The Pope on Panhandling: Give Without Worry

Francis offers a permanently applicable solution to dealing with outcasts: give.

Comments: 188

  1. This Pope really touches my heart
    He simply is a man apart
    He's a breath of fresh air
    While Trump I can't bear
    Who with mere compassion can't part.

  2. What you call compassion others call stupidity. Whatever happened to the idea of teaching a man to fish ...

  3. Its not an either/or choice-we can do both.

  4. These are not mutually exclusive.

  5. Always good advice. But direction from the Vicar of Christ and the inheritor of the mantle conferred on Peter "that what you [Peter] bind and lose on earth will be so in heaven also"?

    This is probably why most popes are a LITTLE more careful in the advice they give -- everlasting damnation for NOT dropping that coin or bill into the hat, meeting the eyes and touching the hand, could be a MITE high a price to pay for not wanting to contribute to a bottle of Sneaky Pete.

  6. Sure, Richard, only help the worthy poor, which will guarantee that you never suffer the high cost of being "conned" - embarrassment. Nowhere does the Pope suggest "everlasting damnation" for being fearful, judgmental or miserly in the moment.
    Why open with "always good advice" only to reject it?

  7. Mr. Luettgen, I don’t know about the intricacies of Catholic theology, but it seems to me that Pope Francis is not condemning those who don’t give.

    He seems to be saying that those who give should do so in a manner that recognizes the dignity of the recipient, and affirm the humanity of both giver and receiver. He urges us to give, but does he really condemn those who do not give.

    As a Mormon I may not appreciate the subtleties of papal expression, but in the Book of Mormon there is a prophet named Benjamin who gives essentially the same advice. He says we should not suffer the beggar to put up his petition to us in vain, and argues that we are all beggars before God and should at least share what we have, rather than despise those who ask for our help.

  8. Even the Pope's message contains a caveat helping someone who is in need. Unfortunately there are scammers and those whose real 'need' is rehab. Giving to recognized charitable organizations is an alternative for me though this advice is going well beyond a material transfer in interactions with panhandlers.

  9. It's nice to know the editorial board agrees with the Pope on helping the poor, which is the foundation of the teachings of Jesus.

    Our Philistine in chief is wasting no time in doing the opposite, making America totally inhospitable, uncharitable, and mean.

    he wrote an executive order promising to kick out only those here illegally guilty of major crimes. Turns out the order was a lot broader, giving ICE agents The leeway to deport anybody, and question anybody even if it happens to be a respected French professor on route to a conference in Texas .

    I don't have to wonder what the pope thinks of Trump, because they have already tussled – or rather Trump has tussled with Francis. Not the most generous of men, Trump gets annoyed when the pope calls him out on climate change, immigration, and refugee policy--all policies not around at the time of Jesus, but interpreted by Pope Francis as our modern-day equivalent of helping the poor.

    Francis might say such behavior is good because Christ teaches us that it is. The cynic in me also feels that acceptance of refugees – properly vetted of course like they always are--is the least we can do for our role in mucking around in the middle east and creating all of these problems in the first place.

  10. Why would a respected French professor be here illegally?

  11. O Christine, don't just use this to kick this "Philistine in Chief" alone, and talk later of "the acceptance of refugees", as if only this "Philistine" had any part in the negatives in these matters.
    Did you, when there was time for it, shoot your poison arrows from behind at the, then, "Pharisee in Chief" who thought so much of the destitute and homeless that he created millions of them, with the help of his planned successor, and never let any of them in - until it seemed politically profitable to hand-pick 10,000 out of 10million (i.e. 1permill - not percent) to come to the promised land.
    You, too, are a bit a cynic yourself when your "acceptance" is depending on "proper vetting", although you seem to recognize, o the other hand, that those dangers we all feel now are the result of someone's "mucking around" somewhere and "creating all these problems".
    Give the new "Philistine" his chance - but hold him to his word which he promised: To let go of those damned unchristian politics of messing wit other peoples' lives by commanding what kind of and whom they should have governing them.
    It's that arrogance of "Exceptionality" which does mot harm in the world - and let's not think even once that the earlier "Aryan" form of it, somewhere else, was different from it in any way. It is always this: Ayes, WE are - and WE can! - because it's US.

  12. Try to reserve your Trump Derangement Syndrome outrage for appropriate articles. And when you do take your wild swings, try to keep in mind that many perfectly ethical people completely disagree with your assumptions about a character you do not personally know. For the record I donated to Sanders and voted for Hillary.

  13. I've been the recipient of great kindness and charity - and who among us is exempt from the vicissitudes of fate? #DoUntoOthers

  14. I prefer to take my charitable advice from Pope Paul Ryan of the House of Reverse Robin Hoods, who plays a Catholic on TV but appears to be completely unfamiliar with Catholicism.

    In 2012, Ryan's savage budget plan proposed massive cuts to food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor.

    The US Conference of Catholic Bishops then formally protested Ryan's economic brutality and said the Ryan budget failed to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.”

    Paul Ryan pretended to care about what the bishops said in 2012, and said this at the time:

    “A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private. So to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium, which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person ?"

    Pious Paul Ryan then handed a starving, homeless person two tax cuts, a cemetery voucher and a refundable tax credit.

    The Lord works in mysterious fraudulent ways.

  15. As a Catholic, I agree with Paul Ryan. Under Obama, young healthy people were on the welfare rolls and some never left. What was meant as a temporary fix, became a life long occupation. They were playing the system but thankfully it will soon end.

  16. Charity is fundamentally different than public policy or taxation, which are mandatory and confiscatory. If I give or don't give to a beggar on the streets, it is my choice -- to give at all, when to give, how much to give, etc.

    You don't know anything about food stamps, Socrates, because you are wealthy, privileged, elite and live in an ivory tower. It's all theoretical to you. I live in an actual neighborhood with poor folks on food stamps. I shop at the same stores, I see what they buy (no, I'm not snooping -- our state SNAP system requires a special machine to swipe). I'm subsidizing not milk or oatmeal, vegetables or fruits, meat or fish for their hungry children -- but gallons of fruit punch, chips, cookies, candy, soda pop, sugary cereal -- expensive, so it runs out mid-month and then what?

    I also see the SAME FOLKS selling their food stamps, to get cash for things like cigarettes, beer, lotto tickets, pot, fancy manicures and the like. None of these people are thin or look starving, like in photos of the Great Depression. Indeed, the majority are overweight.

    There certainly ARE homeless in America, which is a disgrace, but it's due to the way lefties have bid up the cost of real estate. There are, however, no starving people in the US whatsoever.

  17. Forgive me, but that's not the Lord's ways. That would be Paul Ryan's ways. The social gospel does not contradict the social teachings of the church as some conservatives may imply. Re-read the Life of St Martin de Tours by Sulpicius Serverus to understand how a personal trait of the generous youth becomes a personal virtue of the adult. Martin become Charitas. Read the story of how he saved the condemned men without a word,and yet the Saint never denied the oppressor the same love and compassion. That's one I struggle with when it comes to DJT. Those in power can be as impoverished as those panhandling in front of the Golden Tower, but in a way that is spiritually deforming. Thank you NYT for this essay. Pax, jb.

  18. There is no one who in seeing the suffering of a person in a film doesn't have the thought that had he been there, he would have helped the poor person. Yet, we are reluctant to act in real life. (other than inability to provide the help).
    because we are not sure that we are facing a situation of real want rather than someone who is gaming the "system". Nevertheless, if you can, better to sin toward generosity. Which being to mind a short story by a Spanish author. It is about a bishop who walks to the cathedral every day and meets beggars. He never fails to give something and in doing so recommends: "Use it for your vices".

  19. Amazing: a Pope suggesting that people, believers especially, behave in Christlike ways with fellow men. What I'm certain he knows from his long experience is that acknowledging the other as worthy of your attention enhances giver and receiver. It's Martin Buber's I-Thou, not I-it.

  20. Do NOT give money to panhandlers. Instead, give it to nonprofits in your area that help the homeless.

    Many panhandlers are frauds, just using their spare time to make money before returning to their warm homes. Others use the money to support their drug habit. Others are mentally ill, but by choice not getting treatment. Homelessness agencies deal with their clients to provide homes, with rules, in exchange for requirements for treatment of addiction and mental illness.

    Sorry, Papa, not infallible on this one!

