The Church in Germany is crashing and burning

Via EWTN.  This is nothing but grim:

German bishops release new figures: fewer churchgoers, parishes, and priests

Figures released Friday by the German bishops’ conference draw a bleak picture of the ongoing decline of Catholicism in Germany.

However, the head of the conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, described the Church July 15 as a continuing “strong force, whose message is heard and accepted”. [Meanwhile… Archdiocese of Munich has 6 billion in assets, Paderborn 4 billion Cologne 3.4 billion – HERE and HERE In 2013 the German Church took in from the “Church Tax”.  HERE  In effect, the German could pretty much buy the Vatican.]

With more than 23.7 million members in Germany, Catholicism is the largest single religious group in country, comprising 29 percent of the population. Yet people are leaving the Church in droves: in 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed.

By comparison, 2,685 people became Catholic, and 6,474 reverted to Catholicism.  [181,925 v. 9159]

Whilst the German bishops’ conference emphasized that baptisms and marriages showed a slight increase as compared to the year before, the actual long-term figures describe a steep downward trend.

When compared to the official statistics of twenty years ago, the number of baptisms has declined by more than a third, from almost 260,000 babies baptized in 1995 to just over 167,000 in 2015. The situation is even worse for marriages. Twenty-one years ago, 86,456 couples tied the knot in Church. Last year, the number was down by almost half: In a nation of 80 million people, only 44,298 couples were married in the Church last year.

Further official numbers confirm this precipitous decline: average church attendance is down from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015.

The number of people departing the Church has increased within the same timeframe, having peaked in recent years at more than 200,000 annually.

No numbers are provided by the German episcopate about how many Catholics went to confession last year. However, a recent academic study of the priesthood in Germany showed that even amongst the clergy, more than half – 54 percent – go to confession only “once a year or less”. [That’s damning.] Amongst pastoral assistants, a staggering 91 percent responded that they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year or less. [!]

Despite these alarming numbers, the head of the bishops’ conference issued an upbeat appraisal of the situation: “The statistics show that the Church in Germany continues to be a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted. There obviously not only is an interest in, but also an active desire for the sacraments of the Church, as the slight increase of baptisms and marriages proves”, Cardinal Marx said in a statement issued by the German bishops’ conference.

Acknowledging the high numbers of people leaving the Church, the head of the German bishops’ conference said: “We need a ‘sophisticated pastoral practice‘ that does justice to the diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith. The conclusion of last year’s synod of bishops and the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis are important signposts.” [What they need is a return to the basics: say Mass correctly and preach rudimentary catechism, revive devotions and put clerical clothing on, schedule confessions and get into the box.  How is this hard?]

“Pope Francis gives us courage”, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising continued, “when he tells us that the way of the future Church is the way of a ‘synodal church’. That means: All faithful are called upon, laypeople and priests! Together we will continue to give convincingly witness to our Faith and the Gospel.” [“walking together”!]

In fact, Pope Francis issued a scathing analysis of the decline of the Catholic faith in Germany since the 1960s on the occasion of the German bishops’ ad limina visit in 2015, calling on the bishops to re-introduce people to the Eucharist and Confession during the Year of Mercy, to take on the new evangelization, to strengthen the role of priests, and to protect unborn life.

Pope Francis is unimpressed with Germany, too.

I think I have a bead now on why the German bishops are so concerned about the numbers.

And yet… I am struck by an irony.

Read this

Apart from the legal difficulties of de-registering from the Church, defectors also face significant religious consequences. In 2012, the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference decreed that those who opt out of the church tax are not eligible to receive any of the sacraments, to serve as a godparent or communion sponsor, or to hold any office in the Church. Those de-registrants who did not show significant remorse about their decision can also be denied a religious burial.

The Teutonic world is leaping about with its hair on fire defending the right of just about anyone to receive just about any sacrament you can imagine!

