APRIL 9, 2016
Quo Vadis, Papa Francisco?
28-THE GERMAN CHURCH TAX AND ITS INFLUENCE ON THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SYNOD
When preparing my reports on the 2014 and 2015 Synods on the Family convened by Pope Francis, I was intrigued by certain comments left by readers at a couple of blogs. I reproduce them here:
Lehmann and all other German bishops are mostly worried about one thing: keeping the number of Germans who self-identify as Catholic as high as possible, so they can keep collecting that
Kirchensteuer. But Satan is so good at finding that weak spot and running with it.
A friend made the following comment about this whole subject:
In Germany, the Church receives its financial support from the government, through the so-called “Kirchensteuer,” or “Church tax.” The tax is levied on all individuals who identify themselves as Catholic on their income tax returns. If they do not so identify themselves, they cannot participate in any Church functions – they cannot be married in the Church, their children cannot be baptized, they cannot receive a Catholic funeral, and so forth.
Despite all that, the number of Germans who refuse to identify themselves as Catholic increases dramatically every year. The result is that the Church receives less and less financial support from the government, because the amount of support depends on the number of members the Church has.
Cardinal [Reinhard] Marx [the Archbishop of Munich] wants to end this loss of financial support by “including” in the Church as many people as possible who identify themselves as Catholic. In my opinion, he seems deeply concerned about the “M” word all right, but which “M” word is he concerned about: “mercy,” or “money”?
I had known about the Church tax or kirchensteuer that is imposed in Germany (as well as a few other Euro nations) but through those comments and the November 26, 2013 blog of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (CWN extract below) http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/11/will-german-bishops-defy-rome-ignore-teaching-on-indissolubility-of-marriage/, Will German bishops defy Rome, ignore teaching on indissolubility of marriage?, (all emphases his), I realized that the liberal (at least most of them are) German bishops exercised a powerful although subtle control over the Vatican and the Synod, and the Church tax business could explain many Synod moves.
A German bishop has said that the country’s episcopal conference will move forward with plans to allow Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, despite clear disapproval from the Vatican.
Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Stuttgart told a lay group, the Central Committee of German Catholics, that the German bishops have already drafted new guidelines for the reception of Communion by divorced/remarried Catholics, and hope to vote their approval to those new rules in March 2014. Bishop Fürst said that the German hierarchy is responding to demands from the faithful. “Expectations are great, and impatience and anger are greater still,” he said.
[I wonder if they think they will get a recognition from the Holy See. I doubt it. The wealthy German bishops (remember the Church Tax) might threaten to cut funds to the Holy See, but I think they still will not get the recognition.]
A church tax is a tax imposed on members of some religious congregations in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Sweden, some parts of Switzerland and several other countries.
About 70% of church revenues come from church tax. This is about €9.2 billion (in 2010).
Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution of 1919 and article 140 of the German Basic Law of 1949 are the legal basis for this practice.
In Germany, on the basis of tax regulations passed by the religious communities and within the limits set by state laws, communities may either require the taxation authorities of the state to collect the fees from the members on the basis of income tax assessment (then, the authorities withhold a collection fee), or choose to collect the church tax themselves.
In the first case, membership in the religious community is stored in a database at the Federal Tax Office which employers receive excerpts of for the purpose of withholding tax on paid income. If an employee’s data indicate membership in a tax-collecting religious community, the employer must withhold church tax prepayments from their income in addition to other tax prepayments. In connection with the final annual income tax assessment, the state revenue authorities also finally assess the church tax owed. In the case of self-employed persons or of unemployed taxpayers, state revenue authorities collect prepayments on the church tax together with prepayments on the income tax.
If, however, religious communities choose to collect church tax themselves, they may demand that the tax authorities reveal taxation data of their members to calculate the contributions and prepayments owed. In particular, some smaller communities (e.g. the Jewish Community of Berlin) choose to collect taxes themselves to save collection fees the government would charge otherwise.
Collection of church tax may be used to cover any church-related expenses such as funding institutions and foundations or paying ministers.
The church tax is only paid by members of the respective church. People who are not members of a church tax-collecting denomination do not have to pay it. Members of a religious community under public law may formally declare their wish to leave the community to state (not religious) authorities. With such a declaration, the obligation to pay church taxes ends. Some communities refuse to administer marriages and burials of (former) members who had declared to leave it.
The money flow of state and churches is distinct at all levels of the procedures. The church tax is not meant to be a way for the state to directly support churches, but since expenses for church tax are fully deductible (as are voluntary expenses for the Church, for charity or a bundle of other privileged aims) in fact such support occurs on a somewhat large scale. The effort of collecting itself, done by the State, is entirely paid for by the Churches with a part of the tax income.
The church tax is historically rooted in the pre-Christian Germanic custom where the chief of the tribe was directly responsible for the maintenance of priests and religious groups. During the Christianization of Western Europe, this custom was adopted by the Christian churches (Arian and Catholic) in the concept of “Eigenkirchen” (churches owned by the landlord) which stood in strong contrast to the central church organization of the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the resulting medieval conflict between emperor and pope, the concept of church maintenance by the ruler remained the accepted custom in most Western European countries. In Reformation times, the local princes in Germany became officially heads of the church in Protestant areas and were legally responsible for the maintenance of churchess. Not until the 19th century were the finances of churches and state regulated to a point where the churches became financially independent. At this point the church tax was introduced to replace the state benefits the churches had obtained previously.
The church tax was reaffirmed in Article 13 of the Reichskonkordat where it is understood that the right of the Church to levy taxes is guaranteed. The agreement between the Nazi regime and the Roman Catholic Church kept the existing Church Tax regime, in exchange for a reduced opposition to the Nazi regime or even a more active support, as some authors sustain.
Taxpayers, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant or members of other tax-collecting communities, pay an amount equal to between 8% (in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and 9% (in the rest of the country) of their income tax to the church or other community to which they belong.
For example, a single person earning 50,000 euros may pay an average income-tax of 20%, thus 10,000 euros. The church tax is then an additional 8% (or 9%) of that 10,000 euros (800 or 900 euros) for a total of 10,800 or 10,900 euros in taxes.
Now that we understand what this Church tax is, we will examine some illuminating reports from both conservative as well as Traditionalist sources (in chronological order). (For brevity sake, I have omitted a number of articles from the period January 2012 [“Since 2012, critics note, the German bishops have denied the sacraments to those who opt out of paying Germany’s ‘church tax'”] to September 2014):
Church of Germany, Church of Simony
October 30, 2014 Emphases in red colour are mine
All talk of “poverty” and “humility” from the highest echelons of the Church must be dismissed as the irrelevant talk it is until the greatest money-related scandal in the Church, the German Kirchensteuer (Church Tax) system remains in place. No item is more single-handedly responsible for instability in the Church today than the Simoniacal Church Tax, which both renders “excommunicates” those German Catholics who refuse to pay it and makes the German Hierarchy use their immense wealth and financial resources as a tool of subversion and blackmail of the whole Universal Church.
A system that has emptied the Church in Germany at the same time as its wealth becomes a tumor threatening the health of the whole Church.
When a Pope dismantles or at least decides on an overhaul of the Kirchensteuer system in Germany (and elsewhere where it works in the exact same simoniacal way), then all the talk of poverty will at last become believable.
[Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]
Protagonists of the recent Synod: the contrast between the principal exponents of the German Catholic Church, from Mueller to Kasper, Brandmuller to Marx, is measured also on their different visions of the crisis in the German Church and the possible solutions.
According to the latest data from the German Bishops’ Conference, in 2013 there were 24.2 million Catholics (1), a drop compared to the previous years (24.3 million), attesting to 29.9% of the population (they were 42.7% before the reunification of Germany in 1990), again distributed in greater percentages in southern Länder, like the Saarland, (Catholics 62%) and Bavaria (54%).
Moreover, significant among those who declare themselves Catholic, the percentage of the faithful that regularly attend at least Sunday Mass has been heading in the direction of single digit numbers for years now. So it is not by chance that compared to the previous year, parishes and other places of pastoral care have diminished by 137 units (11.085 in 2013, in a total population of more than 83 million Germans. In Italy there are 25.677 single parishes in a population of over 60 million inhabitants). (2) Baptisms of children born into families where there is at least one Catholic parent and marriages celebrated in the Catholic rite are increasingly fewer.
Also the diocesan priests and religious in 2013 registered a further drop compared to the already problematic 2012. Improving, but on the road to decline, is the data regarding the permanent diaconate, that even if there has been an increase in numbers on a national basis (+ 66 deacons compared to the previous year), for years it has been moving into progressive stagnation, especially among those that hold the office full-time (+ 15 deacons compared to 2012).
Within this rather discomforting picture, the economic indicators instead stand out. With 5.5 billion euros of net income in 2013, in continuous growth since 2005, the German Catholic Church is among the richest in the world (in second place is the German Evangelical Church, with 4.8 million in net income in 2013).
It’s worth remembering that on the basis of Kirchensteuer, the tax on religions presently in force in Germany, the State is not the direct main player in the financing of religious communities within its territories, but is the means between them and their respective believers for the collection of taxes between the members on the lists of the respective communities. Paying the Kirchensteuer, the faithful acquire the right to a series of “religious services”, some of which are otherwise known as Sacraments.