  21. In your opinion, I think. And while I think that many of these agencies do great good, we cannot and should not force anyone into rigid conformity. Perhaps they can be led there, but who are we to decide that "you do it my way or the highway," quite literally.

    I would like to understand how people who are mentally ill can make a choice to not get treatment. In some cases that may be true, but many people who suffer these illnesses cannot rationally make that choice.

    But for the grace of God (or luck, genetics, or natural selection) go all of us.

  22. Many shelters are shunned because they are unsafe. Further, the nature of the illness of mental instability makes it nigh impossible for many to keep to a regimen agencies require for treatment.

    I do agree with an apple a day that the pope is not infallible. He does though err on the side of charity which is more than some say.

  23. It's this paternalistic attitude that keeps people from getting help in clinics and other institutions. The poor want freedom and respect as much as anyone.

    It's easy to PayPal a few bucks to a charity, much of which will go to pay administrators' salaries; much harder to look someone in the eyes and touch her hands.

  24. Pope Francis is a remarkable human being.

  25. The more I learn about this Pope the more I like him.

  26. While Pope Francis is hitting all the right notes generally I don't think he is right about this. Homelessness and begging are symptoms of inadequate income, marginalization if the mentally ill and addicted, systematic discrimination and similar societal ills. Proper taxation and social expenditures would do a lot to alleviate most of this blight. To throw a buck or two at someone to make them go away and to rinse your conscience of guilt for a few minutes is poor policy and avoids the real work of solving the actual problems. Do the real job of raising taxes, improving public education, drug programs, family planning, decent public housing and the begging will diminish and public space will be far more pleasant than it is now.

  27. Remember, "there but for the grace of God, go I". Your truly intellectual, economic analysis somehow lacks the appreciation of the status, intellectual, economic, of someone in the position of asking for assistance. Christ didn't ask people to help those in need only if there weren't adequate incomes available nor if the society had poor policies, but if there was need. Try to earn a living as a cynic by relying on the help of strangers and see what's it's really like.

  28. Maybe this works in Canada. I don't think it works here in the blessed U.S., particularly impoverished New Mexico, especially Albuquerque, where off ramps and medians are loaded with panhandlers.

  29. Agree we need to do all we can to support folks through government programs but until that happens, we have to step in as individuals.

  30. Grazie Papa Francis.

  31. What a wonderful message. From the Pope and the Times.

    This same compassion should infuse our social programs at home and our foreign aid abroad. We should provide healthcare and good education for all. Without exception and without means testing. Stinginess shouldn't enter in.

    Whether you're religious or not, did you know the Bible urges what's called a Jubilee year, where debts are forgiven. And urges its readers to "care for the alien among you" - reminding us that we too, in terms of our ancestors, were once aliens.

    There are so many ways to be compassionate. Sometimes what you give away can feel so much more meaningful than what you keep for yourself or expect payment in return. Even a smile can be a gift.

    What an uplifting Editorial!

  32. An "uplifting editorial" indeed. I carry some bills with me for quick access when I am on the streets of NYC. Many who ask are not "frauds" and what matters most is the good will of the giver, not the need of the recipient. Believers know that.

  33. This sounds great. Tomorrow I'm going to quit my job and just panhandle because I learned everyone is now giving out money in the name of piety.

  34. You, sir or madam, are a cynical person.

  35. Go ahead, if you think it's "easy" to panhandle.

  36. Yes! Give the money or don't, but stop with the moralizing and hand-wringing laments about "he's just going to buy booze," or "she could get a job." It's not my business what the guy I just gave a dollar to does with the money. Once I give it away, I have zero control over it. That's the whole point. If it bothered me I wouldn't give it.

    I always say to myself: I need this dollar less than this fellow does, because he's standing on the street corner and I'm in my nice warm car. On that note, money is fine but consider keeping gloves and hats in the car. Minnesota is brutal for the homeless.

  37. My nephew Chuck, a recovering alcoholic, would not give away cash. But time and time, again - he would go get a burger and a hot coffee and bring them to the panhandler. He always said then he'd know the person had at least 1 meal that day.

  38. Yes! I say the same thing to myself. This person needs it more than I do.

    Same for tipping...when I'm trying to decide $3 or $4 tip - I always go the extra dollar because while (luckily) it doesn't make a huge difference to me, it might be the difference between a "good" or "great" tip, why not make someone feel good?!!

  39. I often have food in the car. I have gotten so much appreciation from people who begged for money, but got homemade hamentashen. All the fleece on sale at fabric stores at this time makes a good handout too.

    I remember when someone stole the penny jar at my parents' church. The minister came to my dad upset, and my dad told him that the thief no doubt needed the pennies more than the church jar did.

  40. Bingo. If someone who is a scammer gets a dollar from me that's on them, not on me.

  41. Most of the homeless have their necessities taken care of. A few bucks mostly makes you feel good about yourself. I've always felt it was about engaging. A lot of the homeless are disengaged. If I've got the time, I give them cigarettes -- I never met a homeless person who didn't smoke -- and I smoke one with them (I don't inhale) and we talk about anything that comes up. After a cigarette, there usually isn't much to say. but at least I tried.

  42. Having worked in an ER that served the homeless, I would beg to differ about your first assertion.

  43. Living near D.C., I have noticed many panhandlers on the city blocks panhandling for money. Though I sometimes give, I always wonder what they will do with my money. I heard from some source that most panhandling money goes to funding the panhandler's drug or alcohol problem, which is partially why I sometimes do not give. I would gladly donate to local homeless shelters, as I believe they are a more effective way for my money to be used. Perhaps we should invest more into temporary housing, drug rehabilitation, and employment assistance to successfully solve our nation's homeless problem.

  44. Another chance to give without worry is when you are in line behind someone who can't pay their full bill. You can just feel how panicked or embarrassed he/she is, usually with children hanging on. Just tell the cashier that you will pay for the diffeeence. They can figure that out and we can do it without needing to worry. Thank you Pope Francis.

  45. Amen.

  46. Can we get The Pope over here and send Trump to the Vatican?

  47. Uplifting editorial; thanks!

  48. My heart is lifted hearing this advice.

  49. According to Scripture, specifically to Jesus' teaching, we are to give to whomever asks, expecting nothing in return, and to judge not.

  50. that's why it is call 'charitas'. giving without expecting a return. pax, jb

  51. What a beautiful counsel from Pope Francis - clear, persuasive, and kind. Why must the concept of human compassion be any more complicated? This was the central message of Christ's ministry. Heartbreaking that is was so misunderstood in his time and is still misunderstood now.

  52. I've no doubt it's the right call.

  53. You are right, I can't assess if a panhandler is suffering from addiction, mental illness, poverty, or just hustling. I do worry about them, and the many others in need that I don't see on the street. I find some solace if giving to organizations and charities that I know serve the homeless, the poor, migrant workers, immigrants, and victims of domestic violence.

  54. It is heartening to see Christians behave as Christ taught.

  55. My Dad tells the story of an evening drive with my mother along Alligator Alley in Florida.
    Mom sees a homeless man on the other side of the highway and asks Dad to turn around. Said she wanted to give him some money. Dad said he'll just go buy a pint with it.
    Mom didn’t say a word, just stared at Dad. He got the message and the car was turned and the homeless man had 10 dollars in his pocket.

    Mom always had it right. Pope Francis really would have liked my Mom. She's with his boss now.

  56. While I am not Catholic...I am awestruck by our Pope...I call him Our Pope because he is the one religious person who I feel truly understands me...he loves the people. He has compassion beyond compare. He is a beacon of light in this truly dark time we are facing in America.

  57. With all the wall-building we have going on, it's wonderful to look in the eye of the "other" and feel equal --- feel the shared humanity. Pope Francis once humbly admitted his former authoritarian ways, but he eventually chose the better way of mercy and compassion, not the way of war and walls.

  58. Sometimes giving away money is the easiest thing to do, especially for those of us who have some extra. Looking directly into the eyes of the needy and touching their hands with compassion, now that takes courage. Thanks for sharing this.

  59. Sometimes you get the best free advice too. I remember a homeless lady in DC telling me not to sit on the stone curb at the memorials, because that causes hemorrhoids, "which are like the wolf in your butt".

