Link between German Church Tax and Germans pushing for changes?

At CNA we see a connection.

Could it be that the Germans are leading in the charge in watering down the Church’s discipline and teaching about reception of Communion, because of big losses in revenue through the Church Tax, Die Kirchensteuer?

As church-goers wane, Germany’s controversial tax prompts unease

Rome, Italy, Feb 12, 2015 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- 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 zealous 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)[About $8K-$14K] – 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. [Does that sound like Francis’ “mercy”?]

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.”


You MUST read the rest there.


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  1. iteadthomam says:

    This is definitely about money rather than mercy. If this was really about mercy then the kasper crowd would be promoting confession as the solution to this problem. Promoting communion for obstinate adulterers is not merciful because it helps the individual damn their souls further and is also formal cooperation in evil.

  2. ClavesCoelorum says:

    As a German myself, I have the following to say. I don’t get why people are so upset about the Church tax. It is collected for historical reasons (the secularisation of Church properties in the 19th century), which – at least in my mind – are just and valid even today. After all, the Church suffers a continual loss of income from these estates and properties, which the Church tax was meant to make up for.

    As for “opting out of the tax” and the Pontifical Council, I am not quite sure that applies here. In order to evade the tax, you have to sign a form with the authorities, declaring you wish to leave the Catholic Church, which is basically apostasy. You don’t sign a form that says “I merely don’t want to pay the tax”. There have been German court rulings on this matter in support of the Church tax.

    I signed such a form when I left the Lutherans in order to become Catholic a few years back, and I had to declare I wished to leave the “evangelisch-lutherische Kirche”.

    Furthermore, only about a third of Catholics actually have to pay the Church tax here, and those who do can’t honestly tell me their budget hinges on that little amount of tax.

    One correction: The article says that the tax will now also be levied on capital gains. That is false. It always applied to those too, what has changed is only the method of collection.

  3. anilwang says:

    Hmmm. I seem to remember a certain German Augustinian monk railed against the selling of Indulgences and a subsequent Council agreed with him that selling an early release from purgatory was bad (although he was wrong on other things).

    If selling indulgences was a sin, the buying and selling of the sacraments is more so. It’s simony pure and simple, and there are more than a few Councils that tried to purge the Church of this sin.

    Why is this coming back yet again and why have so many Popes allowed it to persist and grow? Why does this “Church of the Rich” have so much power over the many “Churches of the Poor”, especially under this pontificate?

  4. JackintheVox says:

    The necessary thing is to get these articles in Italian or Spanish so the Pope can read them..

  5. govmatt says:

    On the one hand, while the “tax” idea is iffy to begin with, support of the church through designated assignment of funds does benefit a lot of good work.

    On the other hand, the lust for money makes evident (even, ostensibly out of a desire to good) its corrupting influence. How very interesting it is that, in an attempt to keep money, the truth takes a back seat. Honestly, is there a better lesson to demonstrate exactly what Pope Francis (and the Gospels) teach about money and its corrupting power?

  6. Amy Giglio says:

    Follow the money…

    I also read, in Regina Magazine’s facebook feed, I think, about certain German bishops denying Christian burial to those who didn’t pay the tax. Because mercy.

  7. sw85 says:

    anilwang, it seems to me the issue is not “selling the Sacraments” but the proper way to deal with apostasy. And that’s what the Germans who are escaping the Church tax are doing: publicly declaring that they are no longer Catholic in order not to pay. If one’s love for money is greater than one’s love for the Church, well, one has bad priorities, to say the least.

    So I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the tax evaders. Neither do I have much sympathy for the German bishops. Evidently mercy is only for their paymasters!

  8. Dave N. says:

    And then, the heretofore orthodox Ghanian Archbishop Palmer-Buckle (a diocese founded by German SMA missionaries) comes out quite publicly in favor of the “German Plan.” I guess another coincidence.

    Radix malorum.

  9. Siculum says:

    I would be the holiest guy you ever knew if you gave me between $8,000 and $14,000 USD per month plus the housing and car allowances. Actually, I probably wouldn’t, and apparently neither are these mitre-wearing Magisterial mafiosi.

