Pope Francis and U.S. Bishop Have Conflicting Opinions on Giving to Beggars

Gabriel Sozzi [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Gabriel Sozzi [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
U.S. Bishop says not to give to panhandlers, while Pope Francis says the opposite.

The conflict in the Catholic Church between American bishops and the Pope has yet again surfaced when Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin told people not to give alms to beggars although the Pope says to help.[/tweetit]

Pope Francis and U.S. Bishop Have Conflicting Opinions on Giving to Beggars.[/tweetthis]

The issue of giving alms to beggars has always been a point of contention in the Catholic Church. In fact, it has created moral debate even in other communities such as Islam, where begging or encouraging begging are both prohibited.

A month ago, Pope Francis was asked by an Italian magazine where he stands on the issue of giving alms to beggars. The Pope answered although there are numerous arguments against giving alms, he believed it is right to do so. His justification was simple- help is always right.

The Pope’s “do your charity without question” ideas did not seem to go well with other church leaders. Bishop Tobin posted a message on Facebook listing the reasons not give money to panhandlers. His first reason is that the act of throwing loose change at a panhandler demeans his or her human dignity. Although it may make a person feel better, it actually encourages degradation of the poor.

The Pope had, however, mentioned that while giving alms, people must look into the eyes of the panhandler and touch their hands as well.

The bishop's other reasons include safety hazards and encouragement of begging. He said by giving panhandlers money, people are encouraging dishonest individuals to take advantage of the compassion of other people.

Although the message by the bishop seems very likely to have been a rebuttal of the Pope's words, his spokesperson insisted the message was posted in response to a local argument about this issue rather than in response to the Pope’s views. Others, however, refuse to take this explanation, especially since Bishop Tobin has criticized the Pope in the past as well.

Bishop Tobin's message also included a quote by Pope Francis, in which the pontiff warns about the dangers of developing an attitude of “protective paternalism,” which does not really help alleviate the problem of poverty in the long run.


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