  60. NYC has a law that says everyone must be provided shelter. In the process of the person taking the initiative to access the benefits afforded them by this law they also receive a means to acquire sustenance. Better to use a collective charitable instinct formed into governing policy than to rely on personal self indulgence. I have given in the past because it made me feel good to do so, but soon it was like a drug - what a great guy I was for giving to the poor, etc. It's easy to lose perspective basking in one's magnanimous gestures. Eventually I was recognized as an easy touch, word spread around. It was like those nature films where the jackals are all over the gazelle after the lions have moved on to the dessert menu.
    Then you'll also get the characters who give only to make a point what a great example they are setting, and shouldn't we all vote for because they try so hard for the down trodden.
    Francis has the luxury of saying these things and often giving generously in front of the cameras because he also has a security detail watching out for him if when one day he's a little light on his walk to the office he's not gonna have to make sure and bring twice tomorrow to cover what coins he couldn't spare today - or else.
    Angels depicted on the ceiling of one of his chapels are not always laying in wait on the street. Likely from a Vatican rooftop and with some binoculars he may try sampling perspectives gained by a more slightly downward angle.

  61. You have already failed to understand this teaching which btw I have also heard from religious teachers of other faiths including Judaism and Buddhism. The message is very simple and if you wish to attack it, find an ethical means to do so. The institutional wealth of the Catholic Church is a irrelevant to your personal ethical response to an individual in need.

  62. As a Catholic seminarian and, hopefully, a future priest, I am simultaneously inspired and unsettled by the teachings of Pope Francis. Inspired because, like his namesake, he fervently preaches and lives out the Gospel by his actions and not only his words, particularly in solidarity with the marginalized of our world. By the same token, his actions and words are unsettling because it reminds me that I, too, am called to live out the Gospel in this very difficult and radical way.

  63. Every teacher you have should have a goal of making their students feel both inspired and unsettled. By pushing students beyond their comfort zones to explore and develop new capabilities of thought, knowledge, ability and behavior we can progress as a society as a people. If all we do is teach what is comfortable and excepted there is no progress.

  64. to be in the world, but not of the world is to be unafraid of the world. stand on your heavenly turf, brother paul. it will never sway under your feet the way a 'golden' tower would. pax, jb

  65. Humanity still exists.

  66. NOT catholic, but I love this man. Not even religious. However, he is a vast improvement from the usual suspects. Thank you, Holy Father, and I wish a very long life for you.

  67. I left the Church long ago but find the words spoken by this leader to call me to task. I am certain it is God's work he is doing.

  68. The Church Hierarchy of Doctrine is like the condemnation of Caifous and the high priests while Jesus was God's message of compassion to the world that endured for many centuries and inspired billions of good generous and loving people.

    Thank you for being the brother of Jesus Pope Francis. Peace!

    Feed the hungry. Donate to food banks and pantries. They provide good nourishing food. Many more can donate to the needy instead of the few who encounter the panhandlers. Go to them instead of waiting for a chance meeting.

    It is what Jesus taught us.

  69. This is the only way to be. The message is so simple, but because we live in a complicated world in which condescending morality and money are bedfellows, it is difficult to act with compassion on a daily basis. How sad that we need the pope to essentially say "Be a good person", and then have a newspaper editorial say "Pope To World: Be Good". But we do need that. Thank you.

  70. What's there to worry about? Oh, That's right, I forgot . . . Hell. Maybe when you're pope, you feel you're beyond that.

  71. All bishops go to Hell according to one saint who did not want to become one. One's opportunities for hellacious behavior increases with one's power and authority. Pope Francis is offer some(one) who have another example. Be generous, and stop being fearful about it. Pax, jb

  72. Sounds good to me. Easier than having to feel bad about not doing anything.

  73. I think Leviticus said to love ur neighbor as your self, then came Christ who said but I say Love your enemy. It is not because they are not your enemy, it is not because they are worthy even as much as your neighbor or friend is This is not the stuff that liberalism can believe in. It has little basis in reason and survival really. It answers to a higher calling.

  74. Wonderful. Perhaps he will sell the church's art and real estate holdings to help the poor? What? No?

  75. The churches art is available to be viewed by the public. If it is sold to a billionaire it gets put in a private mansion, on a private yacht or in a warehouse in Europe where it is stored until it is resold to another billionaire. Likewise, the Church's real estate holdings are also largely open to the public for worship, as parkland, etc. . Are you also one of those who wants the US public lands sold off so they can be marked no trespassing rather than be used by the general public? As to raising the money, Chicago sold off the parking meters to a private company and rather than have a continuous stream of income, they got a one shot deal and everyone in Chicago is paying twice as much for parking!

  76. Look at it this way. The treasure provided and provide good paying jobs -- a reason for people to visit Rome. Long ago 9th C, given $$ by the emperor the Bishop of Verona faced the problem of whether to spend the $$ on a building program to build a decorate the church building or give to the poor, declared that the existence of the church (an open building ) was in fact a gift to the poor. One does not pay to enter St. Peter's!!

    Promulgating birth control.. is another issue!! Would this help with the poverty issue?? (Poor people again provide lots of jobs for less poor people.)

  77. Given the way he lives, I think if he could, he would. The Vatican is not his to sell or go around slapping for sale signs on it's art.
    He's done far more to focus on social justice than any other modern religious leader.

  78. He is right. That is all.

  79. Every human being is a living soul and at that level, we are all equal.

  80. Agree one thousand percent. I always give at least a couple of dollars. I don't miss it, and who am I to judge what it's used for. Carry one dollar bills in a pocket or separate compartment. Do it, while we are still allowed to do so.

  81. Here, and I thought, all the New York Times likes to do is trash our Catholic Brother's and Sister's! The Pope's advice is a mitvah, and so is the Times praise!

  82. Yes, this is the Jewish ethical perspective as well!

  83. thank you! NYT seems to think sometimes, Christians are either right-wing evangelicals or Catholics up to nostrils in Vatican intrigue. This is a hopeful sign for increased and improved dialogue. Pax, jb

  84. Dear Pope Francis, Thank you for being such a wonderful teacher. Please come visit NY again because we need your compassion and grace to inspire us now.

  85. Wasn't it Walt Whitman who said always give alms to anyone who asks?
    Good plan.

  86. Yeah, Jesus said much earlier.

  87. I believe that was Jesus, at least he said it first. Matthew 5.42.

  88. I prefer to give to organizations here in Chicago which help the homeless and hungry. When I go downtown, I can be asked literally dozens of times for money just walking around. Rather than hand out a dollar here and there I simply don't approach it this way (though on occasion - I once gave $40 dollars - all I had on me - to a mother begging on a bitterly cold evening). I agree that we should help, but how to be most effective is also a question.

  89. The Pope is right. Giving money directly to the homeless is the fastest way to alleviate suffering. Giving money to organizations that help the homeless may not in fact do anything for individual homeless people. Many hopeless are so afraid of rape or exploitation at shelters that they won't even go to them. Many shelter staff take donations, and the homeless never see them. These staff feel it is their "right" since they are often poorly compensated for what they do.

    That said, male panhandlers make a lot more money from random charity than female panhandlers do. If you are going to give money on the street, make sure you also give to females. As someone who was homeless (and female) I know this firsthand.

    If you want to really help individual homeless people, consider giving 20.00 gift cards to a general store like Target, and insist that the shelter you give them to has each homeless resident sign off on having received them. This will minimize the chances of the money being spent on alcohol or drugs, and still allow each homeless person some choice to buy what he or she needs most.

  90. Every person in need, needs to be helped once they share our planet. That is part of being prolife and compassionate but when there is uncontrolled population growth, nations and governments fail miserably in some cases and there is desperation and poverty that leads to migration and a state of flux and instability. God will provide has been the mantra of some religious leaders who have failed miserably to promote responsible family size based on an ability to provide, that will ensure that nations and its people can provide tender loving care, food, shelter, clothing, basic education medical care etc for a reasonable number of people the way it happens in Nordic and European countries, Canada, USA, Japan, China, South Korea etc. Compare that with countries where the religious leaders opposed contraception among its congregation to control population or physical barriers to control transmission of deadly infections. Imagine if our Southern neighbor was like our Northern neighbor and had just the same level of controlled population growth as it can support there would never have been such a desperation by millions to get the hell out of there and be so resistant to being sent back. Imagine then if there was a presidential candidate who came with a "mad idea" to build a wall to prevent responsible people of a neighboring country crossing over into the land of liberty and opportunity in such large numbers. That presidential candidate would have had a 0 chance of becoming POTUS.

  91. In Phoenix, we recently had a senator propose legislation to charge individuals with a petty offense to come within 10 feet of cars at stoplights to panhandle. Fortunately it was voted down, but the proposition portrays a powerful message of our desire to dismiss any discomfort we may have when facing a difficult dilemma. To shield our eyes from the suffering of others breaks our ability to connect with the stranger and to show compassion to the underserved. I cannot be more happy that people of the Christian faith have such a passionate leader in Pope Francis.

  92. As always Pope Francis cuts to the heart of the matter. I was particularly touched by his admonition to treat the "beggar" with dignity, to look him or her in the eye and touch him/her.
    I was forced for a period of time to secure food from a church pantry. The minister made a point of coming around to each person, shaking his hand, looking him in the eye, saying something. He and the church volunteers really tried to treat the recipients with dignity. Sometimes it felt a little condescending, but mostly it didn't. I learned a lot from that experience.

  93. Pope Francis got to me. My conscience has been harpooned by his contention that I must recognize I am the “luckier” one. Why should the responsibility to help be pushed onto someone else? Why should I fret about how my gift might be used?

    I have a cherished blanket policy that is crumbling before his challenge: I serve on boards, donate to organizations that help the homeless in wise, well organized ways. The goal is to improve the system. That is my justification for walking by. I’m giving differently, efficiently.

    But Francis insists that the way of giving is as important as the gift. I should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. I must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands. The reason is to make contact, to preserve dignity, to see another person not as a pathology or a social condition, but as a human with a life whose value is equal to my own. My blanket policy is efficient and impersonal. And leaves out something that’s so very important.

  94. Thank you for reminding us that there is no such thing as an 'Unequal Life'.

  95. When I was in Lutheran seminary in south side Chicago, a couple with a darling two-year-old began making the rounds of the seminary apartments begging for food. Needless to say, they hit pay dirt - we were over achievers in wanting to give to them. That is until a young first-year student let them into her apartment. While she went looking for food to give them, they stole her purse that contained her wallet. As a result, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. But, ultimately, there was concurrence that we had done the right thing - we were called to give without regard as to whether the recipient was sufficiently deserving or not. This Lutheran pastor believes the Pope is absolutely correct in this regard.

  96. My rule: I never give money but I will give food, either directly (if I have food on me) or I will buy food for the person. It's interesting because on the one hand, I've had people take me up and be happy about it and on the other, I've had people refuse help, sometimes citing food preferences, allergies, etc. For the latter, I always makes me wonder what they expect instead.

    For money, I donate it instead to local organizations I trust that deal with homelessness, the poor, etc. Some excellent organizations can do more with a dollar than my giving a dollar to an individual.

  97. My wife gives all the time, and lot more than a dollar. She gave $30 when she had only $100 in the bank. She has served in soup kitchens, shelters, etc.

    Charity and philanthropy are not adequate to help the homeless and those who are very poor. You need to tax people enough, especially the rich, so money can be spent on programs that prevent homelessness, or get homeless people out of the street into warm safe shelters for the long term...with social rehabilitation programs, or treatments when necessary.

    My wife was stunned when she interviewed homeless people how many of them once had a home, a job, a family and a dignified life...but ended up on the streets because of: 1) Ill health or an accident that ruined their finances due to high medical costs, that led to debt, foreclosures, evictions, divorce, family separations, etc. 2) Drug and alcohol use that went out of control, and led to families falling apart. And without helpful interventions these people ended up sleeping on sofas of their friends' and relatives' homes...and then slowly ended up on the street. 3) Domestic violence that led some young people and women to flee, but with over crowded and under funded shelters they ended up on the street 4) Poorly run shelters that have sick people who urinate and defecate on their beds without anyone caring, rat and cockroach infected rooms, mentally unwell bed mates who sing all night, or get abusive...And so many other sad reasons that could happen to any one of us.

  98. I prefer to give my money to organizations that provide services to the homeless, rather than giving directly to people who will likely spend the money not on a "glass of wine" but on drugs or hard alcohol, further perpetuating their self-destruction. Also, I have encountered homeless people who are deranged, hostile and potentially dangerous, so I don't advice more interaction than is necessary.

  99. A "deranged, hostile, potentially dangerous" mentally ill person of privilege afforded medical treatment in state of the art facility receives deference, kindness.

  100. Finally, a Pope who is a Christian in the sense where this means "being like Jesus." A person who probably asks himself a version of the "What would Jesus do?" question every time he encounters a significant decision.
    Truly a breath of fresh air given the Catholic Church's recently exposed history, especially here in Australia.
    I have encountered many people in my life who, although not affiliated with any particular religion or denomination, are nonetheless Christians under this definition. I have not observed that they belong to any particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group. I wish there were more of them, I wish I could be as strong as them.

  101. How far we have come from LBJ's War on Poverty.
    Although the U.S. has about the lowest supports for the poor of all wealthy democracies, the Republicans seek the annihilation of the poor, not poverty.
    Thank God for Pope Francis at a time when even the Democrats are more vicious to the poor than European conservatives. The Christian right has no relation to Christ's mission of comfort to the poor and affliction for the rich.

  102. LBJ, wasn't he the president who leveraged civil rights to conscript minorities for the deaths dismemberment in Vietnam?

  103. We are always told by conservatives and so-called libertarians that government assistance is not the answer: we should leave it to the individual to be generous - or not.

    Pope Francis shows how private compassion really should look and work. It enhances the humanity of the giver and the recipient. It does not judge.

    Of course, the selfish will always be with us. And so will the hypocrites who support government assistance to billionaires and corporate welfare, subsidies to the affluent, socialism for the rich, like the ludicrous tax loophole Trump used that let him avoid paying taxes because he failed so "bigly."

    Thank you, Pope Francis, for once more showing us how to be the people we must become.

  104. Pope Francis wishes to remind the world about the "human dignity" of street beggars. How about reminding the world -- and himself while he is at it -- about the human dignity of workers? Those people who go out every day and work for a living. So many workers are treated with contempt - especially those in our service industries. Instead of giving to the panhandler on the street -- consider giving a generous tip to the people who serve coffee or your meals. Maybe putting more money in the tip cup and less money to the drug cartels. Insist in all public forums - including the voting booth - that employers must pay a liveable wage! And that it is the sacred duty of governments to enforce the rights and acknowledge the dignity of all workers - from the highly trained professional to the store clerk - to protect their rights to a living, just wage and working conditions. For a change, acknowledge the cashier or clerk or service person on the phone or computer as a fellow human being. That is what is so wrong with this Pope - his priorities - he should speak up for the workers before advocating for panhandlers -- the same thing goes for the Editorial Board of the New York Times.

  105. I don't think the Pope was putting panhandlers over workers. I think he is asking us to love our fellow man/woman and really see them instead of just spouting platitudes. If we don't really see people and acknowledge them as fellow humans, we don't give them the dignity the deserve.

  106. I suggest that the Catholic Church should be the first one to give to all those in need before asking everybody else to simply give without even thinking. I also have two different but related events to the Pope's advice: in Romania, and many Eastern Bloc countries, the Catholic Church was the first one to ask for the return of many properties, many of them having a very unclear past owner and now inhabited by poor, old or very average people. Also, the Church could get involved in the training and education of large disadvantaged communities like the Gypsies who for whatever reasons are often organized in large enterprises of beggars and whose leaders are scandalously wealthy.

  107. I am sorry but I think both the Pope and the Editorial Board have this one sadly very wrong.

    Giving money or food to a pan-handler is pseudo-compassion. It makes the giver feel good but does nothing to address the problems that led the panhandler to be homeless and hungry. True compassion would be to stop, listen to their story and truly help them. And don’t stop helping until they are back on their feet.

    In his 1987 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, John Paul II described the principle of solidarity. As expressed by him, solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”

    "For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required." -- Luke 12:48. Much is required. Not a feel good drop in their bucket.

  108. Every so often, city fathers and mothers (irony, I'm afraid) cite the scourge of homeless castaways polluting our fair cities and, further citing their marvelous system of caring for them, strongly recommend we do not place actual money into their hands. Many of us nod, adding that we "know" what the ignorant poor will do with that money: spend it on drugs or alcohol.