  10. MariaKap says:

    A poor church for the poor? Not in Germany.

  11. jacobi says:

    It could well be that money is the motivation of the German bishops,.

    But the problem goes much further than that In spite of the absurd Vatican figure of 1.2 Bn of Catholics now, the reality is that the ongoing church finances depend on the people at Mass putting their £2 or whatever, in the plate.

    As the impact of falling Mass attendance works through this is going to have grave financial consequences for the whole Church, including the Vatican.

    The recent letter in my diocese covering church closures actually mentioned money, I suspect unintentionally, as well as declining numbers of priests of course, as a reason.

    Mass attendance, 10% in Germany, about 20% in my little part of the world, will continue to fall because Catholics, at 1.8 are not reproducing, Catholic marriages and therefore even the under producing 1.8 are falling, and in any case well, no one needs to go to Mass these days do they. I mean when did you ever recently hear a priest saying or even hinting at Mass obligation?

    So all the £2.00 contributions will keep on falling and sooner or later the Vatican, not just the German bishops or my local bishop, will notice.

    ps one good consequence perhaps is that our bishops might not be able to jet around the world so much.. Perhaps the pope should mention this in his coming encyclical?

    Something to do with the law of unintended consequences. Keep quiet about Humanae Vitae , but see what happens?

  12. MGL says:

    I have no doubt that the Kirchensteuer forms part of the motivation behind the Kasperites, but then how do we explain the support (implicit or explicit) of non-Germans such as Baldisseri, Forte, Cupich, Dew, and Maradiaga, among many other bishops and cardinals? Heck, I have a strong hunch that my own bishop here in Canada will eventually come out in favor of the Kasper proposals, though I’d love to be proven wrong.

    None of these men will receive a material benefit for their support of the Kasperites, so there’s got to be more to it than the Church Tax, appalling as it is.

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    “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;”

    So, poor people need not apply? This violates Canon 912 and 915, no? There is no manifest sin in being poor and there is no manifest sin, either, in disagreeing with an, essentially, civil tax, even if the tax is to benefit the churches (look up the origins of this tax). I don’t think the German Bishops have a case. This is not apostasy, but a political decision that just happens to impact the Churches. They have to delist from the Churches to avoid the taxes. This does not mean they don’t want to attend Church, just that they don’t want to pay the (in my opinion, immoral) tax. This may be enough for Double Effect to kick in. I think the German bishops have no case and need to be yelled at for taking advantage of both people and the law to fill their coffers.

    The Chicken

  14. anilwang says:

    sw85 says: “If one’s love for money is greater than one’s love for the Church, well, one has bad priorities, to say the least.”

    That’s the wrong way to interpret this. Remember the widow’s mite? Not everyone has a lot of money to give, but that should not exclude them from the sacraments. And even when they do they may object to the “Square Dance Barbecue Masses” in their assigned parish and instead wish their tithing to go to a parish outside their assigned jurisdiction that is faithful. Or they may wish to contribute to a local monastery or faithful Catholic charity instead of having their money go into a general slush fund that is being used to water down and destroy the faith.

    It’s my contention that your statements apply more to the German bishops for requiring payment to the sacraments than the other way around, and it has made them lazy, worldly, and more eager to water down the faith than try to be faithful and evangelize.

    The Church in France and in Germany are both in a free-fall. The main difference between the two is that in France, there is no government funds and no purchasing of the sacraments so French bishops are being forced to confront the conditions of the French church and how it got to be that way. In Germany, it’s just business as usual and the main concern is how to increase profits.

    As a side note, Pope Benedict XVI made renouncing one’s faith impossible, precisely to deal with the German situation. So even if a secular authority doesn’t count someone as being Catholic, the Church must.

  15. chantgirl says:

    sw85- ” 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.”

    Read the rest of the article at CNA. We’re really not dealing with apostasy here.