Cancellation from the list implies the exoneration of paying the tax for the citizen, but also the ceasing of the “religious services” (except in the case of impending risk of death) and the impossibility of covering specific roles, such as godfather or godmother or being employed in ecclesiastical offices. With such implications, that which may appear as simply an administrative act in the relations between the citizen, the State and the contributions system, to all intents and purposes, means a defection from the Church – with a tough stance taken by the German Episcopal Conference, in the view of “preserving the faith and the Catholic education of children.” (3)
The economic prosperity which stokes the Country and the great machine of the German Catholic Church is the same material prosperity that is emptying the churches, to the point that many of the great cathedrals in the Country are visited more by tourists than by believers.
Also sustained by the economic success that distinguishes vast areas in Germany from the greater parts of western European economies, is the ever-increasing fragile balance between the growth of wealth per capita of German citizens and the drop in the faithful (it is so far holding up). However it’s not hard to predict that if the hemorrhage of the faithful continues as it has in recent years, in the near future the German Catholic Church will also near the shadow of financial collapse.
It is absolutely necessary to take this factor into account when considering the confrontation shown recently at the Synod – if nothing else but for the false sense of urgency to change tendencies. At the Synod, the German Catholic Church proved itself to be among the most disposed to the requests of the modern world – a Church that the mass-media didn’t hesitate in defining as “open”; and yet a “sick” Church – according to a terminology dear to the present Pontiff – “closed” in a prosperous society increasingly tempted by the uselessness of the faith and eroded by some of those same forces that are pushing in the direction of change
It’s a sure bet that in the debate, which has been going on for some time in the German Church, as well as the Universal Church, the main protagonists of the Synod which has just finished are somewhat intent in not being in the roles of simple spectators. Neither on one side nor on the other.
1. For these and subsequent data: Katholische Kirche in Deutschland. Zahlen und Fakten. 2013/14, Secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bonn.
2. Archives of the Central Institute for the support of the clergy
3. Allgemeines Dekret der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Kirchenaustritt, II, 2.
For German Bishops, Sacramental Mercy Has a Price
Since 2012, critics note, the German bishops have denied the sacraments to those who opt out of paying Germany’s ‘church tax.’
Berlin, November 6, 2014 Emphases in red colour are mine
As Cardinal Walter Kasper prepares to receive an award and give a speech at The Catholic University of America later today, some are accusing him and his episcopal colleagues of Germany of hypocrisy.
The critics point out that while Cardinal Kasper and most of his fellow German bishops have been leading the charge to allow those in “irregular” marital situations — those who are divorced and remarried — to receive Communion, they have simultaneously denied the sacraments, including confession, to those who opt out of paying Germany’s “church tax.”
In both cases, the German position is at odds with Church teaching: admitting to Communion those formally not allowed and forbidding those whom the Vatican says can validly receive the sacraments.
The German definition of mercy, critics say, is a “pay-to-pray system” that has its “financial” limits.
The bishops in Germany “are notoriously the most merciful in wishing to grant Communion to the divorced and remarried, but at the same time are the most ruthless in de facto excommunicating those who refuse to pay the church tax, which in their country is obligatory by law,” Vatican analyst Sandro Magister wrote Oct. 29 in his Settimo Cielo blog for Italy’s L’Espresso newspaper.
The church tax earned the Church in Germany an income of more than $7 billion in both 2012 and 2013.
The critics charged that the German bishops are on one hand saying that mercy demands Communion be given to those living in what Christ called adultery, while simultaneously banning those who may be living according to Church teaching but for whatever reason choose not to pay their church tax from all the sacraments.
“In Germany, the church tax (kirchensteuer) is obligatory, such that to be able to not pay it one must declare his departure from the church to which he belongs, whether Catholic or Protestant, by a public act made before a competent civil authority,” Magister explained.
When Germans register as Catholic, Protestant or Jewish on their tax forms, the government automatically collects an income tax that amounts to 8% or 9% of their total income tax or 3% to 4% of their salary.
The church tax is given to the religious communities, rather than those communities collecting a tithe. The Church uses its funds to help run its parishes, schools, hospitals and welfare projects.
Many Germans have de-registered in recent years, so as to avoid paying the additional tax. Magister noted that the number of persons declaring their departure from the Church has been substantial — in 2010, the figure was more than 180,000.
The number of de-registrations has been heightened this year, as the church tax is now being withheld from capital gains as well as from salary.
Many of those who have de-registered from the Church on the German government’s forms continue to practice the faith and have de-registered to avoid the tax altogether or to support the Church with private tithes.
In response to the de-registering, the German bishops issued a decree in September 2012 calling such departures “a serious lapse” and listing a number of ways such individuals are barred from participating in the life of the Church.
The decree specified that those who do not pay the church tax cannot receive the sacraments of confession, Communion, confirmation or anointing of the sick, except when in danger of death; cannot hold ecclesial office or perform functions within the Church; cannot be a godparent or sponsor; cannot be a member of diocesan or parish councils; and cannot be members of public associations of the Church.
If those who de-registered show no sign of repentance before their death, they can even be refused a religious burial.
While these penalties have been described as “de facto excommunication,” the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts wrote in a March 13, 2006, document that opting out of taxes in a civil situation was not the same as renouncing the faith, and thus excommunication did not apply to such persons.
The German group Union of Associations Loyal to the Pope has said it is ironic that one could reject Church teaching on any number of issues, including the indissolubility of marriage, and still be considered Catholic — as long as one paid the church tax.
The group charged that the “selling of sacraments” through the tax system is even worse than the abuses protested by Martin Luther at the start of the Protestant Reformation.
6 of 16 comments
1. Is it time to knock over the money changers tables, or are these people denying Christ before civil authorities, so that he will deny them? Is it lawful to pay the temple tax?
Maybe the German Church needs instead to separate itself from the tangles of government and take only donations not money extorted under civil threat. But I am not a bishop so I defer to them
2. Hypocritical is an understatement – it’s nothing more than mandated ransoming of tithing, by Catholic bishops. If true, and this isn’t the first time something similar has been published, it removes any semblance of episcopal authority in the German Catholic Church. Hypocritical, indeed!
3. No wonder the German Cardinals are trying to appease the homosexual secular agenda, by forcing changes in the Catholic Church. I just came from Austria and they also impose a tax for Catholics there, otherwise they can not receive the sacraments. It is a scandal! The only decent thing the churches in Germany and Austria should do is to renounce to those taxes! It all makes sense now, why these Bishops want to secularize the church.
4. I will take the side of defending the German Catholic Church in this manner. When the German citizen writes on their tax registration that they are NOT Catholic, they swear, via written oath, that they are not lying. Similar to the the American version of swearing on a Bible to tell the truth, the Catholic person claiming to be NOT Catholic (to avoid the tax) essentially just made a public statement that they are not Catholic and do not consider Catholicism to be ‘their’ personal belief.
Compare this to the first Christians who were asked upon pain of death to renounce Christ and the Church or be eaten by lions or burned in the arena etc., the Church in Germany recognizes that the public deceleration of none belief MUST have consequences in the Church. It’s a shame that the Church outside of Germany wants to rephrase the question and blame the Church for forcing the public declaration instigated by the German government, not the Church.
5. Once again the Germans are leading the pack by monetizing salvation. On 31 October 1517, Luther wrote to his bishop, Albert of Mainz, protesting the German practice of selling of indulgences. Luther was incensed by the behavior of German religious like the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519], who was notorious for this.
German government-imposed tithing (Kirchensteuer) is just another way for the German government to control the Church. Fiat money is like heroin to an organization. Once you begin taking it, you are enslaved to it. The US has something called 501(c) (3) to control the Church there. As society moves away from the Church, the tension will gradually increase until the leaders of the Church will be forced to choose: the Church, or the world. The Catholic Hospitals and Universities have already gone through this, and each one failed the test miserably.
Cardinal Walter Kasper is apparently trying to conform the Church to German law (and being rewarded for it) so that the Kirchensteuer will keep flowing. I expect that a strictly traditionalist interpreter of Church doctrine would soon run afoul of German law and the official charter withdrawn. So we have government-enforced Church liberality by threat of withholding the Kirchensteuer, and Church-imposed enforcement of taxes by threat of withholding the sacraments.
It does seem as though wealth is poison to the faithful. I have never lived the life of a priest, but think I would prefer the quiet life of a poor priest to the rockstar busy life of rich priest.
6. Well, if I were a German I would really consider why I would want to contribute to any church that puts a gun to your head. I understand that in place of secular charity it is more normative to use the church in some countries which is excellent, but this whole “stand and deliver” scenario is nuts, a word with several meanings which Germans may recall from an incident some years ago. But in any event, requiring money or else is something I would not participate in, just like I am lucky I got confirmed before now days where you have to buy your way into that by doing the necessary “public service” malarkey. I am pretty sure I would have have NOT gone along with that little purchase requirement, and apparently I would not have graduated from high school either since may alma mater requires x numbers of “voluntary service” to get the diploma. I pick and choose who gets my money and I eliminated the local Ordinary a long time ago along with the alleged “Catholic Charites”. It’s bad enough they have the Hope “appeal” / parish tax. Kind of amazing the German Bishops are seemingly pretty good with some nice friendly fornication but if you don’t pay up then, well you are not one of us.
