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  A Christian Faith Magazine October 2004, Volume 10, Issue 3  
Living Life with Integrity
Rev. Mark Connolly
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I would like to share a few thoughts with you on one word. The word is integrity. This is a quality that seems to be slipping away from the way we live and the way we act. I strongly believe that the vast majority of CEO's in our country are good, honorable and fair minded men and women. But when you look at what the newspapers are telling us about Enron, Tyco, World Com, Adelphi, you soon find out that there is a minority of men and women who are unscrupulous and could not care less about integrity or morally sound judgments. Right now we have no judgment to make on all of the men and women associated with Enron, Tyco and World Com, the Shillings, the Lays and the Koslowski's, that is a judgment that will be made by the courts of our country as to whether they are innocent or guilty. When you look at the damage they have done to well over 50,000 people who lost their jobs, their pensions, their future security because of their greed, we can never forget that there will be a group of men and women who still imitate them in the future. They will see that these executives, the high powered battery of lawyers for the most part, will get minor penalties and the people coming along will see that when you get millions of dollars for a short prison stay, it really is not that bad a price to pay especially since you will have fortune for the rest of your life.

No one is making any judgments on any one of these people. That is up to the court to decide. But when you, as an individual, commit major felonies or even better still if you and I committed major felonies, what do you think the law of the land will do to us? In our country, as you know, we always profess that the law should treat each one equally regardless of the amount of their fame or money or not. As Catholics, because of the teachings of Christ, we have a code of ethics that we have to live by. This code of ethics gives us the reward in the kingdom of heaven. We have to be honorable. We have to be honest. We have to treat the people whom we meet on this earth the way Christ treated the people He met on this earth. Christ was living in a time when slavery and incest and all sorts of human rights violations were prevalent. Yet, he preached the gospel of love, the gospel of justice and the gospel of honor. Today when you look at all the books coming out on the market you soon find that the one word integrity is taking a terrible pounding. Expressions like well everyone is doing it, what is the big deal and it is okay if you don't get caught, are sweeping throughout our country. Years ago when you and I were growing up a man's word was his bond, a handshake was a contract. Now we are living in an era when the word ethic is no longer based on right or wrong, but put in a gray area and oftentimes put on the back burner of our conscience. When you read all the works coming out in all the journals about cheating in school that a teacher today finds his student cheating gets such pressure from the principal to put that child through rather than correct that child. When you think of the record scandals with CD's and the piracy that has taken place, when you think of the pressure put on doctor's today to sell pharmaceutical products in their office, you wonder how much control the average doctor has in running his own practice. When you think of the lawyer today, especially the young lawyers who have to bill so many hours per year if they want to stay at that law firm or advance, you can see that we have real problems concerning this word integrity in our every day way of life.

This also applies to the hierarchy in our country. We often wonder as priests whether the word integrity is totally forgotten in the way the pedophiliac priest scandal was handled. The way that scandal was handled not only hurt the victims, but it also hurt the moral of priests who are trying to do the work of Christ on earth.

Years ago when you and I grew up, when we found the handy man who was proud of his craft, we were quite proud of him and the work he did. Today we are growing up in a culture that has expressions like "your check is in the mail", "I will call you as soon as I can", we also know it is a polite way of not fulfilling an obligation.

Abraham Lincoln

What we have to keep in mind as Catholics is not what others are doing but what Christ expects each of us to do. How Christ expects us to live, act and work. Our work has to have behind it the integrity that Jesus Christ had in the carpenter shop in Nazareth. It must be done as if Christ were in our presence. Abraham Lincoln has a wonderful line about integrity. He said, "If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks on me this shop might be closed for business. I do the very best I know, the very best I can and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out alright, what is said against me will amount to nothing. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right will make no difference."

We have to keep in mind no matter what standards the culture might bring into our every day existence we have the standards of Christ to follow. We have to develop, as Saint Paul said, the mind of Christ so that no matter what we do, whether we eat, drink or sleep we will do it for the honor and glory of God. If you go back into the history of Christ, especially during the time of King Henry VIII, there was a Catholic lawyer by the name of St. Thomas More and King Henry VIII came to him to ask for a dispensation from his marriage to marry Catherine of Aragon. Thomas More said no, you are already married in the eyes of God. For this he was sent to jail and eventually killed. We have to pay a price to be a Catholic, we have to pay a price to be a very good Catholic and that means implementing the teachings of Christ in your relationship with others. In doing so you not only help our country, you help our Church and you practice the forgotten virtue of integrity.

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