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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Doing Wrong

I had to take an online training this week for my securities licensing on ethics. 

Oddly, the topic has been on mind quite a bit this week.

You see, the priest that married us, recently confessed to stealing $650,000 from my former parish.

I really liked him.

I still do.

I sorta kinda left the church awhile back.  It's not a long story.  There was no one thing.  I decided that I had become a cafeteria plan Catholic.  I don't think you should dial in religion.  Either be in or be out.  I opted out.  It really came down to a great homily that Fr. Kevin gave.

It was during the Bill Clinton "What is the Definition of Is?" debate.

Fr. Kevin stated simply that there is a right and there is a wrong.  There are no grey areas with regard to morality.

Ah, but I can already hear you arguing that certain things are debatable.  I would have agreed with you until that sermon.

Fr. Kevin went on to elaborate that everyone has a line that they draw.  Once you cross your own moral line, you start to justify and rationalize your actions.  You never have to justify or rationalize doing the right thing to yourself.  Those little voices that you hear in your head telling you to go ahead, no one will know-- that means you've crossed your line.  Rationalization is for attorneys.  No one can tell you where to draw the line.

You're nasty to your kids- the voice says "Well, you were tired. It's okay."  It's not.  Apologize to them.

You tell your boss you're sick and what you really want is a day off-- "Everyone does it." They don't.  Ask for the day off.  Don't lie. It IS a lie.

You start to gossip about someone that you work with- "Well, everyone KNOWS he drinks..."- they don't.  Stop.  Leave the conversation.

Someone walks into your house and threatens your family, has a gun.  You shoot them.  No need to justify.

See how it works?

There have been a few times since I heard that sermon that the little voices start rationalizing in my head and I immediately stop.  I am trying to justify crossing the line.  It was actually life changing for me.  I always joke that I'm not a practicing Catholic because I got it right and don't need to practice any more. 

Doing the right thing has never caused me pain or grief.  I may have had to explain my reasons to someone else, but I've never had to justify my actions to myself.

It's quite a lovely moral code to live by, I believe.  I do good things because I think it's right, not because I'm being told to do them.  Or the fear of eternal damnation.

There is a right and there is a wrong. 

Enough said.

I can only imagine the personal agony he must have been experiencing.  Those voices must have been screaming in his head.

He is a good man.  He had a flaw.

And before you think "Wow, that's a lot of money, how did no one notice?" They did.  That's how he got caught.  It also was over more than 10 years  and the parish has thrived under him.  New school, even.  It's a very large parish with 10,000 families- it nearly doubled under Fr. Kevin.  My uncle, a deacon, saw the bulletin (I brought him an article they had in it).  One week of the collections was more than his parish took in in a year. 

I'm sure he used the fact that so much was being accomplished to justify that he wasn't hurting anyone.  It would be easy to rationalize.  He probably brought in much more money than he ever took.  Can you hear the voices justifying what happened?  And yet it still is wrong.  Very wrong.

Fr. Kevin confessed to the authorities.  From what I've heard, he's cooperated fully and intends to somehow repay the money.

It wasn't a Catholic thing.  It wasn't a priest thing.  It was a human thing.

And from one human to another, I hope he finds compassion in his own soul.


Deanne said...

Interesing that I chose to read this today because I was just having a conversation last week with a young lawyer about ethics. I was telling him that one of the main reasons why I left my firm where I was a named partner was because one of my partners used to talk about getting your feet "right up to the line." I had issues with that because it seemed like in his case, the line kept moving and talk about rationalizing! When it comes to practicing law (and life) there is right and wrong and you are correct that if you choose to do wrong, well, that is certainly the choice you can make but then you must also live with that choice and all that comes with it. Stop making excuses for it and take some freakin' responsibility.

Mama Bean said...

I always think the argument is "Can you teach ethics?" or do we all have our own personal ethos that directs us? I took a class in grad school on Ethics and we had to rate certain things from high to low on their ethics. One was the situation where you had tentatively scheduled dinner plans with your spouse, but a big client is in town so you cancel your dinner plans to entertain the client. All of us except one young guy said "Not a problem. Completely ethical. My spouse will understand." He was adamant that it was horrible. Then I looked at what we all supposedly valued-- Family was number one on everyone's list. But, given the opportunity, we all elected to ditch our significant others. I thought it was hilarious and started laughing. I explained it to the professor-- he thought it was pretty good. I had so much respect for that young guy- he truly was the only one living what he valued and believed in. On the flip side, he was a newlywed and my husband would have been relieved to a night at home!!

Globalagogogo said...

Funny thing integrity, even funnier when aligned to the hypocrisy which saturates the Catholic Church – and indeed any organisation where large sums of money change hands. Doesn`t matter that it`s a priest thing, there`s good & bad in all things. It just gets more attention and it really does embarrass those whom fall for the whole religious blarney in the first place.

I`d argue your being conned just by falling for the dogma that surrounds the church, their policies and their ethical stance and doctrine.

Religion in most forms upset and pleased a lot of people across the world in equal measure.

Theft! It`s a people thing, it is what you do when no one is looking, it is based around compliance not commitment.

Suggest you look for the word conscience and start from there.

Anyway, it being the catholic church, I`m sure they`ll forgive him!

TTFN Globalagogogo...