Helping the poor

Q. Matthew 25:31-46 describes that the Lord will judge fiercely those who did not give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, etc. But what about those who take advantage of the charity of others and are either lazy or break immigration laws and so forth?

A.D., Fairfield, Connecticut

A. Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope: 

They, like any of us, will have to answer to God for what they did or failed to do. But our summons to what is just and charitable does not cease because some take advantage or are not sinless in their need. It is a general norm to care for the poor and required of us. There may be individual cases where we discover that we are not helping an individual but only facilitating their sin, and we can adapt the general norm to the specific case.

At a larger level, too, the obligation to care for the poor can have undesirable effects such as creating welfare dependence, etc. But the solution to this must seek to fix the problem, not wholly cast aside our general obligation to care for others.

We fix what we can, but some things just have to be left to God and to the day of judgment. Meanwhile, we err on the side of care.