Ross Douthat once again takes pen in hand to explain why we will all be very, very sorry that we do not obey his Catholic rules.
When liberals are in a philosophical mood, they like to cast debates over the role of government not as a clash between the individual and the state, but as a conflict between the individual and the community. Liberals are for cooperation and joint effort; conservatives are for self-interest and selfishness.
You know who else was for cooperation and selflessness? Ross's good buddy Jesus!
Liberals build the Hoover Dam and the interstate highways; conservatives sit home and dog-ear copies of “The Fountainhead.”
"Dog-ear"? That's not what we think they are doing while reading Ayn Rand.
Liberals know that it takes a village; conservatives pretend that all it takes is John Wayne.
While they are enjoying the benefits given to them by a cooperative government.
In this worldview, the government is just the natural expression of our national community, and the place where we all join hands to pursue the common good. Or to borrow a line attributed to Representative Barney Frank, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”
Many conservatives would go this far with Frank: Government is one way we choose to work together, and there are certain things we need to do collectively that only government can do.
Douthat goes on to ignore the fact that the government can only or best do certain things because he wants to support religious organizations over secular organizations. We want secular organizations running our military, our public benefits, our schools and our economy. Conservatives want religious laws to run our organizations so those organizations will follow their religious laws, thereby reinforcing the "truth" and power of their religion.
But there are trade-offs as well, which liberal communitarians don’t always like to acknowledge. When government expands, it’s often at the expense of alternative expressions of community, alternative groups that seek to serve the common good. Unlike most communal organizations, the government has coercive power — the power to regulate, to mandate and to tax. These advantages make it all too easy for the state to gradually crowd out its rivals. The more things we “do together” as a government, in many cases, the fewer things we’re allowed to do together in other spheres.
Douthat also ignores the fact that nobody is stopping religious organizations from doing anything. They just won't give them "secular" money to do it. Not everyone is Catholic and wants to support the Catholic church.
Sometimes this crowding out happens gradually, subtly, indirectly. Every tax dollar the government takes is a dollar that can’t go to charities and churches.
Let's see, which would I rather support--missile defense or St. Rose of Lima? The highway system or Catholic Charities?
Every program the government runs, from education to health care to the welfare office, can easily become a kind of taxpayer-backed monopoly.
That's because we want them to be a "monopoly." We don't want education or social services or national defense to rely on the free market.
But sometimes the state goes further. Not content with crowding out alternative forms of common effort, it presents its rivals an impossible choice: Play by our rules, even if it means violating the moral ideals that inspired your efforts in the first place, or get out of the community-building business entirely.
Every threat must be backed by force or it is meaningless. The threat in this case is the withdrawal or expense of money. The churches can do whatever they want, they just can't do it with public money.
This is exactly the choice that the White House has decided to offer a host of religious institutions — hospitals, schools and charities — in the era of Obamacare. The new health care law requires that all employer-provided insurance plans cover contraception, sterilization and the morning-after (or week-after) pill known as ella, which can work as an abortifacient. A number of religious groups, led by the American Catholic bishops, had requested an exemption for plans purchased by their institutions. Instead, the White House has settled on an exemption that only covers religious institutions that primarily serve members of their own faith. A parish would be exempt from the mandate, in other words, but a Catholic hospital would not.
A religious organization can refuse to pay for reproductive health care if their members are of that religion, but not if they are of other religions or are secular. By law we cannot be forced to give money to a church. (In theory, at least.) Douthat doesn't like that law. He believes that God wants him to control all women's reproductive systems. The fact that all women do not want to hand over their free will to Ross Douthat is beside the point to him. He is Catholic so all women should live by his rules. His arrogance is unreal.
Ponder that for a moment. In effect, the Department of Health and Human Services is telling religious groups that if they don’t want to pay for practices they consider immoral, they should stick to serving their own co-religionists rather than the wider public. Sectarian self-segregation is O.K., but good Samaritanism is not. The rule suggests a preposterous scenario in which a Catholic hospital avoids paying for sterilizations and the morning-after pill by closing its doors to atheists and Muslims, and hanging out a sign saying “no Protestants need apply.”
