My friend Jazz Shaw has an, er, interesting take on my post regarding FOCA and Catholic hospitals.  He finds the final option of closure by Catholic bishops opposed to government coercion of abortions so distasteful that he wonders aloud whether the Catholic Church can be allowed to close its hospitals, or whether farmers can choose not to farm:

One of the fundamental dangers – widely and correctly considered to be a threat to our national security – of allowing foreign, potentially hostile nations to control our supply of oil, is the concern that they could cut it off at any time for any reason to our detriment. They might do it for religious or political reasons, or perhaps as part of a larger war effort. This is why it’s important to boost our own supplies. If we are to take the Catholic Church at their word, then FOCA and the larger abortion question have nothing to do with this question. The true issue is that they are apparently willing to cut off all emergency, required medical support to their individual communities because they do not agree with restrictions and legislation passed by the lawfully elected government of the United States.

First, Catholic hospitals are not owned by “foreign, potentially hostile nations.”  They’re usually owned by the diocese, and sometimes by Catholic orders which exist independent of the diocese relationship.  They receive their funds from parishioners in that diocese as well as through such fees as can be collected from patients and their insurers.  Unlike OPEC, they don’t operate a monopoly.  Anyone can open a hospital in the US, as long as they don’t mind losing money as Catholic hospitals do, thanks to their charitable work in low-income communities. That’s a strange analogy to use.

We’re not talking about a car dealership closing down here. Were that the case, drivers could travel to purchase cars from more distant towns until the demands of the open market drove the opening of a new dealership.

Well, that’s actually what we are talking about.  If a Catholic hospital closes, people will have to go to another health-care facility.  Again, Catholics do not have a monopoly on health-care facilities, nor have they ever argued for having one. They do offer health care as a voluntary service to poorer communities as part of their social-justice mission.  The other options may be farther away or not as accommodating, but that’s just the way it is.

Suddenly cutting off local health care is on par with suddenly putting an embargo on a nation’s oil supply.

Again, Catholics do not run the entire health-care system.  It’s nothing of the sort.

If the representatives of the Catholic Church who control the flow of vital health care services are willing to even suggest that they would remove all health care because of rules and laws regarding abortion and family planning, they are, in effect, threatening an even worse embargo and demonstrating that they really don’t care about the welfare of the citizens in their communities.

I’d argue that they’re setting their priorities in keeping with the tenets of their faith, and again, the argument that closing the 4,000 Catholic facilities around the nation would end all health care in America is just silly.  They are a small but important part of the health care system, but they are not a national HMO, which gets us to the crux of Jazz’s argument.

What if the nation’s farmers banded together and declared that all food production would suddenly cease unless the government abandoned NAFTA? Can we legally force them to produce food even if people are starving the next week?

Er, no.  You can’t force farmers to produce food if they don’t want to do so, and I’d think this was rather obvious.  It’s their land, and they can choose not to grow crops if they want.  It may not be their land for long if they don’t get revenue from it, but the government cannot march onto the farm and force them to work the land, even if they default on the mortgages.  That’s slavery, and though Jazz jokes about writing this for Pravda, it’s exactly what the Soviets did for decades and what the Germans did in 1933 with their Hereditary Farm Law (William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, pp 257-8).

Catholic churches own these hospitals, and they can choose at any time to close their businesses, just as anyone else can close their business when it no longer makes a profit or when other costs become too high.  Just as with the farmers, all the government can do is negotiate with them to find ways to keep them in business, but government has no right to force a private business to remain open — or to offer services to which the proprietor objects.  If government action threatens to force Catholics to choose between their faith and their hospitals, then government needs to determine whether they’d rather the hospitals stay open or force a showdown.

Don’t worry; Jazz does better on Card Check.

Tags: religion