  16. MGL says:


    I see your point, but note that the article states that some are substituting private tithes for the Church Tax. I suspect that this group includes some of the few remaining orthodox Catholics in Germany, who can’t bear the idea of their tax money going to support the lavish lifestyles of Cardinal Marx and his allies, and wish to direct their funds to more worthy recipients.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Once again, alas, while there is much there is debatable in the Church tax, the opponents of it tend to mingle it with a whole lot of, pardon the French, misinformations.

    1. that the facade is optimal but what is behind it? Noone, wherever you look in the spectrum, pretends that the facade of the German Church would be optimal

    2. (minor point) 8 or 9 percent of their total income tax, or 3-4 percent of their salary. Whereas the actual burden is only slightly below 1.9% for the wealthy, and slightly above 1% for a modest income already above average.

    Explanation: The article presumes for anyone the taxation rate which only applies to the wealthy, and in addition leaves out the fact that the Church-tax is then again (as all charitable giving is) tax-deductible. The effective burden of the Church tax in Bavaria for a wealthy man (in the sense of paying 42% income tax) is just slightly below 1.9%, on account of the second thing (and including that it’s also deductible from the solidarity surcharge, which is calculated in the same way at a rate of 0.055, but deductible); but most people do not pay 42% income tax. On the other hand, a person with the already above-average salary of 2000 € a month, assuming he has no deductible expenses, pays just slightly above 1%.

    Note: Outside Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, the tax is not 8 but 9 %, so all the figures change accordingly.

    3. 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.

    The more sensible complaint is that the Church distributes its means in the wrong way (read: too much charity and too little combat for the faith, plus the occasional squandering which the Church’s administrators do not do more than others, but of which still anything is too much).

    However, if we are posing the question in a general manner, then
    a) yes, it is just for the Church to finance herself by way of a tax imposed on her membership,
    b) the Church obviously lacks jurisdiction to impose a tax on what is not her membership,
    c) and most obviously, the issue is exactly the same as it was decades ago.

    4. 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.
    True. However, for clarity let me explain.

    This does not mean the tax has been raised. Only, if you have a salary, tax (including Church tax) is immediately withheld when the salary is paid, and wanders to the Finance Office. Similarly, when your bank pays you interest or you have other likewise capital gains, taxes are immediately withheld and wander to the Finance Office. Then once a year, you or your taxation counsellor makes the tax-declaration and it’s all summed up and you pay the remainder, or get back the remainder. And this is what changed; the Church tax is now immediately withheld, instead of paid afterwards once a year, but it has not been raised.

    5. 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.

    This is only true if we take “many” in the meaning of “more than one person”. There is, in fact, a very small movement of those who quit Church, then maintain that in their heart of hearts they haven’t quit Church at all, only the tax, and some of them may even tithe. But for one thing even of them, most do not argue against the tax per se, and say “we only don’t support our present episcopate”.

    Most importantly, though, almost all of those who left Church have either decidedly left the Christian, or Catholic faith, or at least say that they do not need Church (but “go into the forest for prayer”, etc.)*, or if they don’t really care about what they believe, “maybe the Church is right and I was still baptized, but religion is not my piece of cheese”, they are certainly not practicing, and may, perhaps, appear in Church for Christmas (but not for making Christmas confession, for sure), Baptism of relatives, First Communion of relatives and funerals. Perhaps also for Confirmation of relatives and for Easter, but that already is less popular.

    * Note that this decision to leave Faith or at least the Church may be triggered by the fact that Church membership comes at a cost – and that the person in question may just as well have gone on in Church if it didn’t. This is one of the big actual problems of the Church tax.

    6. the German bishops – who each earn an average salary […] along with free […] cars, (no error and minor point but still):
    The salary of bishops, which is that of a senior colonel (e. g. auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart) up to that of a four-star general (archbishop of Munich and Freising) is not paid from the Church tax but by the State, on historical reasons (the salary of pastors, though, is paid from Church tax). As for free cars, I’m not 100% sure but I think they are sponsored. If I were BMW, I’d be honored to lend, on no cost, a BMW 7 to the archbishop of Munich; and so, I’ve heard, thinks BMW.

