Back to Top

An Introduction to Poverty and Economic Justice

By Fred Kammer, SJ and Dennis Kalob, Ph.D.

Poverty and economic justice is one of the three focus areas for the work of JSRI. In their 1986 book-length pastoral letter Economic Justice for All the US Bishops reminded us of the importance of confronting poverty in these words: "Dealing with poverty is not a luxury to which our nation can attend when it finds the time and resources. Rather, it is a moral imperative of the highest priority."

But what does it mean to speak of poverty in the United States? Drawing on the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, the bishops explained it this way, “By poverty, we are referring here to the lack of sufficient material resources required for a decent life.” Then, in the next sentence, they acknowledge the complexity of the question, “We use the government’s definition of poverty, although we recognize its limits.” And a footnote introduces elements of the national debate about what we call “the poverty line.” [Continue on to MORE about measuring poverty and poverty in the Gulf South.]

Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium (2013), writes, “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved…by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.  Inequality is the root of social ills.”

We are all being called to confront poverty and economic inequality whenever and wherever we can.  JSRI, through our research and advocacy, challenges this destructive inequality and the debilitating poverty that is a part of it.