The Preferential Option for the Poor Today
Michael LeeFordham University
One of the most important ideas in Catholic Social Teaching of the last half century is the “preferential option for the poor.” It is a phrase that describes the Church’s ethical positions in the world, but it also conveys important theological notions about God. Though utilized across a range of magisterial texts of recent memory, the idea finds its most substantial development from theologians on Latin American soil. It is no wonder then that the preferential option is a crucial idea that runs through the encyclicals of Pope Francis.
This seminar will elaborate an understanding of the phrase, “preferential option for the poor,” describe how it developed historically, and suggest ways that it remains central to Catholic faith today. In particular, it will focus on two Latin American figures who have powerfully given meaning to this phrase in their teaching and their lives: Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP (Peru) and St. Óscar Romero (El Salvador).
Through a study of their writing and lived example of these important Latin American witnesses, participants will be encouraged to reflect on how their legacies and the preferential option represent an important resource for U.S. Latinx Catholics.
Gustavo Gutiérrez, “Liberation Theology for the Twenty First Century,” in Romero’s Legacy: The Call to Peace and Justice, Pilar Hogan Closkey and John P. Hogan, eds. (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), p. 45-59.
Óscar A. Romero, “The Church’s Mission Today,” a selection from his 2nd pastoral letter, The Church, the Body of Christ in History, in Voice of the Voiceless: The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985), p. 65-75.
This event is part of a series on the Hispanic Catholic experience, made possible by a generous grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute.
Michael E. Lee is Associate Professor of Theology at Fordham University. Born in Miami of Puerto Rican parents, he holds an M.A. from the University of Chicago and a B.A., M.A., and PhD from the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Bearing the Weight of Salvation: The Soteriology of Ignacio Ellacuría and Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Óscar Romero.His commentary has appeared in a wide variety of venues including The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and El Faro Académico (El Salvador). He has also appeared on networks including CNN, Al-Jazeera America, ABC-NY, National Public Radio, and Radio France International.