    The pope is simply revisiting the Christian mandate to feed the poor. For 2,000 years mayors and city councilpersons have been unable to stop the flow of cash from the pockets of pedestrians to the dirty outstretched hands of the "less fortunate."

    I someone spotted me a $20, I might not spend it wisely either. Thanks for the surprising, compassionate editorial. Much needed.

  109. This statement of policy is wrong. All members of our society deserve food, shelter, health care, a free education, a job if they want one, respect, and the oppprtunity to pursue happiness. Piecemeal treatment of these fundamental components of human dignity with random trivial monetary contributions erodes the overwhelming need to maintain Federal programs that ensure these essentials. Giving a dollar to a street person creates a false sense of righteousness in the act and detracts from the more urgent need to direct our energies and funds towards providing human dignity for all through voting in a government that consistently and effectively actualizes these basic tenets.

  110. Well said, Rick G. Exactly right.

  111. I prefer to give to food pantries and other legitimate charities where there is some oversight. I've read that many, certainly not all, panhandlers are actually part/victims of criminal enterprise. Vans drop them off and pick them up. I've personally seen similar looking panhandlers block after block, with similar signs, often with very young children attending (whose children?), moving on when confronted with City Social Services. I believe giving in these circumstances is just enabling the enterprise. It's not a question of a questionable individual; in these cases I think it's organized crime.

  112. And I've read that buses of illegal voters went to New Hampshire from Massachusetts to swing the vote.
    The Pope is saying, "are you more blessed than the person in front of you? If you are, share."
    The loose change or dollar you or I give that person isn't going to be enough to solve any of his/her problems; that will take a job, some professional intervention, or a house. Why begrudge them their decision to buy a nip?
    If I, or you, find ourselves stuck in their situation, that may well be my, or your decision too.
    But by all means, also donate to the Food Bank, the shelter, and support our politicians who create programs to provide the housing, the jobs and the professional intervention.

  113. Beggars ask for pennies with a grace and dignity missing from the wealthy. The One Percent never ask with outstretched hand or grateful posture, but use monetary policy to reach into handbags or the inner pockets of suits, snatching hard earned dollars like pickpockets. Unsatisfied, some purchase the weak minds of politicians ready bow to the power of money over morality. Too many of the One Percent have a poor understanding of science and religion and care little for morality or truth. The panhandler denies nothing and makes no claim of superiority. The Pope understands this distinction, the superior morality of the poor, but will his followers, especially his senior clergy, in places like New York and Washington DC? In Ohio and Wisconsin? In Florida and Tennessee? Will they provide moral counsel to those who create poverty and panhandling?

  114. I offer a differing perspective as one who lived in rescue missions and mental hospitals for years. Don't give as it may shorten the life of the sufferer.
    It may sooth the soul of the giver, but often alms just go to supporting a drug habit, or subsidize a life that involves living under a cardboard box under a bridge. Living rough like that is terribly harmful, and takes many years off a person's life.
    No, all in all, it is better to send what one can give to agencies that offer shelter and food, and try to get people off the street and our of the weather.
    I lived on the street in San Francisco in the Mid-70's, and that was the only climate that made living rough doable. These days, it would probably be the only way I could afford to live in that crazy city of billionaires.
    Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon

  115. Thank you for your perspective.

  116. Government spending (and control) is no more The answer than individual giving.

    Has Francis ever encountered the stoplight beggars we recognize because they seem to have rotating assignments, apparently part of an organized effort not unlike prostitution where others (like pimps) get the take? Or the windshield-washing youths who strike out at those who don't pay? Or, outside of our privileged U.S., the children who are maimed so they are more "pitiable"?

    True charity is in truly connecting, yes. Make your difference That is, making a difference not blindly giving solely because someone claims they need it. Give to organizations that make that happen.

  117. I like the Pope's spirit, especially the encouragement towards cheerful, compassionate giving. It has sometimes seemed to me that I was on the side of the angels in refusing alms since the energy ought to go toward self-reliance. That stance left me with a residue of unpleasant feeling. Some of that was willing not to be made a fool of. Perhaps it is worthwhile to be a fool for love.

  118. If a person is reduced to being homeless, self-reliance has already been tried and found wanting. In a perfectly just society with good mental health services and a level economic playing field -in that fantasy world - it makes sense to talk about self-reliance. Not in this country, especially not right now.

  119. Better to give money to aid agencies that provide services for the poor and others needing help. In many cases there is only one thing that predictably happens when you give money on the street - the same individual returns to the same place and time the next day. A condition of dependency is repeated over and over. Surely it is better if someone has an incentive to move forward with their own life.

    Still, I do ocasdionally give money in exceptional cases where the indidual is in distress or confused.

  120. Math.com defines a billion dollars as 1,000 million dollars or a one followed by nine zeros: $1,000,000,000. It would take 10 million $100 bills to total $1 billion in cash.

    Can you possibly imagine that the Presidents Cabinet alone could alleviate
    this countries poverty?
    They would not even the notice that 1% of the 1% massive money holdings was missing!
    The majority of members of Congress are millionaires — 271 of the 533 members currently in office, or 50.8 percent.Jan 12, 2015
    When the people that control the country spend so much time on a
    priority of accumulating money how could the country possibly benefit?

    I do regret the Pope did not grant Bernie Sanders an audience, a man
    that has given his life to standing for the less fortunate.
    Such humility has nothing to do with politics.

  121. S. Whether -

    Nice math but you do know eventually you will run out of other people's money to spend, right?

    This is, however, a fairly typical liberal attitude. If someone is hungry, give them food - problem solved. If someone is homeless, give them a house - problem solved. If someone is poor, give them money - problem solved.

    I don't know much about Montana's economy (I do know it is one of the most beautiful places on earth), but here in NYC we have three and four generations of people living off welfare benefits, social security and food stamps in "temporary section 8 emergency housing." I'm not sure about the bible either - perhaps right after the "do unto others" thing there's something about throwing good money after bad.

    Again, I don't know about beggars in MT, but I see them in NY every day. I'm not convinced all of them are completely honest.

    That said, why are you asking the American tax payer to fund the Pope's charity? Can't the Pope could put his money where his mouth is?

    What do you think St Patrick's Cathedral is worth? That's prime NY real estate in midtown Manhattan. Saks Fifth Avenue right next door is smaller and was recently valued at over $4 billion. St Pats has to be worth more than that, right?

    Maybe Francis could sell St Pats - problem solved.

  122. Bernie did meet with the Pope.

  123. This pope seems to take kindness as his primary motivation, which is a relief. But giving money to drug-addled subway panhandlers is more about the giver's sense of self than taking a best course of action. Kindness, giving, is a good opening position, but random acts alone perpetuate the problem. There are numerous organizations providing services to those in difficulty. Action, not reaction--not as easy, but much more productive.

  124. I respectfully disagree. Treat others as you wish to be treated. If you treat yourself to sweets, wine, cocktails, etc. with that money, why get on a high horse abt how others will treat themselves with that money?

  125. Bill Clinton would say "I can feel your pain," all the while he was pushing policies that were designed to intensify people's pain. The Times fixation on power, money, celebrity and greed is only minimally offset by their resistance to the extreme manifestations of that by the Trump presidency. To give to a person suffering in the street ( a good in its own right) ideally also means beginning to giving up one's attachment to systems of oppression that help create that suffering.

  126. Over twenty million people moved out of poverty into the middle class during Clinton's presidency - a record number. Yes he put limits on the amount of time able-bodied adults could stay on welfare but he also changed the rules so the working poor would not lose their health care. They also had much better access to job training, help with child care, etc. the money came from higher taxes on the wealthy. At the time I remember people on the left saying it was disrespectful to insist that people who were able to should find jobs.

  127. Outstanding comment, few will recognize its importance.

  128. You have to go all the way back to Bill Clinton? How about an entire party that preaches compassion while planning to pull the rug out from Grandma and a child with disabilities?

  129. "Never judge," my grandfather taught his young daughter- my mother- as they walked the streets of Manhattan during the Depression all those years ago.

    " You see that gentleman over there?" He'd ask her-not much older than 5 or 6. "You have no idea who or why he is sleeping on the street."

    Years later, much later, my mother would recount the above to me.

    In doing so, she passed on her beloved father's lesson to her daughter- me.

    That not only must we have compassion, we must also preserve the other's dignity even as we give. And be ever thankful that we are not in such dire circumstances - at the mercy of another-for such basic necessities.

