Daniel Henninger has a must-read piece today on the Faustian bargain we strike when we become dependent on government funds. Henninger pegs his thoughts to the Catholic Church’s current struggle with the Obama administration over whether faith-based organizations should be required to pay for health insurance policies that include practices they regard as immoral.

But he’s really talking about what a powerful state will do when it claims to act in the name of benevolence—in this case, for women who want birth control without having to pay a co-pay, even if this requires that certain other people violate their consciences.

As Kathleen Parker has observed, this is not about The Pill. If it were, it is highly unlikely that we would be talking about it on Inkwell. Here, as Henninger writes, is what it is about:

The American Catholic Church, from left to right, is now being handed a lesson in the hierarchy of raw political authority. One hopes they and their supporters will recognize that they have not been singled out. The federal government's forcings routinely touch other groups in this country—schools, doctors, farmers, businesses. The church's fight is not the whole or the end of it.

Catholic Charities and other faith-based groups have become recipients of government funds. Whether they made a wise decision in becoming dependent on the federal government is not an issue to argue here. What matters here is that money from the government doesn’t come without strings attached. It is a Faustian bargain:

So here we are, with the government demanding that the church hold up its end of a Faustian bargain that was supposed to permit it to perform limitless acts of virtue. Instead, what the government believes the deal is about, more than anything else, is compliance.

Politically bloodless liberals would respond that, net-net, government forcings do much social good despite breaking a few eggs, such as the Catholic Church's First Amendment sensibilities. That is one view. But the depth of anger among Catholics over this suggests they recognize more is at stake here than political results. They are right. The question raised by the Catholic Church's battle with ObamaCare is whether anyone can remain free of a U.S. government determined to do what it wants to do, at whatever cost.

Older Americans have sought for years to drop out of Medicare and contract for their own health insurance. They cannot without forfeiting their Social Security payments. They effectively are locked in. Nor can the poor escape Medicaid, even as the care it gives them degrades.

As Henninger observes, President Obama is commonly described as a “transformative” president. That transformation is towards the enlargement of a “benevolent” government at the expense of all that was once private.


The Catholic left has just learned one answer: When Mr. Obama says, "Everyone plays by the same set of rules," it means they conform to his rules. What else could it mean?

Anyone who signs up for more of this deal by assuming that it will never force them to fall into line is getting what they deserve.

Yeah, but the rest of us don’t deserve it.