The Preferential Option for the Poor in Catholic Social Teaching
Pope Leo XIII instructed the State to show preference to social groups depending on the amount of political and economic power they were capable of wielding on their own behalf. That is to say, the State owes special attention to the weakest elements of society:
“The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State.”
Particularly when speaking of the market, this means that it will sometimes be necessary to place stronger restraints on the actions of those with greater resources in order to ensure that the so-called “free market” remains free:
“To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power. To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practise a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute.”
Because this responsibility is explicitly assigned to the State, we will develop this notion further when we arrive at our discussion of political society in section VII of this guide.