And yet… if you don’t pay your Church Tax… you are shut out in the cold and the dark where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RAve says:

    Having lived there for 7 years (most recently for 4 years ending in 2007), it seemed somewhat like visiting a Catholic version of Old Williamsburg in that everything was very-well preserved, the people were very proud of the history and heritage, they attempted to offer re-enactments, and they really liked it when visitors took a keen interest. For my young family, it was a place of many wonderful pilgrimages to chapels and churches that were almost never crowded. We certainly had deluxe VIP treatment each month when we would visit the world’s oldest monastery brewery, situated along the Danube, for confession – the monk would greet the 9 of us warmly and usher us up to a private chapel where he would hear our confessions, after which would we say our thanksgiving and penance prayers in the grand baroque chapel with the magnificent St. George and the dragon sculpture above the altar. Then we would visit the adjacent beer garden (or restaurant depending on the season) for Bratwurst, Kaese, und Bier. It seemed almost magical and my wife and I were constantly grateful and aware that this was something that Catholicism was quickly fading from Germany and that we were so blessed to experience something so beautiful before it disappeared. Other highlights: the amazing baroque Wieskirche in the cow pasture with its many ex voto crutches, etc., Wurzburg Kappelle (and the Stations that lead up to it), the 14 holy helpers shrine, the Altoetting Marian shrine – and the wayside crucifixes an statues almost everywhere in Bayern…. it was hard to leave.

  2. RAve says:

    Woops! How could I forget to mention attending Mass 4 or 5 times a year in the nearby Regensburg Dom with music provide by the “sparrows” that were previously directed by Monsignor Georg Ratzinger? Afterwards we would have brunch in a 600 year old gothic mercantile hall across the square. And once we even had the good Monsignor to our own home for brunch after Mass! Regensburg also put on quite a show throughout its narrow medieval streets for its Corpus Christi procession…

  3. arga says:

    Again and again and again, the same pattern reveals itself: Catholic bishops go modernist, Catholics quit. Catholic Modernism says you don’t really need the Catholic Church; the very point of modernism is to make the Church obsolete. It’s a demonstrably successful strategy for suicide. We had a bishop (may he RIP) who almost used those words to defend some of his crazy policies. The enemy has been inside the walls for decades.

  4. IloveJesus says:

    How is the Sacraments for Church Tax not simony?

  5. Clinton says:

    Reading items like this always make me wish we could provide some of our bishops
    with an incentive to address our collapsing Catholic demographics in a forthright
    manner. Perhaps if there was linkage between the demographics of one’s diocese
    and progress in one’s ecclesiastical career, then we might have leadership willing
    to do what it takes to turn things around? What would our Church look like if we
    decided on a certain minimum acceptable number** of ordinations, conversions and
    weekly Mass attendance levels, and held our bishops to meeting them?

    Sending in a coadjutor bishop to take over some of the responsibilities of a struggling
    bishop is not something Rome does often, and with good reason. But perhaps there
    are a few other things that could be done to light a fire under bishops who would
    otherwise be content to preside over the scattering of the flocks in their charge.

    Maybe Rome could make it known that Ordinaries of larger, more important dioceses
    whose numbers of ordinations, baptisms and conversions aren’t meeting certain
    expectations will be reassigned to smaller, quieter dioceses more in keeping with
    their limited talents.

    In addition, it might be a powerful incentive for some of our more complacent
    shepherds if their respective national bishop’s conferences made voting privileges
    contingent on meeting expectations of performance. After all, if a bishop is unable
    or unwilling to improve the situation in his own diocese, why then should he have
    a vote in setting policy on a national level? Naturally, a bishop who isn’t up to
    the task of meeting the performance goals for his diocese would also be ineligible
    to be on any of the myriad committees set up by his bishop’s conference.

    Just a thought.
    ** In fairness, the performance goals should be determined on a per capita basis.
    Thus, for example, the bishop of Sleepytown, which has a Catholic population 1/10th the
    size of the nearby archdiocese of St. Enormous, would have to ordain but 1/10th the number
    of men required of St. Enormous.