    7. issued a decree in September 2012
    The decree makes Church-leavers rather precisely subject to an interdict, without mentioning the word “interdict”. That said, how do you leave the Church? You go to the registration office and say “I have left the Catholic Church”. If this is not a schismatic act that what is. So, for to withhold the tax they are morally obliged to pay, they choose, as they’d otherwise be also technically unable to withhold, to commit what is of course still worse, and the real part of the issue: a(n objective) schismatic act. And hence they are (see below no. 8) excommunicated for schism anyway.

    The German bishops hitherto held consequently held that they are excommunicated. The decree does not say that (nor denies it), probably because the (few, but in the internet, vocal) tax opponents would then say “but we’re not” (see no. 8).

    8.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 have a particular grudge against that prejudice, because it just keeps and keeps popping up among tax opponents, whereas it is so obviously wrong.

    A bare look into the CIC suffices to make you clear that you can commit all sorts of crimes that do not amount to renouncing the faith to be liable for excommunication. He who makes public what he has heard in Confession may well be quite a believer who just did something immoral; but still, he is excommunicated.

    Now what does the much-cited decree from the PC of Interpretation say? It says that we can only speak of “formal defection from the Catholic faith” (which was then an important concept e. g. w.r.t. marriage validity) when some criteria are met; apostasy, heresy and schism alone do not suffice (and it should be clear that they are still excommunicable offenses!), and thus among other things, the act of German-style Church leaving doesn’t, either.[*] It never with a word said anything that they’d not be excommunicated.

    [* A German who, in 2005, read the phrase “formal defection from the Catholic Faith” in the CIC could not but think that this includes the act of Church-leaving. I wonder what that was good for. Since 2009, it’s without legal effect in any case. Still, the legislator has to be obeyed – in what he actually commands, not in what some badly informed people read into it and what some others repeat after them, pardon the French.]

    9. “I know enough people who cannot understand how a distancing oneself from the tax is necessarily connected with an exclusion from salvation,” Lohmann said.

    That may be so. But apart from the fact that of course a Catholic has to fulfil his moral duties (and a Church law which gives an important order, such as the one to pay the tax, should at the very least have the presumption in its favor that it is to be obeyed as a matter of morality), the point (and problem) here is that as long as you are Catholic, you are simply technically unable to “distance yourself from the tax”. Which is why some say, “well then so much for my being Catholic”. And it is that for which they are barred from the sacraments.

    10. 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.

    The are not considered “good faithful”, indeed if the talk comes to it they are “non-practicing”. But it’s no secret that the Church administration prefers a Church member, who still might be reached at least on some occasions, to one who has formally decided not to be Catholic any more; and also that when it comes to downright unbelievers, they prefer one who pays to one who does not pay. Of course. But that’s kind-of natural, isn’t it?

    Also, they are not paying “diligently”. The Finance Office does it, and that somewhat mechanically. ;-)

  18. NBW says:

    I would pay a Church tax for a removal of unorthodox Cardinals and bishops!

  19. NBW says:

    I would pay a Church tax for the removal of unorthodox Cardinals and bishops!

  20. Imrahil says:

    Dear Chicken,

    while it maybe an area where ignorance comes into the field (on the two points that 1. it’s not a moral duty to pay the tax and 2. it’s not schism if you officially declare and sign the statement “count me as a schismatic”),

    it’s certainly not Double Effect. Double Effect requires that the action itself you do to achieve the desired result be not immoral in itself.

    As for people not having the money, that’s why the reference is to the State’s income tax, which taxes wealthy people more. Nevertheless, in that case they could apply to an understanding pastor for for a charitable subsidy. That solution may not be an ideal, but it’s better than declaring to leave the Church.

    The idea in any case is that the basic needs are met by the amount of tax-free income (which is 8354 € per year, so, slightly below 700 € per day). If you have to pay off a credit for your house, then interest is, by the way, tax-deductible.

    Dear MGL,

    as I said in my lengthy comment above, with rather more words: you can always find some “some” for anything, I guess. But there is no widespread movement in Germany to substitute tithing for the tax.

  21. Imrahil says:

    If you have to pay off a credit for your house, then interest is, by the way, tax-deductible.

