Spirituality and Ethics
Ten Ethical Lessons - Lesson 2

No One is Above the Law

This is a core principle in our system of justice: no matter how powerful, wealthy, or famous one becomes, everyone is still subject to the same laws that govern us all and enable us to live in a civilized society.

Three examples should suffice: A former chairman of the state of Minnesota’s second largest savings and loan was a community leader with great influence when he was found guilty of conspiracy, insider trading, and other fraud offenses following the failure of that institution; A former chairman and CEO of a successful company was among the wealthiest of Minnesotans when he pleaded guilty to tax fraud and corporate fraud; and a university transplant surgeon was probably the most famous person whom I prosecuted. Although that prosecution was not successful, it proves my point better than all of my many convictions. No matter how well-known the person, no matter how many lives one has saved as a surgeon – if you sell an unlicensed experimental drug that causes harm to others or if you double bill your travel expenses to the tune of more than $100,000, you should be held accountable for your conduct.”

We have seen some spectacular falls from grace in this country in the last 15 years in almost all walks of life – business, church, law, medicine, volunteer organizations, politics (in both parties), and sports. One scandal after another. Makes one wonder how many times this has to happen before we learn Lesson No. 2. I am reminded here of Stage One of the late Harvard Professor Lawrence Kolberg’s “Six Stages of Moral Development”: What can I get away with?

What lies beyond this kind of reckless behavior? Might the sin of pride be the main culprit here? Hubris?

Christian author Don Schwager has this to say about the dangers of pride when it is out of control: As a vice pride is an inordinate desire or love of one’s own excellence. Through pride a person thinks of himself or herself better than he/she is. This kind of pride springs from an exaggerated self-centeredness. The focus is on self as absolute and central.

Cynthia Heald, author of the book “Becoming a Woman of Excellence,” describes sin as whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things. A recently retired auto and truck retailer friend of mine shared his conclusions on why some people believe themselves to be above the law: “It seems to me that those who seemingly have no consideration for the public welfare and are only interested in personal gain are cut off from any knowledge of God and God’s laws.”

For a person to think that he or she is above the law is delusional. Not only that but it is also very harmful to his or her family. The fallout affects them financially, and emotionally, as well.

(November 2012 Newsletter)


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Virtue Ethics The Spirituality of St. Ignatius Ten Ethical Lessons Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3 Lesson 4 Lesson 5 Lesson 6 Lesson 7 Lesson 8 Lesson 9 Lesson 10
The Our Father The Beatitudes The Ten Commandments Other Topics About Fr. Max Oliva, SJ


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