  6. aviva meriam says:

    “The statistics show that the Church in Germany continues to be a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted”

    Heard by Whom? Accepted by Whom?

  7. Gerard Plourde says:

    It seems to me that it’s entirely consistent for the bishops to conclude that a person claiming that he should not be required to support the Church under the the laws of the BRD should be taken at his or her word. This is a willful, public act and goes beyond mere violation of the Fifth Precept of the Church “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”. The fact is that German Tax Law law requires church members pay an additional 8% to 9% of their gross annual income tax and capital gains tax bills to the church with which they are affiliated. The only way to avoid this tax is to renounce one’s faith. Renunciation of one’s faith has consequences, specifically the ones the German Bishops have outlined.

  8. PapalCount says:

    It’s all about the money. Sad. Jesus needs to come and kick over some tables.

  9. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    A New Pentecost!

    A New Springtime!

    Fresh air!

    A Strong Force!


    It strains the bonds of sanity to read the nonsense these modernists in mitres actually say.

  10. WYMiriam says:

    This caught my eye: “the diverse lifeworlds of people” — is that a new malphemism for “alternate lifestyles”, a.k.a homosexuality?

  11. Prayerful says:

    The only reason why the German episcopacy has any power is because of money, their Church Tax wealth which means 7 Series BMWs and 6 figure salaries. They have temporal power, they are rich in the goods of this world, but of supernatural power, they seem to have none. Their aggressive, ultra-Vatican II plus policies have emptied churches. The Church might have more life in some areas, but only where the local ordinary has the sense not to drink the hemlock of Modernism. Yet, any clearly Traditional leaning bishop has to be doubly careful as they will find themselves retired on the slightest pretext, even for overspending on long agreed construction work, or similar.

  12. jaykay says:

    Yeah, “the diverse lifeworlds of people”. There sure were plenty of them in the 1st century world. Very diverse, it was. Wasn’t there something about “Going, therefore, teach ye all nations…?” As opposed to “Going, therefore, affirm them in their life-choices…” Nah, silly me, must have read it wrong.

  13. albizzi says:

    The german Church is on a steep decline due to her widesperad modernist infestation, and due to her wealth and her pride. I remember the cardinal Marx during the Synod last year exclaiming in a despising tone his exasperation against the conservative african bishops who dared to oppose his views: “The african bishops will not teach what we have to say !”
    The clerics have an easy life thanks to the catholic taxpayer’s money. One understand well why they are afraid seeing their fathfuls de-registering in droves.

  14. spock says:

    Now that HE Archbishop Cupich is part of the team for choosing good pastoral Bishops, I am sure the situation in Germany will turn around.

  15. stephen c says:

    There is no precept in any Catholic church that requires you to support the personal luxuries or the cold-hearted causes of effectively pro-abortion bishops who day after day refuse to proclaim the truth that Jesus revealed to Peter and that the successors of Peter have been obligated to proclaim in their turn. Simony is one thing, almost a trivial thing in comparison to extorting on sacramental grounds money from good Christians, in order to use the extorted money to proclaim, as it seems at least one sad European Bishop has, that it is “wrong” to speak too much against the wide-spread persecution of the unborn. (That Bishop needs our prayers more than I want to think about). If I were convinced that the bishops of Germany were spending my tax money to teach heresy (I don’t know for sure, not being a German speaker) I would not pay the tax either.

  16. Kerry says:

    “We need a ‘sophisticated pastoral practice‘ that does justice to the diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith. ”
    That is the obviously the obsolete ICEL. What is the original Latin?

  17. MrTipsNZ says:

    PapalCount says:
    17 July 2016 at 1:04 PM
    It’s all about the money. Sad. Jesus needs to come and kick over some tables.

