The “Preferential Option for the Poor” has a basis in the Hebrew Scriptures. As Fred Kammer, S.J., explains in his book Doing Faithjustice; An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought, “From the time of the Deuteronomic laws, the covenant, and the earliest prophets, there was special mention of the poor and a special place for them existed in the community” (24). Communicating God’s word to the Israelites, the prophet Isaiah states plainly that God seeks the liberation of people from bondage, hunger, homelessness, and other kinds of oppression:
Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
A day acceptable to the Lord?
Is this not, rather the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
Breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
(Isaiah 58: 5-8)
Isaiah is clear that God responds to those who care for the poor. As stewards of God’s creation, our possessions are to be at the service of others. The tradition of Catholic Social Teaching carries this idea into the contemporary period, encouraging those with wealth, with property to ensure that their brothers and sisters have what is necessary to provide for their integral human development.
Fred Kammer, Doing Faithjustice: An Introduction to Catholic Social Thought (Paulist, 2004).
New American Bible, Revised Edition (2011).
Submitted by: N. Rademacher, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies