“Ask a Priest: Would Passing by a Beggar Be Sinful?”

Want to rate this?

Q: Today, I was driving home from work, when I noticed a man on the sidewalk who appeared to be homeless. The traffic light that I waited at was right next to a bank, so even though I didn’t have any money with me at the moment, I could have easily just stopped by the ATM and taken out some money for the man. I know that we as Catholics have a duty to help the poor. In this situation, would not helping the man be a mortal sin, venial sin, or no sin at all? – M.W.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: The Church doesn’t issue hard-and-fast rules in this kind of case.

There could be prudential reasons for not going to an automatic teller machine, depending on the time of day and the neighborhood and the visible state of the beggar. In any case, it’s not up to Ask a Priest to determine the gravity of sin in a particular case.

I’m guessing that you didn’t stop to give money to the beggar. The fact that you sent a question, however, indicates that that inaction now bothers you.

This might be a good moment to think ahead. What would you do next time?

Perhaps you can keep a few dollars or meal coupons stashed in your car for impromptu requests from beggars. Or you might think about donating to a homeless shelter in your area.

And you might pray for this homeless person and all the others living on the streets.

In any case, it’s good to do something and to avoid the trap of indifference. “The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11).

Ignoring the poor has its consequences. What we fail to do, we fail to do for Jesus. Let’s recall Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food.”


Keep learning more with Ask a Priest

Got a question? Need an answer?

Today’s secular world throws curve balls at us all the time. AskACatholicPriest is a Q&A feature that anyone can use. Just type your question HERE and you will get a personal response back from one of our priests at RCSpirituality. You can ask about anything – liturgy, prayer, moral questions, current events… Our goal is simply to provide a trustworthy forum for dependable Catholic guidance and information. So go ahead and ask your question…

Average Rating

What did you think?

Share your review! Just log in or create your free account.

Leave a Reply

Get the Answers!

Get notified of future Ask a Priest answers via email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Skip to content