Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Massingale, Bryan N.

Second Advisor

Wood, Susan K.

Third Advisor

Thiede, John S.


This dissertation examines the connection between poverty and health inequalities from a liberation theological ethics perspective. It uses Simone Weil’s and Latin American liberation theology’s approaches to suffering and social justice as theoretical sources to address health inequalities and the suffering of the poor because of social injustice, vulnerability to diseases, and lack of healthcare assistance. First of all, these approaches are examined from how they shape an anthropology of suffering that enable us to understand the suffering of the poor and, at the same time, to recognize them as agents of their own liberation and struggle for justice in health care. In a second movement, this anthropology of suffering grounds a liberation ethics able to respond to the challenge of poverty and health inequalities. Then, the anthropology of suffering and liberation ethics provides foundations to examine health care as a human right necessary for human flourishing. It develops a human rights framework that addresses health inequalities and health of populations from the perspective of the poor. Therefore, this dissertation argues that the poor are crying out for justice and life. Taking this into account, the anthropology of suffering grounds the needed human rights framework in health care toward justice that can only be achieved through a liberation approach in the companionship of the poor for a historical praxis of liberation. The poor are the main interlocutors of this examination of poverty and health inequalities. Thus, this issue, as well as all theoretical foundations, including Weil’s thought and Latin American liberation theology, are addressed from a hermeneutic perspective provided by the suffering of the poor and their voices. The key element of this hermeneutic is the preferential option for the poor that leads us to be in the company of the poor which gives us a hermeneutic locus of doing theology and appropriating texts. The dissertation is divided into three parts. Part I develops an anthropology of suffering with material taken from Weil’s and liberation theology’s approaches to suffering and poverty. Part II presents a liberation ethics for justice in health care from the perspective of the poor. Beginning with a presentation of Catholic social teaching and in order to shape this liberation ethics, the hermeneutic locus challenges this teaching to go beyond Catholic social ethics to integrate the voice of the poor and their experience into the health justice discourse. Part III is the argument for health care as a human right from the perspective of the poor and a community-based method of delivery of health care. This argument and praxis are sustained by two foundations: anthropological and ethical.