    Correction: Only if the house is for rent, not if it’s for yourself. Ah, the strange subtleties of the German tax system.

  22. Matt Robare says:

    MGL, unfortunately Germans have a way of being influential. I don’t know why. Maybe all those long words make people think they’re smart.

    Karl Marx was German and continues to be influential despite the consequences that attended every Marxist state and the fact that his writings are simply nonsensical.

  23. Sonshine135 says:

    The church using the German Government to extort money from Parishioners is a bit like the Sanhedrin using the Romans to put Christ to death. Talk about giving Christianity a bad name. Then, they want to refuse sacraments to anyone who won’t pay the extortion money? Yikes! Only in Martin Luther’s country.

  24. Imrahil says:

    The 700 € I mentioned above are per month of course, not per day, as you already guessed. Sorry.

  25. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    I value your comments here, and your comments on this thread are no exception. It’s very useful for non-Germans to read of the background to this issue from a German. If I were German I’m sure that I should be very angry at having to pay the Church tax but scruple at taking the steps necessary to avoid it. It would certainly be a case of a rock and a hard place.

    I have three questions:
    1. Do Germans, including German bishops, not understand how bad all this seems to foreigners?
    2. In particular, do Germans, including German bishops, not think it shameful for German bishops to be paid by the state?
    3. Are German bishops still selling pornography?

  26. Amerikaner says:

    – What if a German citizen has a financial hardship? How can it be a moral obligation to tithe the required % in such a circumstance?

    – What if a German citizen does not agree with unorthodoxy in their diocese? How can they be forced to tithe if they wished, say, to support more orthodox catholic communities elsewhere?

  27. gracie says:

    How does a German priest know if you’ve paid the church tax? Does he ask you before you say, “Bless me Father”? Or does he wait until you’ve confessed your sins and then – before absolution – ask you? If so, is lying under those circumstances a venial sin or a mortal sin – as it has nothing to do with the actual sins you’re confessing? I’m thinking of the example the nuns used to give when you’d say, “But Sister, but Sister – my mom tells me to tell the person who’s asking for her at the front door, or on the phone, that she’s not there when she *is* there. Isn’t that lying?” To which the nuns would reply, “No, it’s not lying, because what you’re saying is that your mother is not home to that person.” Just in the same way, you’d be saying that (although I didn’t pay the church tax as far as you and your unjust law is concerned, as far as you’re concerned) yes, I did pay the tax”.

    Seriously – isn’t the lesser evil of lying about paying an unjust simony tax acceptable to prevent the greater evil of not having your real sins absolved?

  28. MGL says:

    Matt Robare,

    The German bishops have had a disproportionate–and largely catastrophic–influence for several decades now. But it’s facile to lay all the blame at the feet of the Church Tax. Not only does it fail to explain the motives of the non-German Kasperites, it turns the German bishops into one-dimensional cartoon villains. No doubt the Kirchensteuer aligns nicely with their existing inclinations, but I’m convinced that the true explanation is far more troubling.

    If only it were a mere matter of German greed, as so many would like to believe! In an otherwise sound Catholic episcopate, the Germans could indulge to their hearts’ content their doomed schemes for maximizing Kirchensteuer revenue, and it would have no effect whatsoever on the universal Church. But in fact, senior clerics from all over the world are entertaining the notion of changing what had been thought–only two short years ago!–to be settled magisterial teaching. Why? No doubt some are weak-minded and easily led, while others have revealed themselved to be “company men” who blow with the papal zeitgeist. (Most dishearteningly, this latter group is far more numerous than I would have thought possible back in February 2013.) But this also seems insufficient.

    The clincher for me is that the Germans just aren’t that persuasive. It’s not like Kasper and Marx are constructing careful and cogent defenses of their innovations in response to (say) the Five Cardinals’ book. No, they barely bother to respond at all, and when they do trouble themselves to formulate “arguments”, they rely almost entirely on sentiment, misrepresentation of the orthodox position, and character assassination. Just this week Marx was out there asserting that “it is not possible to say, ‘Everything you do, because you are a homosexual, is negative.'” As if anyone has ever taken this position. Or remember Kasper before the Synod last year, whining about the Five Cardinals and accusing them of being “against the Pope”? They can afford to be lazy and arrogant because they believe that the pope is on their side, but they’re not exactly winning the argument Aquinas-style.

