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.

Since he appeared, no other word has been invoked more often to describe Barack Obama’s purposes than “transformative.” Last year, Mr. Obama began to be criticized by some of his supporters for being insufficiently transformative while holding the powers of the presidency—this despite passing the biggest social entitlement since 1965, an $800 billion stimulus bill, raising federal spending to 24% of GDP and passing the Dodd-Frank restructuring of the U.S. financial industry. Naturally an interviewer this week asked Mr. Obama why he hadn’t been more “transformative.” The president replied that he deserved a second term, because “we’re not done.” In term two, it will be Uncle Sam, Transformer.

For many years, Catholic Charities U.S.A. has taken federal money to enlarge its budget. The people who run the Catholic Church, though not everyone in the pews, thought this was a good bargain. Here is the head of Catholic Charities, in 1997, describing the relationship: “We have been partners with government to help government do what it wants to do and what we believe it should do.” …

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.