German Catholics lose church rights for unpaid tax

 
Catholic church in Emsdetten, Germany The number of Catholics leaving the Church has sharply increased

Germany's Roman Catholics are to be denied the right to Holy Communion or religious burial if they stop paying a special church tax.

A German bishops' decree which has just come into force says anyone failing to pay the tax - an extra 8% of their income tax bill - will no longer be considered a Catholic.

The bishops have been alarmed by the number of Catholics leaving the Church.

They say such a step should be seen as a serious act against the community.

All Germans who are officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax of 8-9% on their annual income tax bill. The levy was introduced in the 19th Century in compensation for the nationalisation of religious property.

"If your tax bill is for 10,000 euros, then 800 euros will go on top of that and your total tax combined will be 10,800 euros," Munich tax accountant Thomas Zitzelsberger told the BBC news website.

Catholics make up around 30% of Germany's population but the number of congregants leaving the church swelled to 181,000 in 2010, with the increase blamed on revelations of sexual abuse by German priests.

Alarmed by their declining congregations, the bishops were also pushed into action by a case involving a retired professor of church law, Hartmut Zapp, who announced in 2007 that he would no longer pay the tax but intended to remain within the Catholic faith.

Tax on Germany's Christians

  • 25 million Catholics
  • Tax worth 5bn euros (2010)
  • 24 million Protestants
  • Tax worth 4.3bn euros
  • German population 82 million

The Freiburg University academic said he wanted to continue praying and receiving Holy Communion and a lengthy legal case between Prof Zapp and the church will reach the Leipzig Federal Administrative Court on Wednesday.

"This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church," Germany's bishops' conference said last week, in a decision endorsed by the Vatican.

'Wrong signal'

Unless they pay the religious tax, Catholics will no longer be allowed receive sacraments, except before death, or work in the church and its schools or hospitals.

Without a "sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused," the decree states. Opting out of the tax would also bar people from acting as godparents to Catholic children.

"This decree at this moment of time is really the wrong signal by the German bishops who know that the Catholic church is in a deep crisis," Christian Weisner from the grassroots Catholic campaign group We are Church told the BBC.

But a priest from Mannheim in south-western Germany, Father Lukas Glocker, said the tax was used to do essential good works.

"With kindergarten, with homes for elderly or unemployed, we've got really good things so I know we need the tax to help the German country to do good things."

While the decree severely limits active participation in the German Catholic Church, it does hold out some hope for anyone considering a return to the fold.

Until now, any German Catholic who stopped payment faced eventual excommunication. Although the measures laid out in the decree are similar to excommunication from the church, German observers say the word is carefully avoided in the decree.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 489.

    Welcome to European-style Socialism...It is no business of the government to know your religious beliefs, and taxing to pay for it means that the state can wipe out religion just by increasing the rates. The foolish German bishops are crazy not to think that taxes will empty out their churches. I was taught by priests and nuns in 50s that nobody can deny you the sacraments over secular issues.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 488.

    Golgotha / It is my belief that they ARE aiding abortions in the 1st place by refusing to modernise sex education and preaching that NFP is effective when often it is not, resulting in unwanted pregnancies. The bible does not state anywhere that contraception is wrong, does it? they need to compensate the kids their priests abused so why not the girls their sex education teachers lied to?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 487.

    "money is the route of all evil", funny enough my first bank business manager told me that as well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 486.

    151. Stephanie

    "We should have this in the United States..."
    Hell no! Support your religious group of choice all you want, but keep MY government out of it, thank you very much.

    "I'm not religious..."
    Yeah, right. Go bang your bible somewhere else buddy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 485.

    483.susie

    So you don't respect their belief, no matter how distatstful it is to you, that abortion under any circumstance is wrong and no member should have one or aid in one in any way.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 484.

    Lying cheating politicians.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 483.

    480.susie

    "I grew up with religion and respect all beliefs but dont tolerate hypocrites..."

    Whilst at the same time thinking that Catholics should fund abortion.

    I dont really like abortion, and so I think its time the Catholic church should have to take responsibility and pay for the damage it causes by providing dark aged information to girls living in modern times....abortion included

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 482.

    Gee father, I have sinned. How much will the redemption be? Do you have change?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 481.

    480.susie

    "I grew up with religion and respect all beliefs but dont tolerate hypocrites..."

    Whilst at the same time thinking that Catholics should fund abortion.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 480.

    I grew up with religion and respect all beliefs but dont tolerate hypocrites and the biggest hypocrites I know are religious people! Like my Catholic friends who pay church tax then think its ok to dodge Corporation tax because they paid God & have no morals mid week because they can go to confession on Sunday!same with some Muslim friends who drink and then judge others for various immoral sins!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 479.

    Great Idea
    How much is a ticket to heaven now adays ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 478.

    I was amazed to find out from my German boss when I worked near Munich that he had to pay a Church Tax, that to me ranked of mixing religion with politics,and was unacceptable in a free democratic secular society. I asked if he could opt out, he said that would be unacceptable to his family and relatives.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 477.

    This is the same technique that caused the Reformation, paying for salvation

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 476.

    This is an excellent idea. Put pressure on an increasingly secular population to either pay a large chunk of their income to the church during a global recession or be deprived of its services.

    I can't see how this could possibly turn out badly for the church.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 475.

    This seems at odds with the fundamental teachings of the Catholic faith. However, as the good Lord himself said, "Pay what is Caesar's to Caesar". I always took this to mean that Christ was not interested in petty human money transactions as there were other more important issues. No one on this planet should have to declare their beliefs to the state.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 474.

    Sideways thinking. i love how you poop religious people, by stating smart people say :D

    Science answers in favour of the highest bidder, and the belief that there was nothing, then something smaller than an atom SUDDENLY appeared from nowhere and exploded all the universes matter into existence, is no better than the belief in an all powerful god you have never seen. Atheism, an idiots religion.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 473.

    What happened to the 'collection plate'?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 472.

    It might be time for another Martin Luther to step in,

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 471.

    This seems like yet another compelling reason for separation between church and state. Why should religions be able to receive tithes through the tax system? Tithes should be voluntary, not mandatory.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 470.

    A tax on religion... I am amazed! Amazed that our government didnt think of it years ago.... my god/taxman... reminds me of the song..."selling Jesus". I thought paying for salvation was for the shows you see on American TV.. I know that you used to pay to get out of purgatory (or spend less time there) but this...Poor old Germany! the ruins of a once noble house!!

 

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