    Indeed. One suspects Our Lord may have “sent” the kickers into Germany over the last 2 years in droves. It happened before, it’s happening again. Our Lady of Fatima, in all your holy and historical glory, pray for us.

  18. Sam Schmitt says:

    Fr. Z -Is not this practice of denying the sacraments to those who refuse to pay called Simony? Does refusal to pay the tax mean the refuser has made a formal renouncement of the faith? I’m confused about why this practice has not been soundly denounced and forbidden as Simony. What am I missing here?

  19. zama202 says:

    How is the Society of St. Pius X doing in Germany.

    How many German seminarians are currently attending SSPX seminaries?


  20. Supertradmum says:

    I do not see anything wrong with the Church demanding tithing or some tax in order to be considered practicing. What is the difference between that and having to sign up for a parish in the States in order to get married, have the children baptized and be buried from the Church?

    There is an odd entitlement attitude among younger Catholics who think they are exempt from supporting the Church financially. My generation was raised to tithe, plus give extra for special collections and give alms.

    Giving money for the upkeep of the Church is one of the Laws of the Church. It is not simony to deny someone who is in effect saying that he or she is not a practicing Catholic not to be buried in the Church. Recently, I heard a good sermon on this point–that funerals are for the FAITHFUL dead, not any dead once upon a time Catholic.

    Things cost money, heat, music, etc. I do not agree with the high salaries of what I hear are given in Germany, not the accumulation of wealth. But, I do agree with the Law of the Church which states all who are practicing must support the Church. Even I do this, and I have a very small income.

    Laws of the Church reminder:
    “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.” The faithful are required to attend the celebration of the Eucharist every Lord’s Day (Saturday vigil or Sunday Mass) and the holy days of obligation as established in the liturgical calendar, unless excused for a serious reason [i.e. illness or the care of infants]. CCC 1388-9, 2042, 2043, 2177, 2180, 2185; 2187-8; 2192-3.
    “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.” CCC 1457; 2042
    “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.” CCC 1389; 2042
    “You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” CCC 2043; 2177
    “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church, each according to his own ability.” CCC 1351; 1387; 1438; 2043

  21. Gerhard says:

    [What they need is a return to the basics: say Mass correctly and preach rudimentary catechism, revive devotions and put clerical clothing on, schedule confessions and get into the box. How is this hard?]
    Can we please have some more of this in the Eastern Caribbean (BVI, St Kitts/Nevis, Anguilla, Antigua etc.) as well? Toe-curling “liturgy” everywhere, without the possibility of parish-hopping, particularly in SVD (an order of German origin) run parishes.

  22. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    Removing yourself from the governments registery is leaving the church. You are on this registery from birth not baptism. Why should you receive anything if you have officially left the church. I have yet to hear of anyone who has left on paper still attending a church being denied anything. If anyone is actual denying anyone it would be those that are more conservative.
    I wonder why articles pick the number they do. Why not give us some real numbers. How about a year ago vs 5 vs 10 vs 20? 21 years ago? They number sof Catholics added. Go by register. That would in could births. Are they less Catholic now than last year or five years ago because of births than people leaving?
    Even the claim of largest religious group is probably not correct.

  23. Benedict Joseph says:

    The comportment of the German Episcopal Conference simply mirrors the state of pathological denial characteristic of the denizens of the left. So deeply invested in their own disorientation which provides them safety and consolation, it is impossible for them to abandon the fraudulence even when its toxicity becomes undeniable. Without hyperbole, this is a form of mental illness, and our ecclesiastical world is rife with it oddly enough, in an age where “psychological screening” is preeminent, and therapy serves as a substitute for the Sacrament of Penance and spiritual direction.
    If recognizing the truth of “the numbers” is an unsurmountable task, what are they able to discern in the depth of the soul?
    Saint Teresa of Jesus admonished her sisters to seek wise directors.
    We appear unable to find any with competency in math, let alone simple common sense for ecclesiastical governance.
    But who am I to judge?

