Catholic stupidity is deadlier than a host of evils.
Last time, I wrote about the significance and intelligibility of sacraments. What do sacraments signify? What does a cruel Church signify? Here I pick up that thread by using the shortest distance between truth and a human being, a story. It tells of a personal experience where I allowed my own stupidity to reign in my faith-walk. This was one of many experiences that would help to eventually shake me out of Catholic fundamentalism. It also features an old friend, Timoteo. That’s not really his name, but you don’t need to know his real name. The story is true. Feel it and change.
But first, WATCH this video presentation on the idolatry of your Church being “the best.”
A Story of Catholic Stupidity
Our story begins as 2003 dies. Return of the King is in theaters. It is early morning on a December Saturday between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Think Florida sun, not marshmallow worlds.
BILL COME IN HERE—read the text message.
Just arrived at work, I enter the office. There’s Sonny, the Boss’s son, sitting in his dad’s chair. In those days, I worked in a warehouse. Early mornings I did counteo physica.
“Look at this,” Sonny says, handing me papers. He’s cold. It feels odd.
I read the letter over. It was from an attorney, a lawsuit against the company. My friend and former coworker, Timoteo, was behind this. Tim had worked with me at the tile warehouse for some time. He injured his back lifting. None of us had been provided with necessary job safety equipment such as belts, proper training, safety guidelines, or workers’ compensation.
Go up to the top of the article and look at my fingers in the picture. See how one set, those on the right, are deformed? They’ll never be right again. You know why? Because of Catholics like my Boss and Sonny. But also because of stupidity in Catholics like me back then.
Let’s back things up, Tarantino-style. The previous December, almost one year to the day, I got the job as a warehouse worker. I began working in early January. Long days, early in the morning, till 6 pm, Mondays through Saturdays. And I loved it. Backbreaking work, but I loved it.
Us five warehouse workers sweated our butts off preparing tiles, making pallets for shipping, and working the warehouse in blistering hot South Florida. Or rain-drenched South Florida, flooding everything. Oh, we were dying to serve you at the tile warehouse.
Now for three weeks, I was like dog waste to everyone at the company. But things soon changed. This was because my Boss and his son came to Bible Alive, the weekly Scripture study I taught Friday evenings.
After that, my Boss was hooked, and I was treated much better. Imagine that. You see, my Boss was a self-proclaimed defender of life (i.e., unborn) and Church teaching. He was a television personality, in fact, and fought against the horrors of abortion in public debates. And He loved Bible Alive. Somehow t impressed him. So he took part every week.
Something I presented in those classes must have tickled his ears. I was quite different back then. In those days, I was a Scott Hahn propaganda machine, and in South Florida, Hahn hadn’t caught on yet. I would pour out info from Hahn’s books and studies available on his website.
Stupidity and Bust Fingers
In those days the mantra was “9/11. Never forget! 9/11. It’s serious! 9/11.” It was a substitute for thinking. And it allowed our plutocrats to wipe out hundreds of thousands of Iraqis for oil.
One morning, about seven weeks before my wedding day, I was collecting tile samples for a Florida showroom up north. In my haste, I tripped on a pallet. I fell, careful to protect the 20X20 alabaster bone ceramic square in my hands. Acting like a wide-receiver, I landed hard on the concrete floor, and the full weight of that tile came down on edge. The resulting blow crushed the bones in my fingertips.
Pain! But I went into the office like a trooper, adrenaline, and stupidity helping me. I shook and winced and breathed. Someone gave me a cup of cold water. They provided Advil, also. And I was happy to be sent home on Friday, around 10 am! My fiancé picked me up, and we were off.
“See you tomorrow early, Bill! Conteo physica!” Came the Boss’s son, cheerfully.
“See you tonight at Bible study!” I responded, smiling, crazy, and stupid. There would be no study that night.
Change of Plans
Fifteen minutes into our car drive home, my Boss frantically calls me. “You have to go to the hospital!” This call really wasn’t care for me. It really was to save his ass. You see, everybody working in the warehouse, besides myself, was Latino. And I am not talking about American citizen Latinos, get me? And before I started working there, that’s how it was. Always.
So don’t blame the son of the Boss for giving gringo me fair treatment. Despite Florida Law, the company had no workers’ compensation. But I would never dream of taking legal action against these amazingly generous people who paid me $6.50 an hour to work so hard for them. Besides, they came to my Bible study on Fridays (fed my ego). See? I was handsomely compensated.
So I went to emergency care, and my Boss covered it. X-rays. Fingers crushed, of course. So my Boss coached me over the phone about what to say. And I eagerly listened. Grateful, I didn’t want my millionaire Boss, so generous, spending money foolishly, or looking bad.
Emergency & Stupidity
The insurance people asked me a battery of questions concerning work. I didn’t understand why I was asked so many questions. Why were they playing detective? Why did they want to know so much about my job? I just wished they would let me go home so I could prepare my Bible study.
I was oblivious to the history of this company and the lawsuits. All I knew was the owners were Catholic to the core. They were faithful Catholics, not heretics. The Boss’s son went to Steubenville, the faithful college, and learned from the Great Scott Hahn himself.
