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Guidelines For A Disgraced Congressman

Ben Franklin - 13 Virtues to Moral PerfectionIf you pay attention to the news, you know about the recent resignation of our local U.S. Congressman, Aaron Schock. Schock is currently under investigation for violating federal law while he was in office. Some of the violations include using campaign funds for his own personal benefit, overcharging the government for mileage expenses, and flying around in private jets that were owned by individuals or companies who donated money to his campaign.

Last week a lawsuit was filed against Schock in federal court by a man who had previously donated $500 to his campaign. The lawyer who filed the lawsuit is going to ask the judge in the case to certify the case as a class action lawsuit. Lawyers like class action lawsuits because they can potentially earn millions of dollars in fees for representing an entire class of individuals, which in this case would be all the people who donated money to Schock’s campaigns.

The filing of the lawsuit was just one more nail in the coffin in which the dead career of Aaron Schock resides.

Up until a few months ago, Schock could do no wrong. He won his first election at the age of 19 when he ran for the local school board. At the age of 23, he was elected to serve as a State Representative in the Illinois House of Representatives. Then he ran for U.S. Congress and won.

During the past 30 days, one news story after another pointed out various illegal acts that were committed by Schock. Now his reputation is in ruins and he is facing an uncertain future that will most likely include time in prison.

What happened to the ambitious, smart, innocent, good-looking young man who could do no wrong?

Like many of our politicians — especially those at the national level — he lacked virtue.

The dictionary defines “virtue” as “moral excellence; goodness; righteousness” and “conformity of one’s life and conduct to moral and ethical principles.

Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines virtue as “A good habit that enables a person to act according to right reason enlightened by faith. Also called an operative good habit, it makes its possessor a good person and his or her actions also good.” The word “virtue” is derived from the Latin word virtus, which means “virility, strength of character, and manliness.”

Ask most high school and college graduates to define the word virtue and to name at least six virtues and all you’ll get is a blank look. If we’re ever going to get back to basics in our country, those “basics” will have to include the teaching (and practice) of virtue in all of our public schools.

Almost 300 years ago (1726), Benjamin Franklin, a 20-year-old man who would later become one of the founding fathers of the United States of America, decided that he was going to attempt to achieve moral perfection. He later wrote,

I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.

In order to achieve his goal of moral perfection, Franklin came up with 13 virtues and accompanying statements that he would focus on every day,

  1. TEMPERENCE Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. SILENCESpeak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. ORDERLet all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. RESOLUTIONResolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. FRUGALITYMake no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. INDUSTRYLose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. SINCERITYUse no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. JUSTICEWrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. MODERATIONAvoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. CLEANLINESSTolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. TRANQUILITYBe not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. CHASTITYRarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. HUMILITYImitate Jesus and Socrates.

Do you think we would be better off in our society if these 13 virtues were instilled in the hearts and minds of all our students as they were growing up? If Aaron Schock had learned and embraced these virtues, where do you think he would be today?

We could all do a better job of practicing these and the other virtues we learned while we were growing up. The goal that Ben Franklin established for himself — moral perfection — is a goal we should all be working toward achieving.


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