  24. kiwiinamerica says:

    Yet people are leaving the Church in droves: in 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed.

    Aint “springtime” grand? Inhale deeply……can’t you just smell those flower blossoms?

    We will now be “accompanying” these people……LOL! Did I use the correct word there? Yes, I believe that’s what we do in FrancisChurch and who better to do it than Pope Francis’ wing man, Cardinal Marx! Show us how it’s done, Cardinal. Show us what “accompanying” is all about. There’s certainly plenty to “accompany”.

    Europe is a mission field. It’s a spiritual wasteland and people like Marx and Kasper have certainly done their part in making it so with their groveling before the zeitgeist. Why would anyone in their right mind pay the slightest attention to these two and their heretical ideas when their own dioceses are circling the pan?

  25. mike cliffson says:

    I have read ( I’m often wrong) that AS PUBLISHED in origen , in Rome , regarding the famous indulgences (which may have been near thin ice, but nonethe less) M Luther was WRONG WRONG WRONG, in that you had to be in the usual state of grace, repentance, confesion etc, or all bets were off, even were it millions you contributed…., let alone starting there and removing purgatory , prayers for the dead, the whole caboodle, was throwing out the baby from unfounded rejection of the bathwater
    AS Marketed in Germany , Luther was right,to that extent, in that the wording THERE pretty well was that boodle in for salvation out. (He hadn’t the patience to wait for this to come out, as history relates.)
    Has this idea returned after all these centuries, or is it, coincidenatally, just a humanly unavoidable consequence of the church tax setup?

  26. Absit invidia says:

    Yet in OR I’ve heard the advice from a priest that unless one has a mortal sin you don’t need to come to confession but once a year.

    No wonder attendance is in decline. Nobody is actually working at personal sanctification with frequent confession and cultivating their spiritual lives. He Faith is treated as a mere “club sport.”

  27. Nan says:

    Absit invidia, it’s recommended to confess venial sins but not required. In the event someone never committed a mortal sin it wouldn’t be required to go to confession ever. Note that we’re still required to recieve the Eucharist, once a year in Easter season. For the half-assed Catholics, since skipping Mass without good reason is a mortal sin, they’d need to go to confession beforehand each time they received; but they probably lack the catechesis to be aware of that.

    I friend called on day and asked what I was doing so I truthfully told her I’d just been to confession. Her response? “You haven’t killed anyone, you must be doing really well!” I guess to some, anything less than murder isn’t a sin.

  28. robtbrown says:

    I am stunned over comments above indicating some people think it’s OK for the govt to say who’s in the Church.

  29. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Nan,

    I’ve heard the same interpretation of the Second Precept of the Church as well, i.e., that only being in the state of Mortal Sin triggers the annual confession requirement, but the text as quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church merely says “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”

  30. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    It’s not the government saying who’s a member of the Church. It’s individuals renouncing their faith so as to avoid contributing to the support of the Church.

  31. Dave N. says:

    “…the number of baptisms has declined by more than a third…”

    The number of baptisms in the U.S. (per CARA) declined by almost 30% for the same period, but for whatever reason that’s never newsworthy.

    We don’t pay church taxes here.

  32. Fr. W says:

    You stated that the German Church could buy the Vatican. Perhaps she has. Sorry I couldn’t resist. Tongue firmly planted in cheek.

  33. Orlando says:

    Has the German Church learned nothing since Luther?

  34. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  35. TimG says:

    If Pope Francis is so unimpressed with the Germans, why does he release documents and make statements that can easily conform to their twisted message???

  36. pmullane says:

    The ‘Church Tax’ is a scandal pure and simple. It is a testament to the power of the German Episcopate that this has never been addressed by Rome.

    The point missed above is that the choice in Germany is not that one either ‘supports the church’ or declares themselves ‘out of the church’, but that one is told that they must support the Church ‘in this way’ and ‘by this amount’. If someone then doesn’t feel they can support the Church ‘in this way’ or ‘by this amount’ they are forced to leave the church in order to do so.