Why the German Church is rich and arrogant
December 11, 2014 Emphases in red colour are mine
On the face of it, German Catholicism is not in a very healthy state. A survey by the German bishops’ conference this summer found that weekly Mass attendance is now a mere 10.8 per cent, having halved from 22 per cent as recently as 1989. This is a lower participation rate than in England and Wales, and is not much higher than in anti-clerical France. The number of marriages celebrated in German Catholic churches, meanwhile, fell from 116,000 in 1990 to 44,000 in 2013.
Even these figures are flattered by immigration from more traditionally observant countries like Poland or Croatia. It is cold comfort for German Catholics that the Protestant churches are doing even worse. Yet the German Church remains a major player in international Catholicism, largely because Germany’s peculiar Kirchensteuer (church tax) system means it is very rich.
The amounts involved are staggering. In 2013, the Catholic Church in Germany received almost €5.5 billion (£4.6 billion) via the church tax. Many international Catholic charitable activities would simply be impossible without German money. So it is no surprise that Germany’s priorities carry a lot of weight with both Rome and the more cash-strapped European bishops’ conferences. Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the notorious “Bishop of Bling” sacked by Pope Francis for his lavish spending on vanity projects, is not typical of German bishops. But he is emblematic of the German Church’s wealth and arrogance.
The origins of the church tax date back to the 19th century, when many German states moved away from princes directly funding Catholic or Protestant churches in their fiefdoms. The tax was designed to distribute money between Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities based on the number of faithful. Under this system, tax authorities would collect a small percentage of your income and, in exchange for a commission, hand it over to the church of your choice.
In some ways, the church tax fits in well with German corporatist culture. There are other manifestations of this – for instance, when Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki was recently appointed Archbishop of Cologne, his appointment had to be approved by the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia before being sent to Rome for ratification. But the church tax, because it directly affects money, has been by far the most important example. Bismarck failed to break the Catholic Church, but state-administered funding has effectively domesticated it.
Critics of the church tax have long pointed out that it has a corrupting effect, and there are many practical examples to prove it. One glaring anomaly is that only around a third of German Catholics actually pay it. As it is applied as a supplement to income tax, those without taxable income – children, pensioners, housewives, the unemployed – fall outside the system.
But Mass attendance has fallen so low that the number of nominal Catholics paying the tax now far outstrips the number actively involved with the Church. That means there is little incentive for bishops to think urgently about declining participation.
There are yet more undesirable consequences. The German Church’s bureaucratic tendencies were strong anyway, thanks to its enormous dioceses – only 27 compared to 22 for the much smaller Catholic population of England and Wales – and to the German fondness for regulations. But the diocesan bureaucracies are dwarfed by the money and headcount in lay institutions.
With 560,000 staff, Caritas is the country’s second largest employer after Volkswagen. This was the context for the debate which took place between Cardinals Kasper and Ratzinger from 1999 to 2002 about the nature of authority in the Church – whether it flowed downwards from Rome or upwards from local and national churches. Benedict XVI’s scepticism about national bishops’ conferences was very much conditioned by his knowledge of the German Church bureaucracy.
Despite its declining numbers the German Church played a significant role at the recent family synod in Rome. This was largely thanks to Pope Francis’s mystifying decision to let Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s retired head of ecumenism, open proceedings back in February at the consistory of cardinals. It should have been obvious that Cardinal Kasper would use the opportunity to push for remarried Catholics to be readmitted to Communion, a subject he has been campaigning on for more than 20 years. Cardinal Kasper’s trademark garrulous style during the synod itself didn’t improve matters, and led him directly into an unedifying row with Cardinal Raymond Burke.
It would be easy to dismiss this as unimportant, especially since on this issue Cardinal Kasper is very much out of step with the Catholic hierarchy internationally. But the rumpus at the synod did expose the powerful German Church throwing its weight around in an unusually public way.
Pastoral care for remarried divorcees is, of course, a big problem in many countries, stemming from the growing divergence between secular society’s understanding of marriage and the Church’s teaching. But in Germany this has been fought over openly for many years. In July 1993, a joint pastoral letter on the subject was issued by three bishops from south-west Germany – the late Archbishop Oskar Saier of Freiburg and Bishops Karl Lehmann of Mainz and Walter Kasper of Rottenburg-Stuttgart. These were not marginal figures. Archbishop Saier was one of the most prominent figures in the German bishops’ conference for decades, and both Kasper and Lehmann received red hats in 2001. Cardinal Lehmann remained in Mainz as one of the German Church’s major power brokers, while Cardinal Kasper moved to the Roman Curia.
At the heart of the three bishops’ letter was a proposed process to allow civilly remarried divorcees who either could not (or would not) apply to a Church tribunal for an annulment to nonetheless receive Communion. Those affected would seek spiritual guidance from a priest, and if they decided in conscience that their previous marriage was invalid, the priest would be expected to respect their decision.
The German initiative did not win Rome’s approval, and in September 1994 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a response, signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and approved by John Paul II. The reply recognised that there was a genuine pastoral problem in ministering to Catholics in irregular marriages, but argued that there was no way round Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of a valid marriage. And, since marriage was not simply a private but also a public matter, the Church could not simply leave it up to the individual parishioner’s conscience. This hasn’t deterred Cardinal Kasper, who has continued to return to his pet cause on a regular basis.
The reality is that there is very limited scope for big pastoral initiatives in this area without fundamentally revising the Church’s understanding of marriage. Even in the United States, where more than 80 per cent of annulment requests are granted – compared with under 40 per cent in Italy, the country with the second highest number of annulments – Church authorities have to contend with the reality that the vast majority of divorced Catholics simply do not apply for annulments. Rome may yet decide to streamline the annulment process, but most likely the dominant approach on the ground will be that of turning a blind eye.
The real scandal, though, is what happens to parishioners who opt out of paying the church tax, which you can do only by signing a formal declaration that you have left the Church. The German hierarchy treat this as apostasy and take the view that those doing so have excommunicated themselves. A set of detailed guidelines published by the German bishops’ conference in September 2012 determined that those who make the declaration are ineligible to receive the sacraments. Not only are they barred from receiving Communion, but they may also only get married in church with the consent of the local ordinary, and may even be denied a Christian burial if they have failed to show signs of repentance before death. This does not sit well, to put it mildly, with the current push to loosen up the rules for remarried Catholics.
An uncharitable observer might conclude that money was more important than Church teaching.
All these problems with the church tax system are well known and have been controversial for years. But it seems that few people have an interest in changing things. Criticism within the German Church has mostly come from extreme liberals or extreme conservatives, with the hierarchy seemingly content with the status quo. Few German politicians have shown an interest in repealing the tax. And Rome has become used to Germany being its golden goose.
It would take an earthquake to shake the German Church out of its complacency.
This article first appeared in the Catholic Herald magazine (12/12/14)
4 of 4 comments
1. I am amazed that this mediaeval way of manipulating people still persists, it’s a kind of genteel extortion.
2. Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal: “The German hierarchy treat this as apostasy and take the view that those doing so have excommunicated themselves”. Which Christ is the one the German hierarchy worshiping?Pope Francis, Please hand over the German Church to the Vincentian Fathers of THE DIVINE and to the Fathers of SEHION Retreat centres of Kerala, INDIA for true EVANGELIZATION.
3. It is a form of the sin of simony. The faithful are not to be forced to pay for the services of the priests of God. The tithe God commanded is to be paid voluntarily.
4. Germany is also the golden goose for Third World countries. This has its advantages and disadvantages for them. In Laitn America if a Church needs to be built the first thing that occurs to them is to seek a grant from Adveniat. Likewise they provide money so that priest can have cars to get around their large rural parishes. However, this only accustoms them to keep their hands out and avoid organizing the financing of their Church themselves and promoting solidarity which is not common, so that there are priests in upper class areas ltho live well and others who don’t have any health coverage, salary or any pension plan. People here are not aware of their duty to support the Church. This was never the case in Ireland, where in the 19th century the Irish Catholics were taxed to support the Anglican Church. Even when we were poor the Church was well financed by voluntary donations. I don’t think German handouts are a good thing for many Third World Churches, especially in countries which are getting out of poverty.
Spain and Italy have a similar system, modelled on the German one, but the amount they get is much less and is used mostly to pay a salary and Social Security for priests. American dioceses are also quite bureaucratic. The Archdioceses of New York and Philadelphia have big skyscrapers for their diocesan offices or chanceries as they call them. Likewise the U.S Bishops Conference.
