A Canadian View: The Preferential Option for the Poor, Part Two

by | Jan 21, 2021 | Formation, Reflections

The Preferential Option for the Poor – Part Two

Our Vincentian charism and systemic change

Fr. Robert Maloney, CM describes the Catholic social teaching principle of The Preferential option for the Poor and Vulnerable as this:

“From its earliest days, the Church has taught that we will be judged by what we choose to do or not to do in regard to the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner.

Why a preferential love for the poor? Why put the needs of the poor first? Because the common good, the good of society as a whole, requires it. The opposite of rich and powerful is poor and powerless. If the good of all, the common good, is to prevail, preferential protection must move toward those affected adversely by the absence of power and the presence of privation. Otherwise the balance needed to keep society in one piece will be broken to the detriment of the whole.”

As Pope Francis tweeted on July 25, 2013 “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty.”

I think most Canadians would agree that we are blessed to be living in Canada. It is a beautiful country with many natural resources. We have a health care system, while not being perfect, does provide basic health care free to all. Our economy is strong, although there will be much need for measures that allow our Covid 19 recovery. We have a liberal immigration policy that welcomes new residents from many nations, thereby making us more multi-cultural and aware of global issues.

However, after these positive remarks and as a long-time member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, I must also realize the many Canadians living in or near poverty conditions. There would seem to be a real need for not only my fellow members but for all Canadians to understand the importance of having a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable. I believe our membership better understands this principle than many Canadians as well as various levels of government. If we desire to truly be a nation that cares for its most vulnerable, we must realize the need to make systemic changes to our current social services structures.

The Society can play a role in advocating for a strong commitment to improving the lives of the most vulnerable. We can do this internally by promoting the concept of the principle of the preferential option for the poor through systemic change education including the transformation of our way of thinking.

About the author:

Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.