May beggars be excluded from public spaces? May vagabonds be denied access to foreign cities? Should assistance to the poor rely on private charity rather than public welfare institutions? These and similar questions are at the heart of Deliberation on the Cause of the Poor, a remarkable treatise on poor relief by Domingo de Soto (1495-1560), one of Spain's most famous jurist-theologians. Confronted with the reform of poor laws in cities across Europe, Soto warns against the potentially dire consequences of restricting access to poor relief for the sake of managerial efficiency. Denouncing the abuse of power by corrupt public officials and the instrumentalization of the sacrament of confession, he argues against well-intended public measures that actually jeopardize the poor's direct access to life-saving help and assistance. Soto draws on manifold arguments from the Bible, the church fathers, natural law, Roman law, and canon law to defend the legitimate poor's right to beg for assistance, while recalling the vital importance of the virtue of mercy.
Edited by Wim Decock. Translated by Joost Possemiers and Jeremiah Lasquety-Reyes. Introduction by Daniel Schwartz.