Cardinal Marx seems to realize that the Germans are not going to be able to railroad their plans on the rest of the Church, so he recently stated that the German Bishop’s Conference will decide what to do about the divorced and remarried. Fortunately, Ratzinger in the Document on Bishop’s Conferences which came out in the 1990s cut their wings a lot and limited their doctrinal authority, which they don’t really have. Pope Francis made some remards about giving them more power, which in my opinion is a mistake. He has also mentioned the”Sinodality” of the Orthodox Churches. I think we have little learn from them as they are forever bickering among themselves and barely have been able to approve the convocation of a Pan Orthodox Synod recently, the first in a very long time. .
What will Rome do when the Germans decide to go it on their own with the divorceed and remarried, as it seems is what Cardinal Marx has indicated they will do? Will they try to blackmail African and other Third World bishops in the next Synod?
In the Middle Ages, the increased wealth of the Cluny Benedictines was a cause of the founding of the Circesrsians and St. Bernard criticized there excesses in Church architecture. However, eventually the Cistersians also became wealthy due to inheritances. The only order which has never needed reform has been the Cartusians. Money seems to have corrupted all of the others at one time or another.
The subtitle of the above Catholic Herald report is:
Billions of euros pour into the German hierarchy’s coffers every year thanks to the church tax. Hardly anyone goes to Mass, but it means the bishops can bully Rome
Compulsory income tax on Christians drives Germans away from Protestant and Catholic churches
Up to 400,000 Germans officially filed declarations to leave the Protestant and Catholic Church after a decision to extend the 8 or 9 per cent charge to capital gains income
By Justin Huggler, Berlin, January 30, 2015
Hundreds of thousands of German Christians are formally renouncing their faith and leaving the church in order to escape a controversial change in the tax laws.
Up to 200,000 Germans are believed to have filed official declarations last year renouncing their membership of the Protestant church, the highest number in almost two decades. A similar number are thought to have left the Catholic Church.
Church members in Germany are required by law to pay tax to fund church activities, which is collected by the government.
Under German law, anyone who was baptised as a child is automatically a member of the church and obliged to pay the tax, charged as a percentage of their income, regardless of their beliefs or whether they attend church services.
Until recently, many Christians have been prepared to pay the extra tax for the benefits it brings them, including access to church schools and day care facilities that are funded by the state.
But the only way out of paying the tax is to make a formal declaration renouncing your membership of the church – and there is a government fee for this as well.
A decision to extend the 8 or 9 per cent charge to capital gains income, or the profit earned from selling an asset, appears to have sparked the sharp decline in church membership.
The new tax regulation was “just the straw that broke the camel’s back for people who were already thinking of leaving”, Ruth Levin, spokesman for the Protestant church in Disnlaken, told Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
The church tax has legally been payable on capital gains for some years, but the German government recently closed a loophole that enabled many church members to avoid paying it because they did not have to declare their capital gains income.
While in the past those leaving the church have often been young adults renouncing their parents’ beliefs, over the past year many are reported to have been pensioners fearing a raid on their savings income.
The decision to leave the church is more than just a formality. Although those who decide to leave cannot be excommunicated or prevented from taking part in church services, they can legally be denied certain rites, from a religious burial to access to the best state-funded schools.
Catholics who renounce their church membership are barred from confession and communion, and from the anointing of the sick, unless they are on the point of death.
The changes include German banks now having to withhold the tax on capital gains of account-holders who are church members.
Around 200,000 German Protestants renounced their church membership last year, up from 138,100 in 2012, according to provisional figures from an evangelical news agency survey published by Welt newspaper. In Bavaria, the rate of desertion rose by 62 per cent.
Figures for numbers leaving the Catholic Church in 2014 are not yet available, but 178,000 Catholics renounced their membership in 2013, up from 118,000 in 2012.
Around 30.8 per cent of Germans, or 24.7 million people, are Catholics, according to the 2011 census, while 30.3 per cent, or 24.3 million people, are Protestants.
The next Synod on the Family is being prepared discreetly…
Documentation Information Catholiques Internationales (DICI), January 30, 2015 Emphases in red colour are mine
After the very lively reactions provoked by the first meeting of the Synod on the Family (October 5-19, 2014) (see DICI no. 303 dated October 24, 2014), preparations for the next assembly of the bishops (October 4-25, 2015) are being made discreetly, as though calm had returned after the storm and everything was normal again. Should we rejoice blissfully or worry seriously about it? In an interview granted to Le Figaro Magazine (December 18, 2014), Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, one of the chief opponents of the scandalous proposals of Cardinal Walter Kasper concerning communion for the divorced-and-remarried (see DICI no. 301 dated September 26, 2014), admitted: “I am very concerned, and I call on Catholics—laymen, priests and bishops—to get involved between now and the next Synod assembly, in order to bring to light the truth about marriage.”
A very slanted working document
On December 9 the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops published the lineamenta (the working document) for the Synod assembly in October 2015. Besides the final report from the October 2014 Synod, the secretariat proposes 46 questions addressing the challenges of pastoral ministry to families, so as to “draw near to families in extreme situations”. The bishops’ conferences are supposed to fill out the questionnaire “while avoiding, in their responses, a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine” (sic). Taking up again the topics that shook the assembly of bishops, the Roman document asks, as though about a trivial matter, how the Christian community “can assist in discerning the positive and negative elements in the life of persons united in a civil marriage”; it even asks, with regard to divorced Catholics, “How can the procedure to determine cases of nullity be made more accessible, streamlined and possibly without expense?”
The Roman questionnaire even assures the reader that “with regard to the divorced-and-remarried, pastoral practice concerning the sacraments needs to be further studied,” and it asks what advances are possible in light of the “second chance” (sic) proposed in certain cases in the Orthodox Church. This document likewise poses the question of pastoral care to homosexuals: “While avoiding any unjust discrimination, how can such persons receive pastoral care in these situations in light of the Gospel?” The answers to this questionnaire are supposed to arrive in Rome by April 15, 2015.
The uneasiness expressed by Cardinal Burke during the above-cited interview is understandable, therefore: “In an age filled with confusion, as we see with Gender Theory, we need the teaching of the Church on marriage. Yet, we are being pushed on the contrary towards admitting divorced-and-remarried persons to communion. Not to mention this obsession with streamlining the procedures of annulment of the marital bond. All this will lead de facto to a kind of ‘Catholic divorce’, and to the weakening of the indissolubility of marriage, even though the principle thereof is reaffirmed. However, the Church must defend marriage, and not weaken it. The indissolubility of marriage is not a penance, nor a suffering. It is something very beautiful for those who live it; it is a source of joy.”
Pope Francis intervened twice, along the lines of the lineamenta and of the accompanying questionnaire, on January 23 while addressing the members of the Apostolic Tribunal, and on January 24 during the conference organized by Gregorian University on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the InstructionDignitas Connubii (The Dignity of Marriage). To the first group he declared that the Church cannot ignore the suffering of many households that are disintegrating, leaving behind the debris of their emotional relationships, plans and shared expectations. The judge is called to determine whether there was a defect of form in the matrimonial consent, and so he must take into account the context in which that consent was formed. Thus the pope is saying that he wishes to see a pastoral conversion of ecclesiastical structures so as to come to the aid of those who turn to the Church to shed light on their marital situation.
During the conference at the Gregorian, Francis called for a streamlining of procedures, insisting that the appeals process should be simplified so as not to subject couples to painful, exhausting delays. And in order to avoid complicated, useless formalities, he does not rule out the possibility that new norms may be issued in the future. In his two recent interventions everything suggests that the experts are gradually moving toward an alignment (modestly presented as a “harmonization”) of the prescription of canon law with the concrete situations of contemporary society.
The forceful critique by Cardinal Velasio de Paolis
The reason for this alignment, theoretically, would be “pastoral mercy” as opposed to doctrinal intransigence and legal rigidity. But that is an artificial contrast, as Cardinal Valsio de Paolis, President Emeritus of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, explained during a conference given at the Canon Law Faculty of the University of San Damaso in Madrid (Spain) on November 26, 2014, during which he magisterially critiqued Proposition 52 of the final report of the October 2014 Synod. Here is an important excerpt from it: “The issue of access to the sacraments, especially to the Eucharist, on the part of the divorced-and-remarried was the object of reflection at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops last October. This is referred to in proposition no. 52 of the final Relatio, which says: ‘The Synod Fathers also considered the possibility of giving the divorced-and-remarried access to the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Various Synod Fathers insisted on maintaining the present discipline, because of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the Church as well as her teaching on the indissoluble character of marriage. Others proposed a more individualized approach, permitting access in certain situations and with certain well-defined conditions, primarily in irreversible situations and those involving moral obligations towards children who would have to endure unjust suffering.
Access to the sacraments might take place if preceded by a penitential practice, determined by the diocesan bishop. The subject needs to be thoroughly examined, bearing in mind the distinction between an objective sinful situation and extenuating circumstances, given that “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735).'”
And the high-ranking prelate asks: Is the question about communion for the divorced-and-remarriage a question of discipline, of doctrine or of Magisterial teaching?