    It's a powerful but simple lesson and one that must be shown through example to our children.

    I taught this to my own children; now my granddaughter- not quite 4- is also learning this as well.

    Yes, give. From your wallet but most of all- from your heart.

    Pope Francis has it exactly right.

  130. Maybe it is a legacy of the Depression. My parents were both born to immigrant parents during the Depression. They set the same example for me and my siblings. They never talked about anyone behind their back and they never judged others, as far as I could tell..

  131. If only you could comprehend how little I care about what the Pope thinks.

  132. Doc.... 'The Pope' is also a human being who obviously cares quite a bit about humanity.

    Your categorical dismissal of him is quite telling.

  133. I also could care less what the Pope thinks. I don't need him to tell me what I viscerally knew the first time I encountered a homeless person--give them money and be as generous as you can. And it is none of my business what the recipient does with the money. And, yes,I know that many panhandlers are pros taking advantage of the plight of the real homeless and my good will. It is just like voting: you have to vote in every election to elect a few honest candidates in a lifetime.

  134. Look, we get it. You're "evolved." But someone has to be the voice of humanity in this world! Don't sneer at the little good we have going for us.

  135. As the President of the United States rolls back protections designed to keep clean the air we breathe and keep our waters unfouled, I can at least follow this prescription and do something pure of heart. This can serve as a personal counterpoint to the madness and inhumanity swirling about me. Thank you, Francis, for giving me a touchstone of compassion can act on tangibly reaching out to those who live on the very streets I walk every day.

  136. I prefer to give to the homeless altho they can become very annoying -- than to the countless "charities"/beggars that send me multiple pieces of paper to "recycle" if I chance to write them a check. Sometimes I put some change in my pocket for that purpose. That said the salaries (good paying jobs) at all of the various institutions that solicit funds are often excessive -- yes presidents of this and that institution (I always wonder what part of their salary they donate to the charity they are in charge of?? Only the part that's tax-deductible?)
    How can one truly make a difference in the life of the functionally poor -- are they hirable to clean your house, etc.?? Guess what -- the answer is maybe not. BTW I now refuse to give unrestricted gifts to various institutions. I am happy to pay for a new scanner for the library or a specific book but NOT for their fund raising effort, for all of that paper I am throwing away.

  137. On the contrary, salaries at non-profit agencies are very low. (Though, some directors of the larger ones do rather swim in the biggish bucks.)

    I've worked at many -- over many years -- and know what most of us earn (public knowledge, by the way.)

    And many recipients of our monies are not capable of cleaning your house, friend. And for that you'd deny them a pittance? Shame on you.

  138. I must shake my head at the unnatural stature given perfectly ordinary moral advice, because it is uttered by a religious celebrity in white. The Pope is an educated man, as such he most likely doesn't actually believe in the supernatural dog & pony show he sells to the less educated billions of this world. I'd have a lot more respect for him if he took off the costume, preached reason, admitted the supernatural is a fraud, and then stood his decent & moral ground. That would be empowering and unassailable.

    With these religious figures it's always two steps forward with some bit of common wisdom then just over two steps back with a retreat to medieval nonsense. Francis, you can do better!

  139. What a strange and, methinks, embittered atheist.

  140. Your observation is projection, that says more about you than me. I note that attempting (and failing) to use "atheist" as a term of disparagement is rich, considering the low nature of belief in the supernatural from elves to ghosts to gods.

    Further if one were to need a motive for bitterness, in say a novel, then 1500 years over which a society could not wrest itself from ignorance of magical thinking about sky daddies and human sacrifice would suffice nicely, methinks;)

  141. Pope Francis, of course, is not the real issue.

    President Trump is.

    And Trump's ideas are the ones catching on:

    Barring immigration from terror-filled countries;

    Helping low-income Americans to become successful;

    And rebuilding the U.S. military to a level only seen at the end of WWII.

    So I look forward to the day that Trump and the Pope meet --

    And the smiles and hugs that will result.

  142. I agree with Pope about treating these folks with dignity. Where I live, however, many panhandlers I see in a daily basis are set up where you exit and enter freeways, making any human interaction impossible. I wonder if that is intentional on their part sometimes and it frustrates me. These folks are also thought to be heroin addicts, and I confess, being catholic, that I have difficulty with the Pope's glass of wine analogy when applied to heroin. I pray for guidance!

  143. The Pope's advice resonates. I had the same advice from an Irish Christian Brother sixty years ago, only he mentioned stout and not wine. Those were different times and a very different place. Poverty was all around, and the explosion of materialism hadn't yet occurred. Now, the West is creaking under the weight of its goods and we are creaking under the weight of our perceived obligations to buy, to keep the economy rolling. I imagine Francis could be a good gardener, knowing that constant care and attention are needed to keep wild growth at bay. Western societies, on the other hand, don't know how food is produced. They don't know how good order is produced, and they have little idea what it takes to win and maintain a free and vibrant society.

  144. Pope Francis offers down-to-earth advice, easy to follow, and not subject to convoluted interpretation. Why do folks get outraged based on the quality of the beggar, as if some aren't nearly pathetic enough to deserve the profits of begging? I try to give most times; some days I fall short and my mind snaps shut with a loud, internal NO. I hope I wasn't missing a chance to entertain angels unawares.

  145. "elevating compassion over doctrine." What an extraordinary statement coming from a "religious" person. What does that statement say about the doctrine? Perhaps that Christ and all that he represented, like uh, for instance, "blessed are the poor" got lost in the shuffle along the way to embroidered silks and velvets, gold and bejeweled goblets. Think of what could be done with all of that splendor if Christ's doctrine of compassion were really practiced by those who make that complaint.

  146. If governments around the world truly worked for all of the people and by the people ( not corporations ) then there would be absolutely no need for charity. Think about it.

    Also, religious organizations should not be tax exempt. Especially as more and more take active political stances and radically right wing social ones.

    Prey ( or pray ) on your own dime.

  147. Pope Francis' advice encourages a daily practice of compassion through charitable giving. Small acts, performed with kindness and gratefulness, send ripples of much needed good will into the world. Rational, careful, scrutiny is more appropriate and better served when choosing the non-profits to which we donate (and the politicians for whom we vote). I welcome this uplifting, simple reminder from the Pope on a cold March morning when the darkness of the daily news has me tied in knots. Thank you.

  148. Pope Francis sees us all as sinners, loved by God. Failure or success in life is not a judgement, it is simply a reality. People are not lesser, or have less dignity in the eyes of God because they are poor, because they are sick, because they have mental health problems. Or even because they are feckless or lazy.

    Pope Francis does not condemn the poor because he feels they somehow earned it, somehow deserve it, somehow let themselves be seen as lesser by God, which would therefore allow us, too, to see them as lesser.

    It is the antithesis of our current bent of Libertarian Ayn Randian thinking. The Pope believes we are all our brother's keeper. It is more than marginally discomfiting, because most of us fail. Which, by the way, makes us sinners, but still loved and lovable in the eyes of God.

    I prefer the Pope's philosophy.

  149. When I come to the city, which is infrequent because I am a farmer, I come with a wad of $1 bills in a convenient pocket. It is always good to be prepared! $1 in each beggars cup I pass, and perhaps a bit more in the pail beside the guitar player or 5-gallon pail drum player - because the buskers are giving me something of real value. Street musicians are among my most favorite people - the world would be a much better place with more street musicians!

    But perhaps that is the wrong way to look at it. The beggar gives me something of value too, on a deeper level that enriches and enlightens, that makes me a better person. They give me my humanity, my better self, a chance to be blessed. Because they give the one thing they they have - in gratitude, they bless me. How many of my friends, who I would not hesitate to hand $1, ever do that? How many wealthy powerful people, who tax and bill me incessantly, ever lay a virtual hand on my head and say 'God bless you'? Even checks written to worthy charitable organizations are sterile, because it requires so little of me.

    Giving to a beggar can be a sacrament, a moment of humility, a moment of gratitude, a moment of connection, a moment of naked nonjudgmental unselfishness, a moment of two equal pairs of eyes. A brief moment when I choose to be visible and significant to another.

    Is that $1 to feed (or wine) me . . . or him?

    It is funny - I ALWAYS feel better when I choose him.

  150. @organic farmer: THANK YOU! I believe you've gotten to the heart of this issue with great clarity. Well said!

