A PRIEST has called on parishioners to be ‘cautious’ when giving money to beggars. Fr Michael Cusack thinks they should instead consider giving money to charities.
His comments have been sparked by complaints by elderly parishioners who say they feel ‘half threatened’ by beggars on their way into church.
The priest also said the church also has a problem with the toilet in the church being used by some of the beggars who dump their drink cans and needles there.
He said the toilet has been left “in a horrendous state,” and “needles, cans and bottles,” have been left behind.
Homeless campaigners like Fr Peter McVerry agree that people should be cautious about giving money to beggars.
He said: ‘Fr Cusack is right to urge people to be cautious.
‘Some people earn their living by beginning, others beg to feed their addiction.
‘Some people have to beg because they have no other form of income and I’m not against addicts begging.
‘It’s better they beg for it than go out and rob somebody’s house for the money to feed their addiction. So yes, people should be cautious.’
But last night, Dublin City councillor Mannix Flynn urged people instead to question why they want to give money to charity in the first place and he also said begging should be outlawed ‘full stop’.
Commenting on Fr Cusack call for caution, he said: ‘The issue of addicts coming into churches has been one in Dublin city centre for a while.
‘You even have a situation where some churches have had to empty their Holy Water fonts because addicts were cleaning their needles in them.
‘Yes, these addicts can be very intimidating to elderly people, but people of all ages are intimidated by them.
‘And it’s time we called a spade a spade and simply outlawed begging.
‘Very few so-called beggars are poor.
‘Many of them are addicts of one form or another or they are people who beg for a living and prey off people’s kinder natures. I’ve heard of beggars going from one church to another as each mass starts and finishes.’
He added: ‘As far as giving to charity is concerned, you have to ask yourself why you think that would solve them problem. You also have to ask yourself, if these charities are set up to sort out the issue like drugs addiction and homelessness, why do we not only have a national begging problem, but one that is getting worse.
‘Begging has become an epidemic in this country and the new begging culture that exists has just become unacceptable.
‘And I really don’t think just giving money to charity is the solution to begging.
‘It won’t remove the problem, prohibiting begging by legislating against it will.’
Fr Cusack said there is the giving of time to voluntary and community groups and there is also ‘how we give our money and sometimes our giving is misguided’.
He said a person’s conscience may say to them that a man begging ‘is some mother’s son’ but by giving money to that person people may ‘be giving the message that this is the place to come for money needed to feed a drug or drink addiction. Sometimes people don’t see the danger in that’.
The cleric, who delivered the powerful sermon at the 2013 funeral of slain Det. Garda Adrian Donohoe, said giving in that situation can enable them to get further into their addiction.
Fr Cusack, who organises the annual St Gerard’s Novena that attracts tens of thousands of people to the church every October, also said he is concerned about the older parishioners, ‘they feel half-threatened’ by those begging.
He said: ‘Older people find church a place of solace.
‘They can feel uncomfortable and get verbally abused and can feel physically encroached upon.
Fr Cusack said he too has got ‘a barrage of abuse’ from some of those begging.
‘I can take it, I’m thick skinned but older people are not prepared for it.’ he added.
He said that while the homeless are a vulnerable group in society, that the elderly are also one.
He raised the issue at mass on Sunday because he said he wants people to talk and reflect on how they ‘give’.
He added: ‘While I believe we are a generous people, a generous church and a generous nation, we need to provide the best care and the proper care.
‘A better way to give is to give to agencies like the Simon Community who really care for the well-being of people.’
He also pointed out, for example, that between October and December last year, St Joseph’s raised over €20,000 for the Simon Community.
‘That is the good type of giving,’ he said.
Homeless campaigner Sister Stan said last night: ‘People need to look at the reasons why someone is begging and ask themselves if there is an issue with that person being able to access the services they need.
‘The issue of whether or not to give money to a beggar is one that confronts us all.
‘I think the only way anyone is able to make the right choice is if they are fully informed.
‘I don’t have the answer about whether or not you should or shouldn’t give to beggars.
‘In principle, I would agree with Fr Cusack but this is not some blanket denial of someone’s right to beg.
‘That said, if someone is clearly not in the a right state of mind, you do have to consider that.’
She added: ‘I can see where there appears to be an issue at Fr Cusack’s church and someone needs to do something about that.’
The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill 2010 criminalises people who beg within 10 metres of the entrance of a business premises. However, it does not apply to places of religious worship.