“We observe that the wording of the text of the proposition generates ambiguities. It speaks of the ‘current discipline’ and a possible modification of this, but this prompts a few doubts that require examination. In reality, the regulation in effect is not only a ‘current discipline’, as if this were a matter of a merely ecclesiastical norm and not of divine norms ratified by the Magisterium, with doctrinal and magisterial motivations that concern the very foundations of Christian life, of conjugal morality, of the meaning of and respect for the Eucharist, and of the validity of the Sacrament of Penance. We are looking at a discipline founded on divine law. It is not emphasized enough that the documents of the Church in this matter do not impose obligations originating from its authority, but rather affirm that the ecclesiastical authority cannot act otherwise, because this ‘discipline’ cannot be modified in its essential elements. The Church cannot act otherwise. It cannot modify the natural law or respect for the nature of the Eucharist, because this is a question of the divine will.
“To the extent to which it provides for the possibility of admitting the divorced-and-remarried to Eucharistic communion, the proposal actually constitutes a change of doctrine. Notwithstanding the fact that its proponents say that they do not want to modify doctrine. Moreover, doctrine by its very nature is not changeable if it is the object of the authentic Magisterium of the Church. Before talking about and discussing any change in the discipline currently in force, it is necessary to reflect on the nature of this discipline. In studying this question one must, in the first place, reflect on this doctrine and on its level of certainty; there must be careful study of what can be modified and what cannot be. The doubt has been insinuated in the proposal itself when it calls for more in-depth study, which must be doctrinal and prior to any decision.
“We can also ask ourselves whether it is the competency of a Synod of Bishops to deal with a question like this: the value of the doctrine and of the discipline currently in force in the Church, which have developed over the course of centuries and have been ratified by statements of the supreme Magisterium of the Church. Moreover, who is competent to modify the Magisterium of other popes? That would constitute a dangerous precedent. Furthermore, the innovations that would be introduced if the text of the proposal were approved would be of unprecedented gravity:
“a) the possibility of admitting to Eucharistic communion, with the explicit approval of the Church, a person who is in a state of mortal sin, with the danger of sacrilege and profanation of the Eucharist;
“b) in doing so the Church would call into question the general principle of the need to be in the state of sanctifying grace in order to be able to receive Eucharistic communion, especially now that a generalized practice has been introduced or is being introduced in the Church of receiving the Eucharist without previous sacramental confession, even if one is aware of being in a state of serious sin, with all of the harmful consequences that this practice involves;
“c) the admission to Eucharistic communion of a Catholic who cohabits more uxorio (as though married) would also mean calling into question sexual morality, which is founded in particular on the sixth commandment;
“d) moreover, in acting this way, the Church would also lend support to cohabitation or to other arrangements, which in fact would weaken the principle of the indissolubility of marriage.”
The very concrete motives of the German episcopate
Another enlightening commentary, less doctrinal and much more concrete, is provided by the American scholar George
Weigel in an article that appeared in the January issue of First Thingsmagazine. If you know that Cardinal Walter Kasper is supported by the German bishops as a whole, by the very admission of Cardinal
Reinhard Marx, President of their Bishops’ Conference, you may wonder what drives those bishops—and them especially—to their militant advocacy of communion for the divorced-and-remarried. Here is the answer that Weigel got: “Ten months before the Synod met, I asked a knowledgeable observer of German Catholic affairs why the German Catholic leadership insisted on revisiting the issue of Holy Communion for those in civil second marriages, which most of the rest of the world Church thought had been sufficiently aired in the 1980 Synod on the Family, and which seemed to have been settled by the reaffirmation of the Church’s traditional teaching and practice in St. John Paul II’s 1981 Apostolic ExhortationFamiliaris Consortio (The Community of the Family) and in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. I got a one-word answer: ‘Money.’
“The German Church is funded by the Kirchensteuer, the ‘church tax’ collected by the Federal Republic from every citizen who has not taken action to opt out of it. The funds involved are considerable; in 2011, theKirchensteuer provided the Catholic Church in Germany with $6.3 billion. Recently, however, more and more German Catholics have been choosing to opt out. In a clumsy attempt to stanch the bleeding, the German bishops issued a decree in 2012, stating that anyone who opts out of the tax has ‘left the Church’ and that such de facto apostates are cut off from the Church’s sacramental life, except in danger of death. The decree was widely mocked and German canonists declared it a nonstarter, for it takes more to ‘leave the Church’ than signing a civil affidavit. In any event, payment of the Kirchensteuer has continued to drop.
“Many German bishops seem to have concluded that this pattern of defection from payment of the Church tax can best be explained by the perception of the Catholic Church as a mean, narrow, and cruel exponent of propositions—such as the indissolubility of marriage—that no self-respecting twenty-first-century European can accept.
That people have stopped paying the Kirchensteuer because they have stopped believing that Jesus is Lord and that the Catholic Church is his Body might seem the more straightforward explanation. But adopting that interpretation would require acknowledging that the meltdown of Catholic faith and practice in Germany has had something to do with the colossal failures of German theology and catechetics to transmit the Gospel effectively under the challenging conditions of late modernity and postmodernity. And that, to borrow an image from another battle, seems a bridge too far.”
(Editor’s note: The author alludes to the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far which tells the story of Operation Market Garden in September 1944, in which, after a crushing defeat, English General Browning admits: “We tried to go a bridge too far.”)
(Sources: Apic/Imedia/Figaro Magazine/Chiesa.espressonline.it/First Things – DICI no. 309 dated January 30, 2015)
Money at the root of the Synod?
By Fr. Alain Lorans, Documentation Information Catholiques Internationales (DICI), January 30, 2015 Emphases in red colour are mine
Why is Cardinal Walter Kasper, who wants to change Church doctrine about the indissolubility of marriage by giving Communion to the divorced-and-remarried, supported by the German episcopate in its entirety? Whence this rock-solid Germanic unanimity? George Weigel reports in the current issue of the American monthly magazine First Things the answer given to him by someone who knows the Church in Germany very well, and the answer can be summed up in one word: money.
Indeed, the German dioceses are very rich thanks to the church tax paid by the Catholic faithful; but they are leaving the
Church in droves and no longer provide that manna.
Hence the very simple calculation by the bishops: let us avoid the flight of the faithful (and of the funding), let us make doctrine more flexible and broaden our pastoral outreach.
Could it be, then, that these arguments in favor of mercy, as opposed to doctrinal rigidity, are in reality nice-sounding arrangements aimed at the bottom line? If so, the bishops would be abandoning a not very interesting doctrine for the sake of a not at all disinterested pastoral approach! In order to dispel the suspicion that weighs heavily on them, it would be enough for the German bishops to declare unanimously: “We prefer the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage to church tax revenues. We serve Jesus Christ, not Mammon.” It would suffice… but would it be sufficient for them? For the answer, stay tuned for the next Synod in October.
As church-goers wane, Germany’s controversial tax prompts unease
By Jan Bentz, Rome, CNA/EWTN News
February 12, 2015
While church attendees dwindle in Germany, questions have arisen once again over the controversial state-imposed church tax – and whether it’s time for the country’s bishops to address concerns around it.
“We are in a time when more and more people realize that the financial apparatus Church works well, that the facade is optimal but what is behind it? Where is the true faith?” asked Martin Lohmann, Catholic publicist, author and spokesperson of the advocacy group Christian Action in Germany.
“While we have a decreasing of Church membership,” he told CNA on Feb. 9, “on the other side we have a raising of Church tax.”
When Germans register as Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish on their tax forms, the government automatically collects an income tax from them which amounts to 8 or 9 percent of their total income tax, or 3-4 percent of their salary.
The “church tax” is given to the religious communities, rather than those communities collecting a tithe. The Church uses its funds to help run its parishes, schools, hospitals, and welfare projects.
“But when we pose the question today in 2015, then we have to ask ourselves if the tax is still just and fair: is it just, since only Church members pay the tax? The question is pressing,” Lohmann said.
Many Germans have de-registered in recent years, so as to avoid paying the additional tax. The number of persons declaring their departure from the Church has been substantial – in 2010, the figure was more than 180,000.
The number of de-registrations has been heightened this year, as the church tax is now being withheld from capital gains, as well as from salary.
Many of those who have de-registered from the Church on the German government’s forms continue to practice the faith, and have de-registered to avoid the tax altogether, or to support the Church with private tithes.
In response, the German bishops – who each earn an average salary of 7,000 Euro per month (some up to 14,000 Euro along with free housing and cars, according to Lohmann) – issued a decree in September 2012 calling such departure “a serious lapse” and listing a number of ways they are barred from participating in the life of the Church.
The decree specified that those who do not pay the church tax cannot receive the sacraments of Confession, Communion, Confirmation, or Anointing of the Sick, except when in danger of death; cannot hold ecclesial office or perform functions within the Church; cannot be a godparent or sponsor; cannot be a member of diocesan or parish councils; and cannot be members of public associations of the Church.
If those who de-registered show no sign of repentance before their death, they can even be refused a religious burial.
And while these penalties have been described as “de facto excommunication,” the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, wrote in a March 13, 2006 document that opting out of taxes in a civil situation was not the same as renouncing the faith, and thus excommunication did not apply to such persons.
“I know enough people who cannot understand how a distancing oneself from the tax is necessarily connected with an exclusion from salvation,” Lohmann said.
