I can't remember my teenage misdemeanour.
Maybe I'd dodged a bus fare. I know I giggled about whatever it was when I got home. My father was disapproving. "You only have one name," he said, "so if you're thinking of getting rid of it, make sure the price is high enough."
I realised he was right. If I had been caught I would have had a reputation for dishonesty for the sake of saving a few pence. It was a lesson learned. What price would you put on your good name? There is, of course, no price high enough.
Fred Goodwin has a mound of money in the bank. I wonder how much of it he would swap for the return of his reputation. Bob Diamond, former chief executive of Barclays, could collect a £20 million farewell. Should he take it? If he does, it will be the final nail in his reputation. Since he already has many millions from a career in banking it should be an easy decision. But never underestimate a greedy man's appetite. Sadly it isn't just bankers who have lost their reputations. The roll call is shocking. Our once-great institutions have been falling like dominoes: MPs and Lords fiddled expenses. Journalists hacked telephones. Nurses, once angelic, and care home staff have been exposed as cruel in their treatment of the old. Children in care, even children in nurseries, are abused.
You have to ask, has our society lost its moral compass?
There are many who see the dip in standards as a consequence of secularism. Religion and morality go hand in hand, they say. Drop one and you lose the other. Are they right?
I would argue that the values of honesty and fairness are still commonly held by most of us. It is among elites that standards have plummeted, where decency has been corrupted.
A gulf has opened up and it's making people angry. There is a sense of injustice. Breadline benefit cheats are prosecuted and labelled social pariahs yet multinational companies and showbiz celebrities dodge millions in tax bills and it's deemed technically legal.
In a society where greed is rewarded, how do we train the young to put hard work and decency before profit? Is that where religion comes in? Christianity certainly taught me not to seek riches upon this earth. (In that, if in nothing else, I have succeeded.) If the law of God is our measure, surely we'll find the right path again.
You would hope so but one church in particular, the Catholic Church, gives the lie to that idea. It has displayed the worst characteristic of a self-perpetuating elite. It has used its power and riches to protect itself from the accusations of weak and vulnerable: children who have been abused by priests.
In May the investigative journalist Darragh MacIntyre screened a documentary about the career of one paedophile priest in Donegal. The programme was memorable for the contrast between the startling beauty of the countryside and the ugliness of abuse and cover-up.
It was a depressingly familiar tale but Mr MacIntyre took it a step further, right to the door of the primate of all Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady. He discovered that in 1975 the cardinal, then a canon lawyer, investigated allegations of abuse of a boy called Brendan Boland. Mr Boland named his abuser as well as other child victims. Dr Brady swore the boy to secrecy. The abuser continued unabated for years.
I thought the cardinal would be gone within the week of the film. He is still in post. The blame, he says, lies with the errant priest's superiors. But is child abuse not the responsibility of every adult who knows about it and does not raise heaven and earth to have it stopped?
Ireland is not the UK but the Roman Catholic church is universal. Faith is shaken. Trust is gone. This brand too is tarnished.
Other Christian denominations seem to represent smaller congregations every year. Some are riven with internal dissent. Others look narrow and self-serving. It's all very disillusioning.
I used to sit in the back of taxis rolling my eyes as the driver held forth on the corrupt practices and back-scratching networks of those in power. What negativity, I'd think. People in power are just as decent as me and you.
I wouldn't be so quick to disagree now. I look around and wonder who can lead us back to probity?
It's no good looking to government to see us straight again. We've recently seen Dr Liam Fox including his good friend Adam Werrity in official business. Baroness Warsi was accompanied abroad by a relative who was a businessman. So who can shine a light?
Sport was a byword for fair play. Now we see the once great Rangers Football Club in the process of liquidation after years of financial fancy footwork and the newco uncertain of the league it will play in next season.
According to Vince Cable the banks that plunged us into financial crisis are throttling our infant recovery by refusing credit to promising businesses.
As for business: GlaxoSmith- Kline has been fined almost £2 billion for marketing drugs to unapproved users. Just think for a second about the implications of a drug manufacturer that cannot be trusted.
The fact is that powerful elites – spiritual and well as material – eventually think they are above the law. I dare say that we, law-abiding average citizens, would find ourselves just as venal if we walked in their shoes. It seems Juvenal's ancient question: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? (Who will guard the guards?)" remains unanswered.
But all the evidence points to danger lying in closed communities and in hierarchies that instil reverence in outsiders. We have developed a celebrity culture and a wealth divide that places too many above scrutiny.
The only way back is to have more openness, transparency and the antiseptic of daylight. We need always to be suspicious of elites. The seven deadly sins – greed, avarice, sloth, envy, wrath, pride and lust – will always be with us and always be in us. But so will the virtues. The lesson of all the recent scandals is that people behave better when they're being watched, when there is the sanction of exposure. And that sadly appears to apply to priests as much as it does to bankers.
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