So, if you follow the news, you’ve heard by now that Mitt Romney said that he is not concerned about the very poor. And, he’s already taking a lot of heat, including some from Gail Collins, and (my favorite so far), Jon Stewart.
He’s also defending the comments, saying that he said he would fix the safety net for the very poor if it needs fixing, but also that he is very clear that his focus is on the struggling middle class.
There is certainly room for people of good will to disagree and to make different prudential judgments about the sorts of policy decisions that will best help the very poor. And of course, Mr. Romney and others are free to think as they please. But for Catholics, being unconcerned with the very poor is not an option.
As they do each election year, the US Bishops have published Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, which they hope will help Catholics understand and apply the Church’s teaching to their political decisions. One of their seven key themes is the idea of the Option for the Poor and Vulnerable:
While the common good embraces all, those who are weak, vulnerable, and most in need deserve preferential concern. A basic moral test for our society is how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. In a society marred by deepening disparities between rich and poor, Scripture gives us the story of the Last Judgment (see Mt 25:31-46) and reminds us that we will be judged by our response to the “least among us.” (#50)
Catholics need to be concerned about the very poor, and Catholic voters, I think, need to find and identify candidates who share that concern.