Bernie Madoff’s headline-making plea of “guilty” in the infamous Ponzi scheme that bilked investors of $65 billion was a hollow confession that continues to stick a proud thumb in the eye of the individuals, charities, and companies he robbed.

Madoff reportedly confessed that he had “deeply hurt many, many people,” and said, “I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done.”

Yes, he can.

He can tell them where their money is.

Knowing that his own goose is cooked, Madoff is trying to protect the family members who helped him run the business by pretending that he acted alone — a preposterous claim that brought incredulous laughter to the courtroom.

By pleading guilty on his own, with no plea agreement, Madoff incurs no legal obligation to help investigators who are trying to learn where the money is and who else knows about it. He has an ethical obligation, a moral obligation — but those concepts apparently mean little to him.

I restate the obvious as a way of reminding myself — and perhaps others — that Madoff’s collosal self-deception is far greater in its impact than our own, but little different in principle.

Madoff says he’s deeply sorry and regretful, but he won’t give up the money he stole.

If we tell God or another person that we’re sorry and regretful for our own wrongdoings, but refuse to give them up, are we not also spouting empty words? Are there hoots of hilarity in the heavenly court when yet another self-deluded prayer floats in?

Do any of them belong to us?

[Image from Flikr.]

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