    I have come to believe that a sizeable fraction of our modern clergy, at all levels of the Church, hates Catholicism as it has been understood for almost 2,000 years, and wishes to see it unraveled and undone, by any means necessary. We could argue about why that is, but that it is, I have little doubt. The non-Germans are not persuaded by clever German rhetoric, since they don’t bother offering any; they are not persuaded by greed, since they do not stand to benefit; they are instead persuaded by a desire to fit in, to be in the good graces of the pope at any cost, and to make nice with the world. But all these things make you, de facto, an enemy of Christ, and that is what they are.

  29. Ganganelli says:


    Such a good post. If we are to accept this change in discipline, shouldn’t there be some kind of argument put forward that actually makes sense? I read somewhere that this is like the change made when the Church started allowing funerals for Catholics who committed suicide. OK, that I get. People who commit suicide may not be in their right mind so haven’t necessarily committed a mortal sin. But it seems like Kasper, Forte, etc. don’t even try to justify the change.

  30. Andkaras says:

    This has been a fascinating discussion. One could almost justify the church tax in Germany completely on the grounds of the Church buildings themselves long since passing into the realm of being National treasures and a draw in tourism. It would seem unfair to saddle the fewer remaining faithful with their sole upkeep. I suspect that even the Catholics in England do gladly shoulder a portion of the tax burden of keeping the royals and their historical buildings up. As an American ,one does find the “marriage between Church and State alarming though. But as we find here,the separation between church and state has it’s own challenges. (Note that the German Church -State marriage is invalid and therefor annul-able anyway ) The German Bishops are passing ,as are we all.

  31. Mojoron says:

    3% of $100,000 based on the 15% that is considered the norm, isn’t all that much. BUT, it is being collected by the state, and that bothers me. I would like to know how much actually reaches the churches. The other problem I see is that taxation is not based upon budgetary needs, but on an arbitrary amount set by the state. Based upon their obscure funding formula, I’m amazed there isn’t infighting between the “big” churches and the small “evangelical” churches. I”m also surprised there isn’t an atheistic meltdown within the population.

  32. mburn16 says:

    “As an American ,one does find the “marriage between Church and State alarming though”

    Not this American. The idea of “separation between church and state” is largely mythical, with secularism taking on an unhealthily religious character in the absence of deistic faith. Give me a state-enforced tithe over the collapse of moral influence of legislation any day.

  33. whitewings says:

    Something I don’t think has been mentioned yet.

    In Germany, where in living memory a State register of religious affiliation was diabolically misused to persecute a section of its own population…well, I have to say that I can entirely understand why a Catholic might choose to get their name and that of their family off the Government’s books, and make whatever arrangements they see fit to privately donate to their Church. And if a priest denied them the Sacraments because the tax was unpaid…as already said, there’s a name for this. Simony. And the Acts of the Apostles is pretty clear on the subject.

  34. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    As American living in German, I would like to add some things that are not understandable to someone outside of Germany.

    This tax has been around for a long time. The did not just start the tax and then people started leaving. The tax is only on three groups: Catholics, Protestant(Lutheran only), and Jews. Baptist, Muslim, Buddhist, Methodist, Seventh Day, Mormons and the such are not tax.

    The tax is collected by the State and then given to the Catholic Church. The Church then decides where to put the money. It is not like the more rich people you have in your parish the money you will get.

    Every person in German is registered. In that registry is your religion. If you change where you live you must change your registry.

    The State sends the Church a list of people that have left the Church. So your Bishop and Pastor know.
    The Church runs most of the kindergartens, they provide training for the teachers who teach religion in the public schools. There are very few private charities. Ambulances are run by church organizations. Elderly care and hospice.
    I think what is really left out of the article is that they are leaving the Church and they know that is what they are doing. They are not declaring to the State that they are leaving and then going to church on Sunday.
    They want something for nothing and by nothing I am not talking about money, but their time and effort. Do they want to send their children to Catholic kindergartens? No, they want more city kindergartens. They only want to be part of the church when it might be made public that they have actually left the church. Oh, what will my mother say if I do not have my child baptize. Oh what will my uncle say if I am not married in a church. You haven’t been to church in 30 years, but now you want them to bury you.

