Preferential Option for the Poor?


#1

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

vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en.html

What does preferential option for the poor mean to you?


#2

My first thought was the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy.

But in addition, certain aids to the poor used to be incorporated into our structures. For example, the (actual) commons–common areas for grazing, collecting wood, etc. This allowed poor people to sustain themselves even if they didn’t have a lot of cash *and *it allowed a lot of poor people to help their neighbors as well. Obviously I am not saying that we should return to collecting wood to warm our homes, but looking at how we can do things to substitute for that.

Also, I think that barriers to entry to starting small businesses should be removed. Texas did this by saying that people could start selling (clearly labeled) food made in their own kitchens, for example.

In some ways, the Internet is opening up different ways of doing business as well with things like micro-lending.

I notice that subsidiarity comes right after the preferential option. I believe that too is important for the poor, because helping the poor becomes more personal, which I think is also important.


#3

Those are some very good points, especially helping the poor becoming more personal. And the whole small busness aspect is very empowering. But back to the personal helping of the poor, I have found that it is very easy to get taken advantage of. If you walk down the street in a big city chances are someone will ask you for money. It is difficult to say how helpful you can actually be. Some of the work of religious institutions develope some means of accountability because there are those who play the system, take as much as they can get.

The challenge of certain aids to the poor incorporated into our structures deals with that line between truly assisting and enabling, perpetuating.

Thanks for you thoughts.


#4

The advent of religious orders like the Missionaries of the Poor and the Missionaries of Charity show the meaning of transformation of the world and a compass for the souls of the Church. The Catechism says, “It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus will recognize his **chosen **ones.” And, “When the poor have the good news preached to them it is a sign of Christ’s presence.” (CCC 2443) And so these orders are chosen. Which thus shows what we should choose. And a reflection of a past choice, a fruit of genuine freedom, is ideally one of peace when it stems from the poor. For it stands as a sign in our mind of Christ’s presence. It is the fruit that makes life more human and more meaningful.


#5

Yes we can always support or even volunteer to work with religious orders involved with the poor.


#6

Souls could. We need more examples. More sacrifice. Outside perceptions of the faith of a person is either static or charismatic. Work with the poor is groundbreaking and inspiring when done with the heart of the orders I abovementioned. But the heart does not necessary have to join, it can break new ground in the way and transform the Church around the one who plows through the world. On the other hand, it would not be prudent to work on one’s own will. Correspondance with these orders should be well intented.


#7

Who are “the poor” anyway?

PRELIMINARY ESTIMATE OF WEIGHTED AVERAGE POVERTY THRESHOLDS FOR 2011

Size of Family Unit				Estimated Threshold		

          1 person (unrelated individual)...................................………….					$11,491 	
            Under 65 years ............................................................…….					 11,702 	
            65 years and over .......................................................……..					 10,788 	
						
          2 people .........................................................................…..					$14,667 	
            Householder under 65 years ….................................…………					 15,139 	
            Householder 65 years and over ................................…………					 13,610 	
						
          3 people .........................................................................…..					$17,922 	
          4 people .........................................................................…..					 23,018 	
          5 people .........................................................................…..					 27,274 	
          6 people .......................................................................…….					 30,841 	
          7 people ......................................................................……..					 35,082 	
          8 people ......................................................................……..					 39,131 	
          9 people or more ..........................................................………					 46,647 	

census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/11PRELIMINARY.xls

census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/

irp.wisc.edu/index.htm


#8

One interesting thought on the poor, not entirely unrelated to the preferential option concept, is that we can help the poor by having beautiful liturgies because the beauty in a well-done liturgy might be the only beauty they are exposed to.

unamsanctamcatholicam.blogspot.com/2011/04/liturgical-minimalism-hurts-poor.html


#9

Absolutely! I read about this idea several years ago and was never able to find it again: it is what a priest in a very poor area in Latin America responded when asked why they didn’t sell the things in the church to feed the poor.

This is another aspect of personalization. We think that the poor lack money, when really a lot of them lack something else, and as a result, lack money.

For example, I heard that some children grow up in a culture in which it is not done to talk a lot to the children when they are really little. The great-grandparents and grandparents were raised and raised their children to be very quiet because of their situation (whatever it may have been). This has come down through the generations, and causes a terrible lack for the children. Sometimes a mother might just need talking to her children modeled because it seems so unnatural to her. Part of this is done through Head Start, but Head Start starts really late for language acquisition. (this might not help a current generation, but might help the upcoming one.)

Another time I ran into a woman who was poor, and she said the problem was that she didn’t know how to cook the basics: rice, meat, etc.

We need to *mingle *more with the poor.


#10

I also heard one about a priest who operates a homeless shelter in Ohio where they offer a traditional Mass along with a “contemporary” Mass. The homeless people consistently attend the traditional Mass. The priest asked why, since they didn’t know Latin, etc. They respond that “I know it’s about God.”


#11

Wow. That gave me chills.


#12

Why are they poor? Probably due to the politics of their location.As Lee Greenwod said “God bless the USA” They are poor because they have no FREEDOM- to do what they want without interference from GOVERNMENT- every dollar that the US sends overseas to “help” ends up enriching the plutocrats who are in charge. Guess what our FREEDOM is being slowly comprimised by BHO with his executive orders that go against the laws written by the US CONGRESS.


#13

:harp::heaven::amen:


#14

Another idea I heard about: letting people stay with a monastery or convent for a set amount of time, like a year. They could develop their spiritual life and do a lot of things to help out, without the commitment to being in the process of discerning.

(I don’t know if there would be a problem with that, but it seems like it could be a good idea.)


#15

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