“Liberation theology likes to describe itself with the slogan that it represents the 'preferential option for the poor,' whatever that means.”It's clear that Hayward thinks that Pope Francis has strayed from the path, and certainly the path laid out by the previous two Popes, he notes that both Benedict XVI and John Paul II were "harsh critics" of liberation theology and that the latter "directly rebuked" clergy in Nicaragua, but I wonder where he got the idea that the preferential option for the poor, was, well, an option for Catholics? Or that it was in any way unclear what it meant.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (published in 2004, under John II's watch) devotes three full paragraphs [182-184] to the concept of the preferential option for the poor, using precisely that term. The document clearly states "The principle of the universal destination of goods requires that the poor, the marginalized and in all cases those whose living conditions interfere with their proper growth should be the focus of particular concern. To this end, the preferential option for the poor should be reaffirmed in all its force. " (emphasis is mine, reference 385 is to John Paul II, again).
Whatever you think about liberation theology and how politics and the Church ought to intersect, it ought to be perfectly clear that the preferential option for the poor isn't an option. It is, to quote the Compendium, something to"which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness" and that it affects the life of each of us. It is "still a thing"...
Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40