  35. AvantiBev says:

    Thank you, Father Z for linking to this article.

    And thank You, God, for our Founding Fathers and their inspired wisdom in drafting our founding documents, our Constitution and Bill of Rights. No national church nor tax to underwrite it. Even though I know the phrase is from a letter of Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, this is one time I get strongly behind “separation of Church and State”.

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear (X)MCCLXIII,

    thanks for your friendly words!

    I have three questions:
    1. Do Germans, including German bishops, not understand how bad all this seems to foreigners?

    They might, if they ponder the question, which they usually don’t. However, “not caring about what others think of you” is treated as a virtue by Germans – not necessarily, of course, a virtue acted upon, but certainly something held up as a virtue and, largely, something aimed at as a virtue.

    In any case, they’d probably say that the tiniest (proverbial) rabbit-breeders’ association wants a monetary contribution by the members, and to be a Christian should worth a little cost in any case. (And that the State collects the tax? That is – and I like not to give personal opinions to that topic in general, but I do say that this is entirely right – merely an effective procedure.*)

    [*But if there should be a prosecution, etc.? – Well, then the State will know your religion anyway. He has means to find out.
    We don’t treat religion as something to be kept secret, but to be professed in public, if the cause be as little as to give accurate data to statisticians.]

    In addition, we have to remind that upon only some decades ago, with the exception of the Nazi period, leaving-Church was something you just didn’t do. This also as part of an answer to the (rather fine) question (forgot by whom) why with all that tax and stuff, it is not more Germans that have left the Church. Another might be, perhaps perhaps, the fact that the Mystical Body and the baptismal character still count for something in the subconscious (as in no negligible number of cases seen when people do repent once they’ve been excommunicated in all formality).

    And when it did start it was, and with very tiny exceptions still is, largely a movement of agnostics and irreligious. It is no secret that, while pushing people out of Church is a no-no (as Dr Peters constantly reminds those who express themselves on the “oh just get out of the Church, look for one that suits your opinions and leave us in peace” lines), the German bishops and Church administrators are not entirely unhappy about the fact that some of those who (I’m speaking colloquially now) aren’t Catholic anyway make their stand public and official. The movement to “leave the Church on orthodox grounds” (I’m speaking colloquially again) is less than a decade old, and, though not unvocal, statistically negligible.

    Note what I said above: one of the actual problems are that maybe people do not only leave the Church because they are irreligious, but they might, previously half-religious, lukewarm etc., become irreligious because it’s cheaper that way.

    And there’s still the thing that, well, the money is needed to keep the Church and her services running. What would the alternatives be?

    Many Catholics in Germany, including apparently the Pope emeritus, would prefer the introduction of the Italian system – a Church tax for every citizen, who can then choose where it should go to, with the assumption that Catholics choose the Catholic Church. But for that you’d need the State to legislate accordingly.

    Charitable giving? It has to be done when there is no other way, but this is, for secular clergy, not really a situation as it should be. Poverty and hoping that the necessary means arrive is a religious (in the sense of religious orders) thing, but it is the secular clergy, which (here) has – and, I’d say, should have – a comfortable livelihood a little worthy of the high dignity of priest, and a respectable position in society (among the village notables, etc.), which keeps the Church as we know her running. (They live celibately, and they say the Breviary and Masses and have a lot of work to do. They are worth their salt.)

    Tithing? Well the difference between a tithe and the Church tax is that the tithe is that the costs to the tither are higher (by multiples), but the revenue of the Church is lower – especially because only the pious would do it. And these would probably (at least if the are German pious) ever again have periods of grumpy firstborn-son feelings when the Church is friendly to the others, and even might occasionally preach to them with admonishment. ‘It’s me that pays, here! But I’m admonished and the others, those who couldn’t care less about the Church getting money, and those others who, whatever their intentions would be, can’t man themselves up to find jobs prosperous enough, etc., they get soft-soaped!