Weeks later, after my second weekly rehab session, the owner called me into his office.
“Look at this,” Boss said and handed me a medical bill for $2,000. He fumed. I told him I was sorry, and I was! He said quietly, “Don’t be sorry. Just don’t go back.” So I didn’t. I listened to my “pro-life” Boss and refused the treatments. The prescription was for eight more treatments. But I didn’t need those, just look up at my fingers in the picture above, and you’ll see what this kind of Catholic love did to them.
Stupidity Wasn’t In Timoteo
Now I have to tell you about Timoteo. He was my dear friend in those days. Four months into 2003, I got him a job at the warehouse. He was never respected there. Tim came from a life of brutal pain and injustice. Then he hurt his back shortly after my injury while working on some tile boxes. Subsequently, he was fired for his trouble. But the owner promised Tim that his chiropractor would help fix him up, or some bullsh-t like that. The owner also promised to pay all expenses.
Just after Thanksgiving, Tim, suffering in agony with back injuries, was sent his first bill over $800. Tim was dirt poor like I was. He struggled in agony to work as a server at Flanigan’s, a local bar and grill. When the Boss refused to pay and cut off all communication, Tim wisely sought legal help. That explains the letter I was handed that Saturday morning, late December.
Now the owner, my Boss, wanted happy salespeople. So he didn’t evangelize them. But the warehouse workers, pieces of sh-t? Oh, you better believe that the American Gospel of Can-Do was preached! The Boss taped Spanish and English Catechism entries about contraception and abortion around the punch clock in fanatical Catholic style. He wanted to drive the message home, and maybe save the souls of his lowly warehouse workers.
Some Saturdays, when the workload was lighter, the Boss would drive me to a meeting with ultra-conservative Catholic businessmen for a Catholic morning discussion. Besides our Scripture study, the Boss was involved in several ministry groups throughout the Archdiocese of Miami and beyond.
The most prestigious of these was a ministry for millionaires headed up by Tom Monaghan, the deep-pocket Catholic fundamentalist founder of Domino’s Pizza. Monaghan once said, “If you make less money than me, there’s nothing you can teach me.” Imagine that the man who founded Ave Maria University can be taught nothing by Galilean peasant day laborer Jesus. The same didn’t apply to my Boss, at least on Fridays.
The Saturday meetings weren’t big leagues, though. The income range was only $150K to $500K, except for my millionaire Boss and myself. But it was nice to be included. Imagine me sitting there, a sea of suits, way out of place, wearing a sweat-drenched tee shirt stained with JAMOBlend thin-set powder and dust, and shorts all dirty. I was just one step up from homeless, someone these fine Catholic businessmen would command to “GET A JOB!” as they drove past in their SUVs and Lexus.
A Christmas Carol Without Ghosts
So back to the lawsuit story. I am in the office with the Boss’s son.
“You know,” said Sonny in 9/11 seriousness, him 30, me 29. “When I first read that letter, do you know what I wanted to do?”
I just stayed quiet.
“I wanted to go down to Flanigan’s, where Timmy works,” said Sonny. “Me and like twenty of my friends. We would request Timmy as our server and wait as long as it takes. It would be a time when the restaurant was being slammed, filled to the brim. Then, we would order like $2,000 worth of food. Our order would be ridiculous. And then, when he brought it over to us, we would complain, and cause a scene, and refuse to pay the bill.”
I listened quietly, from my poverty. In my helplessness, I thought about my poor wife working at Starbucks nearby, and about Timoteo. I thought about the rent. I worried that anything I said would result in repercussions on my wife and friend.
“And then do you know what we would do?” asked the Steubenville, Scott Hahn graduate. The “pro-life,” “Viva Bush!” voter leaned in and, without blinking, told me, “We would wait for Timmy to leave, and when he comes outside, after being fired, we would beat the sh-t out of him. I mean real bad, Bill. I mean put him in the hospital.”
Catholic Stupidity is Deadly
Sonny’s a Trumper, by the way, or hadn’t you guessed by now?
I left that horrible place soon after. My wife and I starved through a summer and got chewed out by Catholic friends for being financially irresponsible. We asked them for nothing, but they were plenty generous to judge us. Through it all, my ex-wife never complained. I worked in a cafeteria for a while, before taking another job. This experience helped me grow out of my nonsensical fundamentalism.
What could possibly be more deadly than stupidity in the Now? Now always takes precedence over the past. We’ve yet to see the full horror of the COVID-19 debacle, enabled and sustained by our stupidity. That’s not politicizing. That’s a wake-up call to brainwashed Catholics and Evangelicals in their idolatry of the current White House despot.
Oh? Is Donald Trump still your hero? Then that means you are partly responsible for 200K deaths. And you are obstructing sane people from saving lives and the environment. And we are fast approaching the breaking point.
Warning from Someone Who Endured Far Worse than 9/11
Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right when he said,
“Against stupidity we are defenseless.”
“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force.”
Bonhoeffer wisely explained that stupidity, the misuse of intelligence, dismisses irrefutable facts as incidental or inconsequential in favor of prejudiced fantasies. A thousand times the devastation and loss of 9/11 can result.
Soon, I will write about Archdiocesan cruelty.