    German Catholics are unable to support the Church by giving to genuine Catholic charities, support the Church by giving money to orders who promote Orthodox Catholic worship, or support the Church by giving what they have over after making sure their families are materially catered for, because they are told how much to pay and to where by the German Bishops, who take massive salaries from the proceeds.

    The Church Tax is a scandal, plain and simple.

  37. Gabriel Syme says:

    Its remarkable how similar the decline of modernist dominated Church areas is to the decline of protestant sects.

    They get caught in a death-cycle of continually liberalising to try to get people to stay. But in fact this just drives people away, when they realise the Church isn’t saying anything different to secular society.

    And the desperate comments from Marx about a “continuing strong force” also reminds me of the denial evident in Protestant groups as the end nears. They always want to ‘dress up’ the situation and put on the rose-tinted spectacles, they never want to analyse root causes.

    Of course, for the likes of Marx and Kasper, is all about the money and denial about the situation is all they will ever offer, for the only alternative is to accept that their own direction and leadership has been a dismal failure. They lack the humility to acknowledge their own failure.

    In Germany, it seems to be the case that there is no real morality, all that maters is that you pay the Church tax. I would not go to a Church which had such a confused outlook, was so money-orientated and had clearly lost all sense of itself.

    My family was in Germany on holiday a couple of weeks ago. For Sunday mass, I sought out an SSPX Chapel, about 40 minutes drive away. My constitution just isn’t strong enough to stomach the typical Germany parish. The SSPX had a tiny Church (holds maybe 50 people at a crush) in a small farming community, Hagstedt.

    The Church was of modern build, I think the people had built it themselves. It was the devil’s own job to find it, but I am glad I did. There was only about 25 people there, but all of them had made the effort to dress smartly and every one of them, from the youngest to the oldest, put their heart and soul into singing the mass. (It was funny to hear the German-accented latin – eg “Zanctus” instead of “Sanctus”).

    I actually found it a very humbling and moving experience, to visit this small traditional community, a pearl among the dungheap of Kasper-land.

  38. DonL says:

    This voice on my shoulder keeps asking in a diabolical whisper, “Why did you by all those Volkswagens?”

  39. frjim4321 says:

    I remember attending a church in Bavaria in which the entire congregation sang the hymn in four-part harmony. It was amazing! I remember the organ crescendo pedal was not a pedal but a roller. That was strange. Also way back in those days (30+ years) the hymn board was digital and controlled from the choir loft.

  40. frjim4321 says:

    (My browser says the website did not respond correctly.)

  41. MichaelKavanagh says:

    My late father was stationed in Berlin in the early 70s. He witnessed a serious car accident, and the driver was dying. According to his papers, he was Catholic, so Dad rushed into a nearby Church to find a Priest. The Priest grabbed his gear and rushed to the scene, only to note there were missing stamps inficating Church Tax was paid.

    The man died without Sacraments. My Dad’s view soured so much he almost died without his.

  42. robtbrown says:

    Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    It’s not the government saying who’s a member of the Church. It’s individuals renouncing their faith so as to avoid contributing to the support of the Church.

    Here’s how a German friend explained it:

    The churches in Germany are public entities, not private associations. And so they have the right to tax members–but the govt helps them by actually collecting the tax. And so membership in a Church (Catholic, Lutheran, etc) comes under the aegis of civil law–same with Jews.

    Such an arrangement makes it all but impossible for the Church to be independent of the state.

    Catholic tax revenue goes to the dioceses, never religious orders or congregations. The SSPX receives nothing because civil law does not apply to it.

    You might already be aware that the Archdiocese of Cologne has financial assets of about 3.3 Billion Euros, two-thirds of which are investments (not real estate).