  151. The Pope should be commenting only on religious questions and nothing else. Many people in NYC who are panhandlers are addicts, alcoholics, etc. If a person is truly desperate he/she will be glad to take food instead of money. I have pointed out churches, etc. where lunches are given and have been ignored, spit on etc. There are social programs and no one should be giving money to supply a person's habit.

  152. Francis is clearly like one of the early Christians. In "Through the Eye of the Needle," the historian Peter Brown's brilliant study of the changing attitudes toward wealth during the early Roman Empire, it's clear the early Christians understood the poor and the outcast as a special category of human existence that spiritually haunted those of who are not poor,. More, they believed giving to the poor was the only way for those with any wealth at all to reach God. After all, Jesus had explicitly said that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle [the small entry camels had to bend down and crawl through that was next to a city's gate] than for a rich man to get to heaven.

    One of the most vigorous debates among these early Christians, then, devolved into whether getting to heaven required direct almsgiving, or whether giving indirectly, by supporting the many monasteries whose monks had deliberately chosen to be poor, reached God equally well.

    My husband and I are not Christian, and in fact, are not religious at all. We do not see ourselves as trying to wangle anything from God; rather, out of some vague and unexamined sense of obligation that we simply must "give back" some of our (modest) wealth, we give regularly, with no discussion at all, to a rescue mission in LA and another here in NY.

    What Francis drives home for me is that while what we do may be commendable, it's a far cry from what Christianity asks of Christians.

  153. let him sell off some of the billions in wealth that the church owns....open the vatican gates, let the poor panhandle in his house. There will be plenty of people passing through.
    I along with many many others take care of the poor in a variety of ways. The goal should be to educate and employ. With all the immigrants coming in, that problem becomes even more difficult. But just giving and never educating, very rarely works.

  154. "America is in the middle of a raging argument over poor outcasts. The president speaks of building walls and repelling foreigners."

    This is not a correct statement. America, like the Catholic Church, is an organization founded on moral and ethical principles and the rule of law. Protecting those principles and enforcement of law is crucial to both organizations.

    No one speaks of repelling foreigners. We speak of protecting ourselves from foreigners who would come under the guise of a refugee but mean to do us harm; wolves in sheeps clothing. They come from countries that don't have adequate screening capabilities. The proposed travel restrictions is a temporary measure until we can do what those countries can't.

    We don't speak of outcasts. We speak of foreigners who have no respect for our culture and knowingly violate our laws.

    The Catholic Church enforces their own unbending laws and rules with an iron fist. We deport, they excommunicate. And please note, the Pope gave that interview from behind the walls of the Vatican.

  155. I have always carried change in my pocket when in a city setting, so it's readily available if I'm asked. But several years ago in San Francisco, I learned another lesson---make the exact spare change, if requested.

    My wife and I were across the street from Ben &Jerry's in Haight-Ashbury when a guy asked me for thirty seven cents. Not thinking, I gave him the change I had in my pocket, probably quite a bit more than thirty seven cents. As we walked away, he began berating me from behind, yelling that "I only wanted thirty seven cents. I have a job." This went on for several minutes for about a block, until I guess he got tired and gave up. It attracted a bit of attention however, and turned into a great little piece of street theater. It reminded not to question what someone else's motivation, or to judge their circumstances.

    Maybe he'd been a bus driver.

  156. I don't know what put that person on the street. I do know that even if they have a substance problem, I can't solve it for them. Only they can. In the mean time I can help ease their living conditions, so I give.

    As a nation we have a pretty good idea about what works with the homeless and addicts, not a 100% success rate but pretty good. We also have the money to do this, nationwide. We, as a nation, have chosen to ignore this problem. We have decided that spending $ Billions on bombing the rubble of the Middle East is more important than helping our people here at home.

    You and I did not put that person on the street, but we elected leaders (democratic and republican) who refuse to help our own people, who would rather give money to 6th century tribesmen who have been fighting each other for over 1,000 years, then solve problems here at home. We should be first, ashamed, and then angry.

  157. Many of the comments seem to take the whole thing a little bit too literally.

    To give or not to give, to support charitable institutions instead, to perpetuate the problem, it is (or it's not) the government's responsibility... All legitimate questions, but for me what matters is what the pope says about looking these people in the eye, acknowledging their existence, their humanity.

    If the politics, the ideological differences, the calcified truths we hold are a wall (sorry) that doesn't allow us to see the other person, then really all hope is lost. No one is suggesting that a couple of quarters will solve (or even alleviate) the problem. But making an effort to see human beings instead of an annoyance in your busy life is a good start.

  158. The Pope is wrong on this one. Giving money to panhandlers is a safety issue for the homeless person too (ie they could be hit by a car if they are holding a sign at a busy intersection). Cities that allow panhandling also hurt the income and tips of minimum wage workers who suffer when tourists feel uncomfortable in an area. Better to tip generously to bell hops, valets, food workers, etc. I agree with seeing the dignity in every homeless person and I volunteer in a homeless shelter (where we sit and eat meals with the homeless to converse), but this is not incongruent with not giving money to panhandlers.

  159. I always find myself struggling between practicing my faith while understanding complex adaptive systems. The Pope's guidance seems to focus on the mindset of the giver without regard for the welfare of the receiver. That glass of wine may be the only source of worldly happiness for the receiver, but it may also reinforce the receiver's poverty. Don't the faithful have a responsibility to give in a manner that solves problems? Teach a man to fish...

  160. No, because we are not God. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to see ourselves as obligated to hold others accountable to God. The Prodigal Son was welcomed with open arms and the finest clothes and food, not castigated for being foolish and spending his inheritance on vices.

  161. I don't understand the comments of those who seem to believe that it is wrong to give money to an individual because there are agencies which better use the money or that giving money to an individual will increase the problem of hunger and/or homelessness. The "safety net" has been cut almost to shreds in the past few decades and the charitable agencies are stretched to their limit which means that it is not easy for a person to get help even for hunger never mind help to actually improve the situation.

    No one loses if one makes a choice is based on compassion. Does it really matter if one is fortunate enough to be able to afford to give away $5.00 and the receiver spends it foolishly? Even if one gives to a person running a scam it doesn't take away the compassionate intent of the giver and after all we all spend many $5.00 bills each day on companies which are run by millionaires scamming all of us. I would much rather live a life knowing that a small $5.00 bill given to someone in wretched circumstances may put soup in their stomach on a cold day then to live with a heart so cold that I actually have the stomach to judge or disdain the same person.

  162. Many of the Homeless have mental illness. Yes, they may receive disability benefits; however, that goes fast when living on the streets. Panhandling gives them a little more money. I have been told by homeless people that the humiliation of panhandling is extreme, but they have to do it. Sometimes it is for little extras. Sometimes it is for things we don't approve of; however, for them it may be a comfort or a pleasure item. Often they will use the money to go into a cinema for the day just to get a rest from the cold. Homelessness is a hard life spent waiting in long lines for food and long lines for hours to get a shelter bed. When the shelter is full they are housed on floors of shelter lobbies or left on their own to survive on the street all night.

  163. The Pope is absolutely right in his statements about giving to the poor. His message is appropriate and correct for Lent.
    However, in his home city of Rome, as well as others around Italy and in parts of Europe, pandhandlers are parts of organized gangs whose job is to shake down well-intentioned citizens. This is not the same as being poor. I wish the Pope had framed his message a bit differently, to emphasize charity to the needy and not the beggers.

  164. I used to be a self-righteously hard-hearted person when it came to giving to panhandlers, but then two things happened. First, I began volunteering in an agency that served street kids, and I got to know them as human beings. Then, I volunteered down South after Hurricane Katrina, and the priest who ran the relief center told us, "You can either judge people or serve them. You don't know their story."

    Volunteering taught me that the life of a street person is a constant struggle against boredom, hunger, thirst, dirt, cold, the indifference or hostility of the mainstream public, and victimization by the bad apples among the street population. Someone who is on the streets is so far down the socioeconomic ladder that booze and drugs may be self-medication for severe depression, because they sure aren't going to get treated anywhere else. The people at the agency told us, "It's up to you whether to give or not, but always be pleasant and polite. These are human beings."

