A basic moral position in our society is demonstrated by how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, progressive (liberal) and conservative, secular and religious, (etc.) our Catholic Faith emphasizes the importance of the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
You shall not oppress the poor or vulnerable. God will hear their cry.
20You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. 21You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 22If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. 23My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. 24 If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them. 25Ifyou take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; 26for this is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What will he sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate.
A portion of the harvest is set aside for the poor and the stranger.
9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien. I, the LORD, am your God
Speak out in defense of the poor.
8Open your mouth in behalf of the mute, and for the rights of the destitute; 9Open your mouth, judge justly, defend the needy and the poor!
Don’t delay giving to those in need.
My child, do not mock the life of the poor; do not keep needy eyes waiting. 2Do not grieve the hungry, nor anger the needy. 3Do not aggravate a heart already angry, nor delay giving to the needy. 4A beggar’s request do not reject; do not turn your face away from the poor.5From the needy do not turn your eyes; do not give them reason to curse you. 6If in their pain they cry out bitterly, their Rock will hear the sound of their cry. 7Endear yourself to the assembly; before the city’s ruler bow your head. 8Give a hearing to the poor, and return their greeting with deference; 9Deliver the oppressed from their oppressors, right judgment should not be repugnant to you. 10Be like a father to orphans, and take the place of a husband to widows. Then God will call you his child, and he will be merciful to you and deliver you from the pit.
True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed.
5Is 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? 6Is 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? 7Is 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?
Just as you did it to the least of these, you did it for Jesus.
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, 36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ 40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Blessed are the poor, theirs is the kingdom of God.
20 And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. 21Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. 22Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s good and sees one in need and refuses to help?.
17If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? 18Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: “As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The way we treat others has a transcendent dimension: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2). It corresponds to the mercy which God has shown us: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you . . . For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:36-38). What these passages make clear is the absolute priority of “going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters” as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift. (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium. . . ], no. 179)
“The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of 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. . . . “Those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church. . . , nos. 2444, 2448, quoting Centisimus annus, no. 57, and Libertatis conscientia, no. 68)
Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice. (St. John Paul II, On the Hundredth Year [Centesimus Annus. . . ], no. 58) The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 86) The primary purpose of this special commitment to the poor is to enable them to become active participants in the life of society. It is to enable all persons to share in and contribute to the common good. The “option for the poor,” therefore, is not an adversarial slogan that pits one group or class against another. Rather it states that the deprivation and powerlessness of the poor wounds the whole community. The extent of their suffering is a measure of how far we are from being a true community of persons. These wounds will be healed only by greater solidarity with the poor and among the poor themselves. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 88)
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; the production to meet social needs over production for military purposes. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 94) In teaching us charity, the Gospel instructs us in the preferential respect due to the poor and the special situation they have in society: the more fortunate should renounce some of their rights so as to place their goods more generously at the service of others. (Blessed Paul VI, A Call to Action [Octogesima Adveniens. . . ], no. 23) “He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.” (Blessed Paul VI, On the Development of Peoples [Populorum Progressio. . . ], no. 23) Therefore everyone has the right to possess a sufficient amount of the earth’s goods for themselves and their family. This has been the opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the church, who taught that people are bound to come to the aid of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods. Persons in extreme necessity are entitled to take what they need from the riches of others. Faced with a world today where so many people are suffering from want, the council asks individuals and governments to remember the saying of the Fathers: “Feed the people dying of hunger, because if you do not feed them you are killing them,” and it urges them according to their ability to share and dispose of their goods to help others, above all by giving them aid which will enable them to help and develop themselves. (Second Vatican Council, The Church in the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes. . . ], no. 69)
Still, when there is a question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. (Pope Leo XIII, On the Condition of Labor [Rerum Novarum. . . ], no. 37)