Care for the Poor

“One who has the goods of this world and sees their brother or sister in need and closes their heart to them, how does the love of God abide in their heart?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1 John 3:17
 
A basic moral test for our society is how we treat our most vulnerable members. Given growing divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. The Church’s love for the poor is a part her constant tradition. This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor.
 
Rerum novarum, or Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor, an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, is a foundational text of CST. It discussed the relationships and mutual duties between labor and capital, as well as government and its citizens. Of primary concern was the need for some amelioration of “The misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.”
According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter, Economic Justice for All, the obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation, a special commitment to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. The deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community.
 
The needs of the poor take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits; the preservation of the environment over uncontrolled industrial expansion; production to meet social needs over our military purposes. The Bishops ask us to examine our own actions. How do we spend our resources? Do we consider how our actions affect those who have less? How do our elected representatives act in our behalf?
 
“The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”  St. Ambrose
 
The Conference asks individuals and governments to remember the saying of the Second Vatican Council: “to help others, above all by giving them aid which will enable them to help and develop themselves.”                                                                                                The Church in the Modern World, no. 69.