  165. I agree with this, with one caveat, something I've thought about for years. It is intrinsically uncomfortable when a man accosts me, a woman, on the street for whatever his reasons. I'm not sure how to resolve this, but I feel way less threatened when a homeless woman approaches me than a homeless man. We women are hard-wired to avoid unnecessary contact with unknowns of the opposite sex.

    I never hesitate to help people, but it's the men that make me hope I'm not making a mistake.

    Just saying.

  166. I am generally against organized religion, but this Pope had won my respect. As for so many things he has so much heart. The elected officials in my city say not to give to homeless so that they will be encouraged to partake of city services. I think the Pope is right. We should give and not worry about it.

  167. For some time, I've had a habit of giving $1 to anyone I encountered who asked. I always tell the person to take care, and if it seems appropriate, that I pray for them.

    We have a paper sold in our town called Real Change. Vendors, often homeless or coming put of homelessness, buy it for $.60 and sell for $2.00. I always buy a copy from every vendor, even if I already have that issue.

    Thank you, dear Pope Francis.

  168. Absolutely!

    So often we further dehumanise the very people we think we are helping.

    It is not enough to 'give' but give with love. That giving might be a smile, a nod, a true acknowledgement of their personhood, not their provisional circumstances.

    The ultimate gift is the gift of humanity.

  169. "A decent provision for the poor, is the true test of civilization."
    - Samuel Johnson

    When someone objected to Johnson that if you gave money to beggars they might spend it on gin or tobacco, he replied, "And why should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence? It is surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance."

  170. My only problem with this advice is that I meet the same panhandlers every single day on my way work. Do I give my money to them every day of the workweek like some type of tollbooth tax? I work as a secretary and take my lunch to work, make my coffee at home, and walk to work all to save the little money I earn. When I can, I'll donate clothes or food to shelters. I feel mean to not give, but what I really wish is our state/country to tax every citizen a Good Samaritan tax to help those in need of a permanent place to live rather than just those who pass them by on the street every day.

  171. The Pope's message with regard to immigrants and refugees is not the moral equivalent of giving to panhandlers. It is the moral equivalent to letting those panhandlers live in your house. This is quite different, and the Pope has said no such thing.


  172. Before I read a word of this story I did in fact have a preset fix in my thoughts. Often, when approached be panhandlers I look anywhere but at the person, yes, a nod of the head, I am that one.

    At one time I would in fact give, peer pressure stopped me. "don't give them money they only use it for drugs", the other line was " give them food, buy them a sandwich". This article shamed me, I know better and I always have, yet...

    I live in Florida, every major intersection is marked out by a panhandler.

    They position themselves near our church, near malls etc. There are so many, as a child we were taught to stay clear of them, yet as a young man I often gave. My retired friends hardened my outlook, this refreshing article allowed me to regain a proper perspective.

  173. Letting people in the country, or refusing entry to people based on 'merit' is another example of giving generously and freely, or not. We have received so much in this country as blessings. The attitude of 'we don't want to import poverty' is so against what we were given so freely and generously by others. Our history as a nation is one of not being afraid to welcome 'the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses.' Immigrants and refugees are emerging Americans. How may I help is the question, not how much can you give us in order to be accepted. We cannot continue down this angry, fearful track. We will end up being afraid of everyone including our well-established neighbors as well as the 'alien'. Pax, jb.

  174. According to Nietzsche, all beggars should be killed or eliminated because they force you to make a decision, and you will feel bad either way. I suspect that he meant this to be sarcastic, and that he would probably have agreed with Pope Francis. The obligation or duty to help others, to be compassionate, is at the heart of many of our current disputes. I hear Trump supporters say "What do I care illegal aliens get no emergency medical care? What do I care if they are trying to flee war in Syria, starvation in Africa, or drug gangs in Guatemala?" I scratch my head and ask what country do I live in?

  175. I do love the directive to make a non-verbal connection when you are giving. As a practical manner, some of us encounter this situation so often, it really is not in our budget to give to everyone. I think the Pope's advice to just give provides clarity for those who wrestle with the ideas that their gift is going to perpetuate their alcohol or drug abuse.

  176. This Pope is one interesting guy and has changed my decades-long position on this matter. I always had the "don't enable" view but from now on I will carry an amount of cash to be given to whomever asks, or looks to be in need. I am not Catholic, I'm a Saganist (as in Carl), and I'm not wealthy, but as Francis correctly points out, that too is relative.

  177. Only in organised religion would someone be criticised for "elevating compassion over doctrine". The ideas at the core of religion embody the best of humanity, but they are wrapped in layers of beaucracy and organisation that represent the very worst of humanity.

  178. I am somewhat worried about the intrusion of an inevitable economic truth. If you want more of something, pay for it. Rather than vote with money for more panhandling, perhaps a dignified alternative could be supported: a guaranteed annual income to all. It will be expensive, but so is the feeble response to need that Pope Francis is endorsing.

  179. As soon as the Vatican takes in several hundred asylees and starts to sell off its priceless art collection to feed them, I might listen to this huckster of the supernatural.

    That is to say, never.

  180. I am actually very afraid of the aggressive homeless population in SLC. It is well known that the majority are panhandling to buy drugs. I will buy or give people food and I give generously to Catholic Community Services. I cannot in good conscious give people money to buy drugs. This was my solution years ago to my thought of what would the Pope do.

    As Spring arrives so will the swarms of homeless people from Phoenix and Vegas - arriving on buses with their new blankets and backpacks - to beg from all of the spring/summer convention crowds in downtown SLC. I wish that the company I work for would move out of the city center. If I did not work downtown I would never go there. SLC is no longer a safe, peaceful city because of the massive and aggressive homeless, drug addicted crowd.

  181. Your wonderful editorial reminds me of my great-uncle, who was a Catholic priest in Los Angeles. He spent every Sunday handing out dollar bills on skid row, earning him the moniker "Father Dollar Bill". He would often share a blessing or a prayer, along with the money. He felt, as Pope Francis describes, that giving each person dignity was as important as the money. He did not have a security detail, despite carrying around $2000 in cash to give away each Sunday. He often told the story of a wealthy woman at a cocktail party, who was at least a little tipsy, asking him over her martini, "Aren't you afraid that they are just going to buy booze?" Of course, we don't know what the person on the street will do with the money we give them, but the important thing is to give. Yes, do give to charities that help the homeless, but giving an individual on the street a moment of humanity is important too. Yes, the problems in our society are much greater than a dollar bill given on the streets can solve, but the act of giving is still worthwhile. Thank you for this reminder!

  182. People who deal with the problem of homelessness uniformly recommend giving to organization which are dedicated to solving the problem, not to the those panhandling directly. I take this over the Pope's words no matter how well intentioned they may be.

  183. "Give them the money, and don't worry about it." So disarmingly fresh, moral and compassionate - and the Pope is to be commended for it. But where is the same freshness, morality and compassion in his stance on the ordination of women, which is just as much a no-brainer.

  184. I've always followed the philosophy that 90% of my fellow man is honest and I'm not going to make them pay for the 10% who take advantage. Who am I too judge.

    I have a friend who got sick, lost her home and spent a year living on the streets. Many Americans are closer to being homeless then they care to admit.

    The Pope as always is very wise and very compassionate.

  185. "His teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics has infuriated some conservative critics who accuse him, unfairly, of elevating compassion over doctrine."

    Compassion is the only doctrine. Compassion is Christ in action.

  186. My sister-in-law recently encountered a distraught woman who claimed someone had stolen her last cash. Feeling sorry for her, my sister-in-law, who is not well-off herself, pulled out $40, put it in the woman's hand and said "bless you."
    The woman turned on her heel and walked away, never thanking my in-law or even looking her in the eye.
    What would the pope say about this?
    Personally, I give no money to individuals and lots to social-service agencies. They're pros at figuring out who's truly needy and who's scamming.
    What would the pope say about my approach?

  187. I wonder if Pope Francis has seen the crusties. All right. I'll try his suggestion for a week and see how it goes. This will require stocking up on dollar bills and keeping them in an easily accessible pocket. To fulfill Francis's second suggestion of recognizing the panhandlers' humanity as I hand over the currency, I think I might look them in the eye and say, "The pope said to give this to you."

  188. If the Pope and the Catholic Church want to help the poor, they should do what they preach and sell The Vatican to the highest bidder and give the proceeds to the poor around the world. In fact, this goes to all religions. Another measure would be to tax all "houses of faith" and have the proceeds support the needy from each community.