    (Note that the “tithe” in the Middle Ages, as it appears for instance in St. Thomas, was an obligatory tribute.)

    2. In particular, do Germans, including German bishops, not think it shameful for German bishops to be paid by the state?

    Not really. For one thing, this (not the Church tax, but this) is among the things constantly attacked by the enemies of religion: which produces a defensive reaction, for sure. But then, these payments are due because the Church was robbed in the early 1800s. Our Constitution would wish for them to be settled once and for all (which would have to be done in partnership, and hence require the State to give some one-time payment, real estate or so, to the Church), but this hasn’t happened. I wonder why :-)

    3. Are German bishops still selling pornography?

    This has little to do with the Church tax. In any case, the thing is not that they sold it (and not, I assume, what Tom, Dick or Harry in the street, when asked, would call pornography, but yes, books of immoral content circa sextum), but that it escaped their supervision that the publishing company they own, Weltbild sold them.

    As for me, by the way, I think the fact that Weltbild also sold esoteric literature is a far greater problem. But I won’t go into that detail here…

  37. Imrahil says:

    Dear Amerikaner,

    ad 1: what he should do is ask his pastor for charity, or somewhom else, for charity. But I sincerely doubt this situation practically occurs in a substantial amount of cases.

    And of course… financial hardship may make it inconvenient, or even what might be called impossible, to pay the State’s takes. But there you simply have to, and there’s an end of it. I can’t get off the feeling that to a Christian, the Church (which demands less anyway) somehow ought to be just as, or more, worthy of contribution.

    ad 2: I guess the official answer would be that, as it’s the Catholic Church, it’s the bishop’s job to suppress heterodoxy, and the Pope’s job to jump in when the bishop fails, or is unorthodox himself. So: any Catholic can file a complaint to the responsible higher authority. (Remember we’re dealing with Germans ;-) ).

    And then that’s the same thing: what do we do when part of the State’s tax revenue is used for immoral purposes? (This, alas, is not academic.) Well, probably we give in to force, and pay, though with protest. Should the diocese, w. r. t. the private judgment of her faithful, be in a weaker position? (and after all… at least the way the Catholic Church should deal with heterodoxy is not private persons withdrawing money, but the higher authority fighting it down with its swords, i. e. penalties and the like.)

    Morally, in any case, this is Double Effect. The tax is granted to the Catholic Church; if (speaking colloquially) the particular Church isn’t Catholic enough, it’s not the tax-payers fault.

    Dear whitewings,

    I said it already, but forgive me, I do find the idea naive that the State, once it were to start prosecution, wouldn’t know the religion anyway – especially our religion, which by its own moral commandments we have to profess publicly (not at any time, but certainly on some times, such as being directly asked).

    Dear AvantiBev,

    sed contra:

    Condemned prop. no. 55: The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church. (Pius IX., Syllabus errorum [and yes, I know that some few of the condemnations therein have to be taken at least with restricting interpretation])

    If […] special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional order of society, it is at the same time imperative that the right of all citizens […] to religious freedom should be recognized […] (Vat. II, “Dignitatis humanae” no. 6. – So the former is legitimate. And in German it’s not even one religious community as opposed to others, but any stable religious community that wishes so.)

  38. Imrahil says:

    Btw., someone, forgot who, asked how much of the Church tax actually ends up with the Church.

    The reported figure is that the Church pays 2% of Church tax revenue to the State for collecting; which is a good deal more than said collecting costs to the state, but certainly (and probably a good deal) less than the cost for the Church to have her own collection system.

    The rest, yes, goes to the Church.

  39. Mr. Graves says:

    DS is German, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone more vocallly opposed to it. It’s simony, plain and simple. You can argue that it’s not *positive* simony, since the priests don’t charge 10 euros per confession or 7,50 to receive communion, but in a *negative* sense, if you don’t pay up, you can be denied the sacraments — even Christian burial, for crying out loud. Which of Dante’s circles did simonists inhabit?

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