John Rawls, justice and Catholic social teaching

The work of the American political philosopher John Rawls on justice, especially for the most disadvantaged members of society, can be a resource for the study of Catholic social teaching, writes Jonathan W. Chappell, a Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Westminster.

A fundamental axiom of Catholic social teaching (CST) is justice for the poor (the ‘preferential option for the poor’), which has a long pedigree in both Scripture and tradition. From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made this issue a major priority of the Church’s mission.

In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis makes it clear that ‘none of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice’ (EG 201). Prioritising the wellbeing of the poor and marginalised lies at the very heart of the gospel. For Francis, all economic policies and decisions must therefore be at the service of humanity, and especially the poor.

It was John Paul II who first used the term ‘the option or love of preference for the poor’ in his encyclicals (Sollicitudo rei socialis 42). He argued that, while the economic structure of society should be geared towards the flourishing of all human beings, particular concern should be shown to those who are poor, marginalised, exploited and oppressed. CST therefore requires that the poor come first in our thinking about the economy.

Login for more...