What’s more, he said, “only 10 percent of the Catholics and even less Protestants go to Church on Sunday. In the view of the administration they are all considered ‘good faithful’ nevertheless, since they pay diligently.”
Lohmann added that the bishop’s conference treats non-tax payers as dissidents and that former pope Benedict XVI’s effort to resolve this remained thwarted.
“From Rome there was an attempt to solve this structural schizophrenia between finances and exclusion from the sacraments under Benedict XVI but it was in vain.”
In the interview-book “Salt of the Earth,” published 1994, then-Cardinal Ratzinger already mentioned criticism of the system as it was.
Lohmann himself contributed to a book about Church tax in 1993 and tried to impartially comment on it in the face of what he perceived as anti-Catholic opposition. “I contributed to the book back then because enemies of the Church had attacked her with this argument, there was no guarantee that fairness ruled the discussion.”
But now he believes that the tax issue has lead to an underlying problem with understanding what the Church is and what it means to be a member of it.
“Is it necessary that a general vicariate in Germany is blessed with million – and billion – Euro sized budgets? Is this automatism useful for the spearing spreading of the faith?”
“The Second Vatican Council taught an Ecclesiology that was not dependent on finances. I think that the implausibly high income of the Church has shifted how she sees herself.”
Lohmann also thinks that the financial interconnectedness of Church and state has stifled the voice of the country’s bishops on social and moral issues.
“Because of the decades-long connection of Church and State taxation system, financial offices etc. there is dependence,” he said. “The last years and decades there is a fear from the side of the bishops to proclaim the truth in social-political topics since they want to avoid a hostile reaction from the parties.”
Lohmann added that the Church loses financially if it upholds less popular teachings on divorce and contraception. Preaching about that means losing “paying customers” – he said – and “softening” these teachings means more money for the Church.
As long as this is the case, the Church, in Lohmann’s view, “will remain limited and not-free, darkened, and in a state without courage to proclaim the truth.”
However, Lohmann doesn’t think the tax should be “abolished wholesale” – the Church “needs money for her projects and for her evangelization, that should be a given.”
But, he says money should not rule of the contents of faith, social doctrine or mercy. “Mercy can never be a question of money. It is not the question of the budget of a diocese but of the heart!”
“Faith is more than money; faith needs money, but faith is more than money. That the materially richest Church on earth is spiritually the poorest one is very telling,” he said. “The Church tax is a topic that the Church would be well off to discuss instead of trying to discard it.”
4 of 7 commentsWhat a dumb system, some must pay the tax while others are exempt, just for declining to identify as adhering to a particular religion. Why not just have everyone pay regardless of their beliefs, and let the government spend part of its budget supporting churches if they deem that a good idea. If the people don’t like it, they can vote for another government. Also, it sound like those bishops are way too well compensated, which will certainly skew their thinking.
What a dumb system, some must pay the tax while others are exempt, just for declining to identify as adhering to a particular religion. Why not just have everyone pay regardless of their beliefs, and let the government spend part of its budget supporting churches if they deem that a good idea. If the people don’t like it, they can vote for another government. Also, it sound like those bishops are way too well compensated, which will certainly skew their thinking.
1. What a dumb system, some must pay the tax while others are exempt, just for declining to identify as adhering to a particular religion. Why not just have everyone pay regardless of their beliefs, and let the government spend part of its budget supporting churches if they deem that a good idea. If the people don’t like it, they can vote for another government. Also, it sound like those bishops are way too well compensated, which will certainly skew their thinking.
2. If this is true that the Bishops are telling Catholics that they cannot receive the Sacraments if they do not pay the tax then the Bishops are evil…this is not the teaching of the Church and they have no authority to impose such a mandate. Why isn’t Pope Francis speaking out against this? Why isn’t Cardinal Kasper speaking out against this?
3. “Why isn’t Cardinal Kasper speaking out against this?”
Seriously? He’s one of the biggest benefactors – living high on the hog
4. Very Evil. It’s just destructive & damaging to those Christians in poverty, trying to have more children or having to pay for private health care…. VERY SAD.
The German bishops have voted to allow those in gay civil unions or in adulterous second marriages to remain Church employees
By Christine Niles, Munich, May 7, 2015 Emphases in red colour are mine
The German bishops have voted to allow those in gay civil unions or in adulterous second marriages to remain Church employees. All 27 dioceses in Germany participated in the vote, with more than two thirds voting in favor of relaxing the rule. The vote took place in spite of the fact that the Church has protection under the law if it wishes to fire an employee leading a life not in conformity with Catholic teaching.
Last year, a Catholic hospital in Germany fired a doctor after he contracted a second civil marriage. The doctor sued for wrongful termination, but last fall the German court ruled in favor of the hospital’s right to terminate the employee. The Catholic hospital had argued that all its employees should be expected to lead lives consistent with Catholic teaching, and those who failed in this regard should not remain employees.
In spite of this legal protection, the German bishops are moving in a more progressive direction based on what they deem “the multiple changes in legal practice, legislation and society.”
After the revised labor rule was announced Tuesday, the head of the Central Committee of German Catholics applauded the decision. “The new rule opens the way for decisions that do justice to the situations people live in,” said Alois Gluick, head of the committee.
Clarifying when an employee could be fired from a Catholic institution, the German bishops cited instances of racism, advocacy of abortion, or officially leaving the Church, which would count as “a grave breach of loyalty.”
The German Church makes billions each year off the Church tax, which takes eight percent of one’s annual income. One must be listed officially with the government as Catholic in order for the Church to claim a right to this tax. The German bishops are keen on keeping this money; last year they threatened that Catholics who officially leave the Church — and thus stop paying the Church tax — would be denied the sacraments. And just last month, it was reported that the German Church is suing a soccer player for nearly 2 million euros in three years’ worth of back taxes.
2 of 19 comments
1. These are heretics and apostates sorry excuses for clergy let alone alleged bishops. Francis should expel German heretics Marx and Woilke & Kasper like he did the apostate ex priest in Australia and ten homosexual prelates in Spain recently.
2. Not surprsing after the German Cardinal said that his Archdiocese is not a “subsidiary of Rome” and we are wondering what action Vatican will do. We are looking very closely at the October Synod.
Number of Germans leaving Catholic Church rises by 22%
Record numbers renouncing their Christianity attributed to changes in the tax system
July 23, 2015 Emphases in red colour are mine
More than 200,000 Germans formally left the Catholic Church last year. It represents a 22 per cent increase from 2013, when 178,805 left, to 217,716 in 2014. Last January it was reported that up to 200,000 German Protestants had also filed official declarations in 2014 renouncing membership of their churches.
Germans who belong to a designated church pay between 8 per cent and 9 per cent of income tax towards its support. They can opt out by notifying tax authorities that they no longer wish to do so. A decision to extend the income tax charge to include capital gains income seems to have sparked this current sharp decline in German church membership.
Just a third of German Catholics pay the church tax, which brought in €6.5 billion in 2013, making the German Catholic Church the second wealthiest in the world after that in the United States.
About 30.8 per cent of Germans, 24.7 million people, are Catholic, while 30.4 per cent are Protestants, 24.3 million people.
Under German law, a person automatically becomes a member of the church where he/she is baptised and and is obliged to pay the tax regardless of belief or whether they attend church.
Formally leaving means people can legally be denied certain rites, from religious burial to access to the best state-funded schools, while former Catholics can be barred from confession, communion, and from the anointing of the sick unless on the point of death.
The Decline of the Catholic Church in Germany and the reasons for it
The controversy surrounding the gender flyer of the German Bishops Conference is symptomatic of the situation of the Catholic Church in Germany
By Dr. Michael Schneider-Flagmeyer, October 30, 2015 Emphases in red colour are mine
We are experiencing in our days a frightening decline of the Catholic Church in Germany. So many people have left the German Particular Church that it urgently needs to stop and reflect; an evaluation of the situation by the bishops is indispensable. The frightening thing about the whole development is that now the older generation is leaving in great numbers—the very Catholics who supposedly still benefited from catechetical religious instruction according to the doctrine of the Church. Besides the massive exodus of lay people, an especially alarming sign is the fact that many priests are abandoning their ministry, fleeing to foreign countries or retreating into niche positions, because they want to get away from the stress of the unholy diocesan bureaucracy with its oddly non-ecclesiastical business. In this regard the oldest German Diocese, Trier, stands out especially; it seems not to care at all about its priests, and consequently much too little about its congregations.
What are the reasons for this?
A flyer has just been published by the German Bishops Conference, that is, by its Secretariat with the “professionals” enlisted by it, entitled “Sensitive to the Sexes: A Catholic Interpretation of Gender”. And in it views are championed that contradict all the statements by the Pope, the cardinals, the recently concluded Roman Synod and in particular a declaration of the German-speaking group of Synod Fathers.
The controversy surrounding this flyer is symptomatic of the situation of the German Particular Church, as it has developed in recent decades, as we intend to show in the following remarks.
A lot has been written about the flyer itself. The retired Curial official Paul Cardinal Cordes protested in horror against this shoddy effort. The best qualified critique of the flyer was composed by the Ordinary of Regensburg and former full professor of dogmatic theology at the University of Trier, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer, so that we do not wish to discuss the flyer in any detail here. [A link to Bishop Voderholzer’s article is given in the original German opinion piece.]
