Back in the day (and this day was around the 1500s), when good religious folk strayed from being good and committed a sin, they could purchase an indulgence.
Akin to a heavenly “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” card, it allowed the purchaser to avoid punishment from above by paying for their absolution. It was also a great money-maker for the Chruch. As the Wikipedia article alludes to, it was the abuse of selling those indulgences that were a point of contention that led Martin Luther to intiate the Protestant Reformation.
While the Church no longer has a storefront for sinners to buy indulgences, that marketplace has now been taken over by the federal government. When a person or business commits a wrong, the sinner can receive absolution and avoid punishment, by purchasing an indulgence, but now the name is called “paying a fine while admitting no wrong-doing“.
Current examples (and I’m only using the last six months of 2010) include:
– Bank of America pays $137.3 million to settle allegations from the Department of Justice it defrauded local organizations (e.g., schools, hospitals) by engaging in illegal behavior when investing proceeds from municipal bond sales.
– Goldman Sachs pays $550 million to settle allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the firm misled investors concerning sub-prime mortgages.
– Angelo Mozilo, former CEO for Countrywide, pays $67.5 million to settle allegations by the SEC that he misled investors.
See, just like in the old days, sinners (and mostly wealthy ones) can pay thier money, not do hard time in Purgatory, and the federal government gets a money-maker.
Sounds divine, doesn’t it?