Or they could simply refuse that tainted government money and tax exemptions and do whatever they want. Usually at this point I would say that it's all about money but Douthat is one of those rare birds whose personal issue supersede even their lust for power. Douthat thinks sex with women is icky. He is the Monk of the pundit set. The thought of gettin' it on with a pretty coed nearly made him sick to his stomach.
The regulations are a particularly cruel betrayal of Catholic Democrats, many of whom had defended the health care law as an admirable fulfillment of Catholicism’s emphasis on social justice. Now they find that their government’s communitarianism leaves no room for their church’s communitarianism, and threatens to regulate it out of existence.
Douthat is terribly concerned about taking the government Danegeld for welfare but suddenly expects his religious Danegeld to come without strings attached. Too bad.
Critics of the administration’s policy are framing this as a religious liberty issue, and rightly so. But what’s at stake here is bigger even than religious freedom.
The religious freedom to take government money without following the government's rules. Sorry, when someone gives you money they have the right to set conditions. If you don't like the conditions, don't take the money. Who needs that tax exemption anyway?
The Obama White House’s decision is a threat to any kind of voluntary community that doesn’t share the moral sensibilities of whichever party controls the health care bureaucracy.
So don't take the money and do what you want.
The Catholic Church’s position on contraception is not widely appreciated, to put it mildly, and many liberals are inclined to see the White House’s decision as a blow for the progressive cause.
The Catholic Church's position on contraception is not widely appreciated by Catholics either. Almost all women use birth control at some point in their lives, which means a lot of Catholic men benefit from the use of birth control as well. Douthat and all controlled birth advocates ignore this fact. And, as TBogg notes, Mr. Douthat has one child in his three years of marriage. His wife has a career and evidently does not intend to reproduce ever year or as often as God allows Douthat to plant His Holy Seed.
If Douthat wants to make our reproductive decisions for us then it only seems fair that we get to make his. Douthat thinks that having the power--and by that I mean money--of the Catholic Church behind him means that this is all one-way: He tells us if we are allowed to use contraception and we have to do what he says. I say that his wife must use contraception because the last thing any of us want is another generation of Douthats let loose in the world, telling us what we can or cannot do with our bodies. If she refuses then we should fine and imprison her, where she will be forced to take the Pill.
They should think again. Once claimed, such powers tend to be used in ways that nobody quite anticipated, and the logic behind these regulations could be applied in equally punitive ways by administrations with very different values from this one.
The more the federal government becomes an instrument of culture war, the greater the incentive for both conservatives and liberals to expand its powers and turn them to ideological ends. It is Catholics hospitals today; it will be someone else tomorrow.
Just as Megan McArdle is constantly warning us of Armageddon if banks bonuses are cut, Douthat tries to tell us that if the government requires faith-based health care providers to pay for basic services for non-Catholic women, fascism will crush us.
The White House attack on conscience is a vindication of health care reform’s critics, who saw exactly this kind of overreach coming. But it’s also an intimation of a darker American future, in which our voluntary communities wither away and government becomes the only word we have for the things we do together.
Which is why our Founding Fathers created a faith-based government--to ensure that our public institutions are based on religious values. Oh, wait--they created a secular government, so moral scolds like Douthat can't force everyone else to live by their unpopular and almost completely ignored religious rules. Why this bizarre need for moral purity? It's hard to tell, but maybe an article from Mother Jones can give us a clue.
Ross Douthat has the hair of an older man—thinning on top, a trim beard below—and the air of one. He's had only one girlfriend since college, and they are now married.
One?! Maybe TBogg's wrong. Maybe he's only had sex once. Twice, if Douthat took one for the team and had sex on his honeymoon.
And nowhere, at any time, do we have any indication whatsoever that Douthat takes into account what women want or need. They are always utterly absent from his little ruminations, without body or voice or will. It's all about Douthat and what he wants, and the end of civilisation as we know it if we do not do what he says.