His response contains references and links to other statements as well. Among the official statements of the Magisterium about gender ideology, we should mention especially the opinion of Pope Francis as the Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church. He has made remarks about “gender mainstreaming” on various occasions. Probably his most severe comment was that this ideology is demonic. That matters to the makers of the flyer about as much as water rolling off a duck’s back, although these scribblers constantly pick and choose from among the Pope’s statements what they can use for their ideological battle on behalf of the spirit of the age. The Synod on the Family in Rome unambiguously spoke out against gender ideology. Indeed, the Austrian Catholic news website Kath.net reported that even the German-speaking Synod Fathers, a group including the President of the German Bishops Conference, Reinhard Cardinal Marx, declared in a special intervention during the Synod on October 21: “All theories that view the sex of a human being as a subsequent construct and try to make socially acceptable the idea that it can be changed arbitrarily, are to be rejected as ideologies.”
Even this very clear statement seems to fall on deaf ears in the Secretariat of the German Bishops Conference. Now one might object that the flyer had been prepared before this joint declaration in which the President of the German Bishops Conference and Archbishop Koch, who heads the Committee on the Family, participated. But then the flyer should have been withdrawn from circulation and pulped over the next few days. We do not think that that will happen, because here again the biggest problem of the Catholic Church in Germany becomes visible, a problem that exists nowhere else in the Universal Church: namely the power of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy (chancery staffs) that has expanded beyond all bounds in recent decades, and of the committees which, because of the deliberate omission of catechesis for decades, now scarcely have any knowledge of the faith, as the director of the chancery staff of one of the largest German dioceses assured me. He said that they ought to fire 70% of the staff there, because they no longer have anything to do with Christianity. The great Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in 1960, at the death of Cardinal Wendel, had 45 employees and three nuns as their chancery staff. Today there are approximately 1,000 (one thousand, sic!). And of course they have to keep busy. That is possible only in our local Church, which is super-fueled by our church taxes. Nowhere else in the Universal Church is there anything like it.
By now these bureaucracies and committees have so much power that they hold most bishops in the palm of their hand. But only the bishops can change this. And we have seen, in the fates of Bishops Mixa and Tebartz van-Elst [whose resignations were extorted based on trumped-up charges of non-sexual child abuse and financial mismanagement, respectively –Translator’s Note], how dangerous it is for bishops to rebel against this power; the latter prelate works today at the Vatican in an important position for the Universal Church.
In Germany a parallel church has been formed out of this ecclesiastical bureaucracy, along with the committees, the institutions and the extensive cliques of theologians ensconced at the state universities, and here in our country it wields the “power” to a great extent. This is especially true too of the Secretariat of the German Bishops Conference, which is responsible for the flyer, and especially for the KNA (Katholische Nachrichtenagentur, German-language “Catholic News Agency”), and also of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) and the official Catholic press and internet presence. One Vatican prelate told me three years ago that the supersized Secretariat of the [German] Bishops Conference piles so much documentation on the bishops that they alone would be overburdened by it; well somehow these people have to keep busy. Is all this now too bleak a view of the situation?
One of the most famous Vaticanists, the utterly liberal John L. Allen, in his exhaustive 500-page book, The FutureChurch: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, thoroughly and conclusively depicted for our particular Church and others of the Northern Hemisphere the decline that we are experiencing, and he named and described the “parallel church” that we mentioned. He foretold the decline of what we have designated here as the “parallel church”.
Through our prayers and support of the bishops, let us help to make the parallel church disappear as fast as possible, so that the Church in our country will really listen now for a change to the whole message of this Pope Francis, at least, and energetically accomplish the detachment from worldly things [Entweltlichung] that he calls for almost every day with practical examples.
May we be assisted in these efforts, under the leadership of the Mother of God, by the Patron Saint of Germans, the prince of the heavenly hosts Saint Michael, by Saint Boniface and by all our great saints through the power of their intercession.
(Translated by Michael J. Miller. Source: October 29, 2015, Bonn, kath.net/Forum Deutscher Katholiken)
6 of 20 comments
1. This is an extremely important piece.
No doubt, the German case is worst. But lay clericalism is a cursed miasma that has been fouling the free popular Catholic air everywhere in the Church for 50 years. The German bishops may have their tax, but everywhere there must be endless fund-raising to support this parasitical lay clerical establishment.
And now, in order to sate the lay clerical establishment’s limitless appetite, it seems there must be the sale of dispensations (in the German case, in order to prop up “Catholic” tax declarations; in others, in order to keep tax-exempt donations flowing).
John Tetzel and Albert of Brandenburg, back in the 16th century, would have been astounded at the brazenness of today’s lay clerical bureaucrats. After all, Tetzel and Brandenburg only proposed to sell indulgences — relief in the life of the world to come in return for temporal good works in monetary form.
As Belloc, I think, would agree: the key ingredient of revolt against the Church is lay greed for benefices and spoils. Never has it been more rampant than it is today.
“Reform” the Curia and clergy all you want, but the Church will not be healthy until the cancer of lay clericalism is removed surgically.
2. An extremely sobering piece by Dr. Schneider-Flagmeyer. Thanks to CWR and Michael Miller for translating and making it available.
Ironically, it is increasingly clear that there may be no one single step that could help in the restoration of the Church in Germany more than the termination of the Kirchensteuer. It is wealth that has become an albatross. On current trends, in any case, it is hard to see how it will last another decade.
3. Excellent analysis. The Catholic Church in Germany has bishops and priest living as parasites and deriving incomes from taxes. The Lord alone knows how to bring a solution. “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves” (Mt 21:12). Our prayers and penances will hopefully encourage the Lord to “overturn the tables” in Germany.
4. And let’s not forget that it is precisely into THESE kinds of hands that Pope Francis envisions delivering even more power to say what is practice and to designate policy. It’s as if Gen. Eisenhower had handed over direction of Operation Overlord to the Abwehr
5. Them Germans. First they produce the likes of Martin Luther in the 16th Century and now they gave us Kasper and Marx. All the Johann Van Ecks, Dietrich Von Hildebrands. Gerhard Mullers, Joseph Ratzingers and other faithful German Catholic thinkers could not make up for the damage these men have done to Christendom.
6. That the gender flyer of the German bishops’ conference contradicts all the statements of the Pope is nothing to wonder about. They have been liberals for more than a generation and John Paul II and Benedict XVI didn’t care about it at all. In reality the Germans just go a little bit further than the present Pope in their heretical pastoral practice. As is well known, the Pope wants to admit all the civilly divorced and remarried to Communion. This has been his position from the beginning of his pontificate and he has confirmed it recently, in his latest Scalfari interview. This means that the Pope wants to give the Holy Eucharist to people who are manifestly in a state of mortal sin. The German bishops just draw the consequence that mortal sin is no obstacle for communion. Sexual sin as a category is already practically abrogated by the Vatican. So what does it matter that the German bishops admit homosexuals and transgenders? My prediction: The Pope and the Vatican will do nothing against the German episcopate.
How the ‘church tax’ corrupts German Catholicism
By Phil Lawler, Founder Catholic World News, November 20, 2015 Emphases in red colour are mine
“There is always a danger of corruption within the Church,” Pope Francis said in a November 20 address to visiting bishops from Germany. “This happens when the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power.”
Money and power. It isn’t a coincidence that Pope Francis spoke on these issues in an address to bishops from Germany. Nowhere else in the world does the Catholic Church have so much money, so much power, and—is this surprising?—such a precarious future.
Pope Francis has spoken frequently about how he longs for “a Church that is poor, and for the poor.” He will not find that Church in Germany, where the Church is fabulously rich, thanks to the “church tax” that funnels millions of dollars into diocesan coffers.
The Pope’s talk on November 20 was to a group of German bishops making their ad limina visits: the trips to Rome that all bishops make every five years, to report to the Pontiff and consult with Vatican officials. As other groups of German bishops take their turns, the Holy Father will have opportunities to revisit these same sensitive topics: money, power, and corruption.
Consider first the money that flows into the Catholic Church—not because the faithful toss money in collection plates at Mass, but because they are required by law to pay a percentage of their income to the Church. German law stipulates that if someone is registered as a member of a religious congregation, he must pay the “church tax”—which is collected by the government. Thus the wealth of the Catholic Church in Germany comes directly from the government, and only indirectly from the faithful. Right away the potential for corruption—for bending Church policies to ensure smooth dealings with the government—should be obvious.
Notice, too, that when I say that the funds come indirectly from the “faithful,” I am using that term loosely. A German citizen is obligated to pay the ‘church tax’ whether or not he is actively involved in his religious community. Anyone who is registered as a Catholic, whether or not he ever shows up in a parish church, is obligated to pay.
This curious policy has two results. First, the Catholic Church has enormous financial power. Second, the Catholic hierarchy has a clear and compelling incentive to maximize the number of people who are registered as Catholics—whether or not they practice their faith.
