An Appraisal of the Roman Catholic Church’s Understanding of the Preferential Option for the Poor (Published)
This paper traces the foundation of the doctrine of the preferential option for the poor from the Old Testament into the New Testament. The paper also draws its arguments from Liberation Theology and prophetic messages in the Old Testament of the Bible. It then proceeds to highlight the teachings on option for the poor from Catholic social teachings, especially magisterial documents. The paper is a product of literature review for a research project on the topic of preferential option for the poor which was conducted in the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret in Kenya. From the review, it is evident that the option was given an impetus in the New Testament through the person of Jesus Christ whose messianic activities fulfilled what the prophets of old had foretold. Although the Messiah suffered death on the cross, the teaching of the Catholic Catechism presents this as liberation per se. As such, the Biblical notion of God opting to stand on the side of the poor, right from the time of the people of Israel to latter Christianity, continues to influence the Catholic Social teaching as evidenced by major papal documents and patristic teachings. Underlying the option is the conviction that the Church cannot isolate itself from the community that it is required to transform. Therefore, the preferential option for the poor is a teaching that had been received and domesticated as shown not only by the establishment of schools in the diocese but more so the way poor students get support.