The Preferential Option for the Poor and the Marian-Christian Perspective On Distributive Justice

  • S. T. Worland


Liberation Theology seems to have Roman Catholic social Teaching (1) shift from a naturalistic, Aristotelian conception of distributive justice to a Biblical perspective expresses as the preferential option for the poor, (2) advocate an ‘hermeneutic privilege for the poor’ which assigns the poor a cognitive role similar to that accorded to the proletariat by Marx. The apparent hostility to capitalism reflected in the preferential option and the espousal of such a hermeneutic privilege raise the question – according to the Church’s teaching, is a committed believer obligated to work for the overthrow of capitalism? Citing (a) the formal identity of the preferential option with the Rawls difference principle; (b) the espousal of Pareto efficiency as an appropriate policy objective in key Church documents, the author concludes that commitment to the preferential option implies commitment to 'Pareto optimality’ and that Catholic social doctrine as currently taught does not require the repudiation of capitalism.