The financial wealth of the Church in Germany is staggering. The ‘church tax’ has brought in more than €5 billion ($5.3 billion) in each of the last three years, with actual revenue trending upward. That enormous income allows the German hierarchy to sponsor a wide range of medical, educational, and social programs. In fact the Catholic Church is the country’s 2nd-largest employer, behind only the government!
Last year the world heard a great deal about the “Bishop of Bling”: Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst, who resigned his post as head of the Limburg diocese after being criticized for spending $43 million to remodel his residence and diocesan headquarters. But the truth is that his pattern of spending is not radically different from that of other German prelates. Just for example, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, the president of the German bishops’ conference and a member of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals, has spent a whopping $186 million on his own new archdiocesan headquarters.
A German cardinal can command a salary of about $16,000 a month—roughly three times what his American counterpart would receive. That figure does not include his residence, automobile, food, health care, and travel expenses, all of which are covered.
In short a German prelate receives the sort of compensation one might expect for a senior corporate executive—which, in a real sense, he is. But there is a crucial difference: the prelate is paid by the state.
The state pays, however, only because citizens register as Catholics. If the number of registered Catholics drops, so too does the compensation for bishops, and the government support for Church-sponsored programs. Thus the bishops look askance at Catholics who do not register their church affiliation. As a matter of fact, the German hierarchy has taken steps to deny the sacraments to unregistered Catholics.
That rigid attitude toward registration—which contrasts so vividly with the German bishops’ public pleas for a “welcoming” Church—has developed in response to a mass exodus from the pews and, more directly, from the tax lists. For several years, Catholics have been removing their names from the parish lists at an alarming rate. With the “church tax” creeping upward, inactive Catholics have realized that they can save money by formally removing themselves from the list of registered Catholics. Each year since 2012, over 100,000 German Catholics have taken that step; this year the number will approach 200,000.
Church income keeps rising; Catholic registration keeps falling. The same contradictory pattern is visible in the activities of the German Church. In the 1960s, about 50% of the country’s registered Catholics were at Mass on any given Sunday; today that figure is 10%. Yet while Mass attendance was plummeting, the number of lay people employed by Catholic Church was soaring: from about 100,000 in the 1960s to over 700,000 today.
The net result is that the German hierarchy is struggling to maintain a booming business—an empire of social services—while its base of faithful followers erodes.
Is it any wonder, then, that the German hierarchy has taken the lead in calling for a relaxation of Church discipline? The German bishops have argued that the Church should show a merciful attitude toward homosexual Catholics, divorced Catholics, feminist Catholics. Are these calls motivated by an honest desire to draw everyone closer to God, or by a financial incentive to keep people on the parish rolls? Under the current circumstances, with the ‘church tax’ dominating the scene, it is impossible to distinguish between the merciful and the mercenary.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologica (II-II, 87) that “the ministers of the Church rightly refrain from demanding the Church’s tithes, when they could not demand them without scandal.”
The best, simplest, step toward reform for the Church in Germany would be to renounce participation in the ‘church tax’ system.
4 of 7 comments
1. I don’t think there is any doubt that this financial arrangement is a sacred cow for the German Church.
2. Certainly explains why German bishops are so attuned to the demands of secular culture and so indifferent to the demands of the Gospel.
3. This whole “church tax” system is a carry-over from the previous monarchies. The same is done in Austria. And the way the people get around this system is by officially leaving the Church and then still “go to church” on Sundays, not belonging to a particular parish. Other simply leave the Church with a bad taste in the mouth. I talked to some parishioners and priests in Austria, but not much desire to change things. The tax office does make generous allowances which shouldn’t be in their power. I think the “Konkordat” is arranged between the individual states (Germany, Austria, – and others?) and Rome, as I understand. So, if that is correct, the Pope may have the power to stop this system. But that would take courage, because I think Rome gets also a slice from the “tax”.
4. I am an American Catholic living in Germany, and I have to say that Phil Lawler has provided a comprehensive and outstanding description of what really amounts to a scandalous situation – $5.3 BILLION OF GERMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH INCOME IN EACH OF THE LAST THREE YEARS?? THE GERMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE 2ND LARGEST EMPLOYER AFTER THE GOVERNMENT?? No wonder the Kasperites have such influence at the Vatican. After all, money talks, and the German bishops don’t speak German. They speak MONEY.
10 things you should know about the German church tax
A church tax (in German: Kirchensteuer) is a tax imposed on members of some religious congregations in Germany.
The system has been in place since the 19th century.
The church tax is historically rooted in the pre-Christian Germanic custom where the chief of the tribe was directly responsible for the maintenance of priests and religious cults. During the Christianization of Western Europe, this custom was adopted by the Christian churches (Arian and Catholic) in the concept of Eigenkirchen (churches owned by the landlord) which stood in strong contrast to the central church organization of the Roman Catholic Church.
Despite the resulting medieval conflict between emperor and pope, the concept of church maintenance by the ruler remained the accepted custom in most Western European countries. In Reformation times, the local princes in Germany became officially heads of the church in Protestant areas and were legally responsible for the maintenance of churches. Not until the 19th century were the finances of churches and state regulated to a point where the churches became financially independent. At this point the church tax was introduced to replace the state benefits the churches had obtained previously.
All Germans who are officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax on their annual income tax bill. The levy is collected by German tax offices and channeled to those faiths.
Those who do not want to pay the religious tax can leave the church by making an official declaration that he or she is leaving the faith.
More than 181,000 German Catholics left the Church in 2010 and a further 126,000 the following year, reducing the total number to 24.47 million in a total population of 82 million. The declining congregations have alarmed German bishops since the tax brings in billions for the Roman Catholic Church each year.
Income from church taxes in Germany amounted to about $6.3 billion (€4.8 billion) for the Roman Catholic Church in 2011, and $5.5 billion (€4.2 billion) for the Protestant, mostly Lutheran, churches in 2010. The money goes to support religious hospitals, schools, day care and myriad other social services, but a sizable amount of the Catholic money is also channeled to the Vatican.
The German church tax — which is 8 to 9 percent of the annual income tax — is so steep, however, that many people formally quit the church to avoid paying, while nevertheless remaining active in their faith. That is what is angering Catholic Church officials.
Catholics, Protestants or Jews who opt out of the tax will no longer be allowed to receive sacraments, except the last rites before death. They will also not be allowed, for example, to participate in confessions, confirmation, work in the church / house of worship and its schools or hospitals, become a godparent, or take part in parish activities.
When you apply for a German Tax ID (former Tax Card), you need to fill in an application form. On that form, you need to specify if you belong to one of the taxable faiths (see image below). If you choose not to tick the box, but you have been baptized, you may have to pay the tax one day regardless. The Finanzamt simply assumes faith for certain nationalities and begins charging (see the 2nd image below: if you receive that kind of letter, that means that they already assumed that you are Catholic). If you do not want to pay, you need to abandon the German church, even if you never joined in the first place.
In order you leave the church, you will need to declare your wish to leave officially. The process to do so differs between every German state. This website (German only) holds information about where to go and what to do for every German state. Do not worry, you will not be excommunicated if you decide to take this step. It is only a matter of tax, not faith, after all.
A reader’s comment
In number 6 it says:
“The money goes to support religious hospitals, schools, day care and myriad other social services, but a sizable amount of the Catholic money is also channeled to the Vatican.”
That is not true. Hospitals run by the church are funded by the state to 100%, the church contributes nothing. Day care facilities are funded by the church to around 3-7%.
All in all, only a few percent of the church’s money go to charitable objectives.
To anyone who is interested and understands German, I recommend Carsten Frerk’s book “Violettbuch Kirchenfinanzen” and also his other books.
One of the shockers of living in Germany, for ex-pats who come from other democracies founded in the Enlightenment tradition, is a lack of separation between Church and State. There are plenty of problems with church/state issues and religious freedom here: not just that State holidays are Christian Church holidays, that there are bans on broadcasting the Call to Prayer, or that German law won’t allow for a traditional Islamic burial (you must be buried in a coffin, not a shroud, and so Muslims send their cadavers abroad). I am talking about something very basic in the way the State operates in favour of Christian religion in Germany: and that’s the money it collects for those religious institutions.
Kirchensteuer or ‘Church Tax’, established under the Weimar constitution (and reiterated under the Grundgesetz of 1949), takes approximately 8-9% of one’s income tax. The German State in this way facilitates the financing of religious institutions and collected almost 10 billion dollars in tax for them last year. Almost the entirety of this amount is split evenly between two Christian faiths: The Protestant Church (Evangelische Kirche) or the Catholic Church. A number of smaller Churches (Old Catholics, Unitarians, some Jewish communities) benefit from relatively minor contributions.
Since the State charges a fee to collect these funds, some communities exempt themselves from being ‘Statutory Corporations’ (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts… such as the Jewish Community of Berlin). Other groups are not allowed to collectKirchensteuer because their activities are not considered centralised enough: the Muslim community with almost 5 million members is the largest minority community denied this form of official fundraising by the State. The exclusion of Muslims from Church funding is considered by many critics as one of the greatest indications from the State that it considers itself a primarily Christian country where Islam as foreign.
Christmas Joy vs. the Kirchensteuer
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