When Moses came down from the mountain he had with him the tablets with God’s ten major ordinances – the Ten Commandments. The most important, of course, was that God’s people were to worship Yahweh faithfully and honestly, but down the line a bit there was the one that we now call “VII” – Thou Shalt Not Steal. We all know that stealing is wrong. To intentionally take something that is the private property of another person, is almost in cases a moral evil. I say in almost all because there are certain circumstances which would allow a person to make quick decisions in order to survive; for example, food when faced with hunger. In general, it is always wrong to steal.
But some kinds of theft are worse than others. Walking into a liquor store with a handgun in order to empty the cash register is theft and if you don’t get killed, you certainly can go to jail for a long period of time. You may not understand this but there is a certain honesty in that kind of theft. You have money, I want it and if you don’t give it to me, you are going to get hurt!
However, let me tell you of a worse kind of theft. Put yourself in the executive offices of a fast food place. It doesn’t matter whether it is McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Burger King. You see the hourly charts coming in reflecting that Gene Jones or Raul Martinez worked 52 hours at the minimum wage. No one can actually survive on that in an urban setting. Why should those two guys who sweated for so many hours get so much money? We will just say that he worked 40 hours cutting him out of overtime. Stealing from the poor is, in my opinion, the very lowest form of theft!
A few weeks ago the United States Department of Labor announced the results of a survey indicating that the scope of wage theft in this country is stunning. The practice of stealing wages, commonly called “wage theft”, is a national epidemic. It eats away at the livelihood of already underpaid workers. Eighty percent of surveyed fast food workers experienced off the clock violations, meaning that they were required to work without pay before punching in and after punching out. Forty-eight percent who worked more than 40 hours in a week did not receive overtime pay. Wage theft has ramifications beyond the employees who are cheated. We suffer when wage theft becomes a way of doing business. Law abiding businesses can’t compete with wage cheats who shave their operating costs by breaking the law. The less money that wage earners bring home, the less money they have to spend on basics, such as food, clothing and household necessities depriving local businesses of much needed consumer dollars and hampering our economy. When that happens everyone loses.
The Department of Labor has studied and documented that this heinous crimes. Now let’s give them the charge of cleaning this utterly cruel form of theft up as quickly as possible.
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I was delighted to see last month that Pope Francis has created a new commission to investigate the Vatican bank giving it authority to gather information and relay it to the pope in what is described in a timely fashion. In my own opinion, the commission needs to get to work and quickly!
A few weeks earlier, Vatican authorities arrested Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, a Vatican financial officer, who was attempting to smuggle $30 million into Italy from Switzerland on behalf of a family shipping magnate which would have saved that nice family from reporting and taxation requirements. Monsignor Nunzio is also suspected of using $700,000 from an account of the Institute of the Works of Religion to offset a personal loan.
Is this a new problem? I don’t have the documentation in front of me to list the facts but in my own personal memory I know that the Vatican Bank has been a steady source of scandal over the last 25 or 30 years. Millions and millions of dollars pass through it from different parts of the world and while theft has not always been charged, poor reporting and a lack of transparency is a constant refrain.
I am not a financier by any means but I do know that when you have large amounts of money nested someplace where supervision is amateurish, the sharks will come and the sharks have come time and again.
Poor Pope Francis. He has so many problems. It is such a shame that he has to deal with this type of dishonesty and incompetence as he is trying to break into his work and handle other issues that are even more important. Let’s pray for this wonderful man.
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If you get caught going into a liquor store and robbing the place, you will go to prison for a long time. If you get caught playing with the books of your employer and syphoning the company’s dollars over to your own personal account, be prepared to spend part of your life behind bars. But there are ways to steal that are legal. Let me mention one of them.
One of the most common and despicable practices that goes on in this country is that shady operations go to so-called non-profits groups, often organizations of retired firemen, policemen or the military. Who is against helping these heroic people who helped us so well in their younger days? Well, they do serve us well but sometimes because they need money to run the organization and their officers take a short-cut that is legal but in my opinion terribly unethical. Some of these groups prostitute themselves by giving promoters the right to raise money in the name of the non-profit. The other day, I was contacted by a promoter for the Texas State Troopers Association. It is a real organization and it had given this group a contract to raise money in their name.
How does it work? The sales person on the telephone tells you how much we owe the state troopers. He reminds you that those brave people have risked their lives for our safety and this organization for which they are soliciting funds is going to take good care of our heroic troopers. All of that is true up to a point. What they do not say is that the promoting company takes 80% of the income, leaving 20% for the charity. Most people don’t bother to push and question about how the funds are used but if they did, they would be very angry or they would not contribute if they knew that only one in five of their dollars would go to the charity.
Fund raising is expensive but 10% or 15% should be adequate for the promoter and the great bulk of the donation should go to the cause for whom it is being solicited.
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