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An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is arrested by New York City Police in 2011.The writer says what we should really do is support virtuous business owners.
Catholic News Service photo
An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator is arrested by New York City Police in 2011.The writer says what we should really do is support virtuous business owners.
I have a friend who retired from the state police. He once told me that if crooks were smart "we'd never catch them." Given that police agencies catch quite a few, I have to wonder how many they miss.

One convicted criminal, Bernard Madoff, reportedly said he could have been caught in his famous Ponzi scheme of fraudulent investments years before his December 2008 arrest, but incompetence and disbelief kept him going. Nobody wanted to believe a powerful and successful financier was doing anything illegal, especially if his clients were making lots of money.

Remember what your parents told you? "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." So many people didn't remember or heed that bit of parental wisdom until the whole operation fell apart. Madoff was convicted and sentenced in June 2009 to serve 150 years in prison.

When we try to take in the depth and breadth of the corruption, any of the individual scams and schemes we hear about pale in comparison. However, they're not laughable, because people continue to believe them and respond to them. Some of the most common include roofers and other construction "offers" that entice people to pay before the service is completely finished.

Internet access offers global opportunities for illegal or unethical practices. The "snake oil" salesmen and women have evolved into tech-smart entrepreneurs who are ready and willing to take advantage of anyone willing to buy into their story.

However, many upstanding and ethical people with sound moral compasses are working in our communities, running businesses that offer products and services to all of us in a variety of ways. They don't cut corners or use shoddy materials in their businesses. Many of them take their faith into the marketplace, using it as a guide in their practices and their dealings with others.

In 2008, the same year Madoff was arrested, I met a man who owns a pipefitting company in St. Louis. When the economy slowed and almost stopped during the economic downturn, he didn't lay off his employees. He found work for them so they could continue to receive a paycheck.

He fits the description of the honest businessman who runs his company with integrity and respect for his workers. He's just one of the many people whom we meet in our local communities that we count on to care for us, our children and our elderly -- those most precious and vulnerable people.

We read, we hear and we see people taking advantage of others every day. With all of the negative press, it's sometimes hard not to become discouraged and cynical about the way the world is working, often against what we believe to be good and true.

Seldom do we see businesspeople receive accolades and honors for reaching out, leading with their faith and letting themselves be guided by their values and their principles. But they're in our communities, they sit in the pews and listen to the same Gospel messages we do. Then they take those ideas and lessons Jesus taught us and apply them in their business dealings.

We know these people: They own the local pizza parlor and hire our teenagers to work for them. They fight for those who need a champion in the courtroom even if we can't pay them a king's ransom to defend us. They provide childcare for our children, teaching them in little ways about God, about prayer, about being the best "little" person he or she can be. They manage the restaurant where we take our families and trust that the food will be fresh and safe and the price will not send us into shock when we pay the bill.

The best people, those who own and operate the businesses that we know and trust, need our support and our prayers to continue to take their faith out of the pews and into the boardrooms, the courtrooms, the lunch rooms -- the marketplace -- to live the Gospel values each and every day.

The writer is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.