The Golden Rule

My title is not referencing the Biblical version--treat others as you would be treated. Rather, it's the more cynical version--who's got the gold, makes the rules--and the group trying to enforce that version is the Catholic Church. Fresh off their victory in the battle over women's reproductive systems, the Catholic Church in Washington DC is now getting their gay hate on again, threatening to stop contracting with the city over administrating some of their charitable works. Professor Patrick J. Deneen of Georgetown University was asked if the city should just call the Church's bluff and find other non-profits to provide the same services. Deneen responded this way:

There may be other providers, but in many instances the grants from the District are only partial grants - the Church "leverages" those grants (including some $10 million in additional funds, much provided by donations by parishioners). There is also a network of volunteers who have longstanding commitments to the relief of the sufferings of the poor and needy. The idea that these funds - but more, these services and the religious commitment and motivation that underlies them - can be easily replaced is at best an optimistic view, at worst a dangerous wager.
In other words, nice charitable system you got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

And this proves two points to my mind. The first is that, contrary to what libertarians say, you can't count on private charity to step in where government will not, unless you're willing to play by the charity's rules--and in many cases, the rules of churches which run those charities. We've seen this in numerous instances overseas--churches going in to disaster areas and offering relief to people who convert and neglecting the rest. Never saw how that was a sound strategy for long term conversion, but whatever.

The second is that there is no upside to government partnering with churches to provide any sort of social services, because you can't count on them to be an honest partner. The Catholic Church here, whether it knows it or not, is making a far better case for a strict separation of church and state than any secular body ever could. And they're doing it using old-fashioned extortion. Jesus would be proud, I think.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Are there similar arrangements in states where same-sex marriage is legal? Does Massachusetts have the same religious exemption DC does, or is it stronger, more akin to what New Hampshire has? And will the dioceses in those states support their DC counterparts? I think we could see some major backlash between this and the abortion move in the House of Representatives.

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