.S. Congress in a joint meeting, he departed toward the Washington Archdiocese’s Catholic Charities headquarters. While there, he met with over 500 people served by the Archdiocese’s charitable programs, including the homeless, unaccompanied minors from Central America, persons in drug-addiction programs, and people with developmental disabilities.
Differences will arise, though, as to the ways in which we are to help. Pope Francis and Catholic Social Teaching itself have both been accused by many of promoting socialism and even communism. But in reality, things couldn’t be further from the truth. These accusations stem from a failure to study and comprehend the Teachings of the Catholic Church regarding Social Justice Issues.
To better understand how we are to ‘translate the social implications of the gospel into workable and concrete solutions,’ – in other words, how to help the poor – Reverend Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty offers us his commentary Not Whether to Help the Poor, But How.
As stated above, the lack of a clear understanding of the Teachings of the Catholic Church regarding Social Justice has led to a plethora of misinformation and accusations from one end of the political spectrum to a very effective usurpation and misrepresentation of its core principles at the other end. Prominent and well known authors such as Rev. Robert Sirico, Michael Novak, Arthur Brooks, and Bishop Robert Barron have come to the Pope and the Church’s defense in stating that the Church’s Teachings are neither Socialist nor Capitalist. They are Catholic.
In Catholic Social Teaching Isn’t Socialism, Rachel Lu offers us her review of the book “Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching.” This senior contributor at The Federalist and Robert Novak Fellow delineates the author’s attempt to convey to readers that ‘Catholic social thought does not ask us to be naïve about economic realities,’ and rather, it ‘demands that we keep human good firmly in view, and respect the shape and significance of natural human relationships’ above all else.
“Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!” ~ Pope Francis