Economic Justice - Pastoral and Political Orientations
The Latin American and Caribbean bishops and their Episcopal Conference (CELAM) pushed the preferential option for the poor and marginalized to the center of Catholic social teaching because they were witness to a particularly disturbing poverty in their communities, one which they describe as “inhuman wretchedness.”
This Medellín document, Poverty of the Church (1968), argues that because the bishops’ flock is poor they must renounce indulgent clerical behaviors. The church is poor because the People of God are poor.
What is especially promising about this document is the emphasis on Christian solidarity with the poor. The bishops argue that as Christians, we all are called to vocations of poverty, even though our vocations will be different “according to personal charisms.”
The primary example and fundamental teaching of solidarity with the poor is none other than the example and teaching of Jesus. And the life work of Jesus provides the church with a “pastoral orientation” for witness, commitment, and mission to the preferential option to the poor.
What this document gives Catholic political theology is a “political orientation” for that same witness, commitment, and mission to the poor, marginalized and working family living paycheck to paycheck.
A pastoral and political orientation for the preferential option for the poor gives political theologians and social justice advocates their unity of purpose.