What does it mean for us really? Can we discuss this without getting politically polarized, allowing and respecting “prudential judgments? We all agree it is an important element of Church teaching. But we have different views about how to implement it and how involved government needs to be. But what is it really in practical terms?
John Paul II tells us, “This is an option, or a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness. It affects the life of each Christian inasmuch as he or she seeks to imitate the life of Christ, but it applies equally to our social responsibilities and hence to our manner of living, and to the logical decisions to be made concerning the ownership and use of goods.”
But we cannot expect to eliminate poverty. The Compendium states, “Christian realism, while appreciating on the one hand the praiseworthy efforts being made to defeat poverty, is cautious on the other hand regarding ideological positions and Messianistic beliefs that sustain the illusion that it is possible to eliminate the problem of poverty completely from this world.”
On an individual basis the Church teaches that one should assist one’s fellow man in his various needs and fills the human community with countless works of corporal and spiritual mercy. But also more is required beyond an individual effort so this action is not limited to alms-giving but implies addressing the social and political dimensions of the problem of poverty. In her teaching the Church constantly returns to this relationship between charity and justice: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice “what is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity
See 182-184 in the Compendium
What does preferential option for the poor mean to you?