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Rhode Island bishop questions wisdom of giving money to panhandlers

March 31, 2017

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, has questioned the wisdom of giving money to beggars.

Bishop Tobin said that panhandlers can pose a danger to public safety, and that some beggars are cynically exploiting the generosity of strangers. He also remarked that giving money to beggars “sustains a very unhealthy and degrading life style.” The bishop said: “Our society has legitimate and structured means of helping the poor and needy. We should support these.”

A spokesman for the Providence diocese said that the bishop was responding to a local debate about panhandlers, and not to a statement by Pope Francis, who had said that even if a panhandler might use money to buy liquor, “Help is always right.”


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  • Posted by: cmaedunne9213 - Apr. 03, 2017 3:45 PM ET USA

    The bishop has it exactly right. Very many pandhandlers and street people are addicted, mentally ill, and/or have other problems, and the first thing they will do when given enough money is to go out and purchase drugs and/or alcohol. These unfortunate people need to get into treatment, programs, etc.

  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Apr. 02, 2017 4:48 PM ET USA

    I am with the Bishop. If you help an alcoholic get drunk you are harming him NOT helping him.

  • Posted by: BlaiseA - Apr. 02, 2017 9:58 AM ET USA

    How about giving them a 'gift card' for McDonalds??

  • Posted by: ElizabethD - Mar. 31, 2017 9:44 PM ET USA

    I have volunteered w/ the homeless for 10 years and I think Bp Tobin is spot on. Each case is individual, but as a general rule I do NOT give money, I direct people where they can get substantial help, or sometimes buy needed things/food/bus passes. Many chronic panhandlers have opted out of the available help for one reason or another; panhandling enables and really is generally dysfunctional; some lie habitually to get people to give. Talk to & befriend them, be kind, get involved w/real help.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 31, 2017 7:15 PM ET USA

    I'm firmly with Pope Francis on this issue. In charitable giving it is always much better to err on the side of generosity. It is much better to give money to someone who only pretends to be poor than to refuse support for someone who could in fact be genuinely needy. Also, the potential lack of honesty of the recipient does not make the good deed of the giver less valuable in the eyes of God.

  • Posted by: rjbennett1294 - Mar. 31, 2017 6:21 PM ET USA

    Yes, definitely, we should remember the words of Christ: "These the least of My brethren can pose a danger to public safety, so do not allow them to cynically exploit the generosity of strangers."