Have you ever stumbled upon a quarter lying on the ground? What about a dollar? What about $500? One can’t help but feel a sense of good fortune when discovering this money, but the reality is that the money didn’t just appear. It came from another person. So the question is: is it right to pick it up and take it?

The answer has two parts.

First, there is the legal answer — an Oregon statute that can provide guidance.

If a person finds money or goods valued at $250 or more, the owner has ten days to notify the county clerk where the money was found. Within 20 days, the person who found the money needs to publish a notice with a description of the item and the finder’s contact information in a general newspaper where the item was found. The notice must run once a week for two weeks. The finder becomes owner of the item three months after the county clerk is notified, if no one has come to collect it.

What about the second part — what is the moral answer?

“If it’s possible to find the owner, all must be done to return it,” said Dominican Father Brian Mullady, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology.

This is especially true in the case of discovering a large sum of money.

You “have a moral obligation to return it,” said the friar, adding that large sums of money should not be kept by the finder. However, trivial sums may.

“If it’s a small sum and the person cannot find the owner, there’s no reason not to keep it.”

If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable keeping this kind of money, it can be given to charity, insists Father Mullady.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org