  43. robtbrown says:

    frjim4321 says:

    I remember attending a church in Bavaria in which the entire congregation sang the hymn in four-part harmony. It was amazing! I remember the organ crescendo pedal was not a pedal but a roller.

    German singing at mass is often extraordinary and extensive, covering almost every moment. So much so that it almost seems as if the Eucharist is just an occasion for music.

  44. chantgirl says:

    First, tithing is laudable, but not required, and in some circumstances, not possible.

    Second, it is not possible to renounce the Catholic Faith. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, even if just a bad Catholic. The sacraments are not a prize for the perfect, right ;)

    Third, doesn’t Pope Francis encourage the pastors of the Church to “smell of the sheep”? I wonder how many families in Germany are able to live as well as the bishops.

    Fourth, Catholics should have some degree of say as to what their money facilitates. A Catholic should be free to donate towards an apostolate which is producing good fruits, and they should also know that their money isn’t going towards questionable causes. In the US, the USCCB has given money to Marxist, pro-abortion, contraceptive-providing, democratic campaign groups. In Germany, there was a the whole pornography publishing debacle.

    Fifth, perhaps the type of Catholicism offered in Germany is not compelling for young people to hold onto. However, would it not be the height of mercy to reach out to these people and offer them sacraments when they are in need and demonstrate desire? Is a paper roster more important than a soul in danger of death and in need of God’s mercy?

  45. WYMiriam says:

    Thank you, robtbrown, for that explanation of how the church tax is imposed. Clearly the way the collection of it is set up, there is an unhealthy association between the Church in Germany and the German government. Another question occurs: does the government take a cut of the tax for itself as the middleman?

    In 2012, the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference decreed that those who opt out of the church tax are not eligible to receive ANY of the sacraments . . .” (emphasis added) I wonder if German Catholic Bibles have had Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan purged? And has Canon 912 been expunged from the German copies of Canon Law? The one that states “Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion”?

    Saint Boniface,pray for us!

  46. Alice says:

    “There is an odd entitlement attitude among younger Catholics who think they are exempt from supporting the Church financially. My generation was raised to tithe, plus give extra for special collections and give alms.”

    I don’t know what generation you’re part of, but I’m one of those “entitled Millennials” that everyone loves to hate. As kids in the 1990s, our parents taught us that you stopped donating if the parish wasn’t doing what you wanted it to do. They called it “voting with your pocket book” and both the conservative and liberal wings of the Church were into it. Then our parents were shocked, shocked! I tell you! when Catholic school tuition went up, when parishes started charging use fees for weddings, and, in general, priests started treating them like the dissatisfied customers they claimed to be. So, you’re doing as you were raised to do, and we’re doing what we were raised to do. I do think the situation between us American Millennials and the Germans is a bit different, though, because while we (as a group) may not contribute, we have not publicly renounced our Catholic faith to avoid paying for our churches and I really have no idea why someone who publicly claims to not be Catholic should be admitted to the sacraments.

  47. Kathleen10 says:

    I do not believe, even were the pews completely empty week after week, that the German bishops would proclaim themselves anything but entirely successful. Their primary goal is not for the sheep, not for souls, not even for Christ, but for a modernist church reality to be put into place. That has happened and shows no sign of abating, so they are wildly successful. They now have the money to live extremely well personally, support the modernist causes they want, tide themselves over, and hope for more sheep to catch up with their advanced thinking and fill the pews again, which they most likely believe will happen.
    Denying the Sacraments to people who don’t pay a tax would make me quit the church. I’m not saying that’s right, just that it’s what I would probably do. I cannot believe for one second that would be the system Jesus would condone. At some point one must really take stock of reality and make decisions based on obvious realities.

  48. iamlucky13 says:

    “However, a recent academic study of the priesthood in Germany showed that even amongst the clergy, more than half – 54 percent – go to confession only “once a year or less”. [That’s damning.]”

    A word play? A rather dark one, if so. This seems quite tragic,* if even the confessors are not going to confession.

    * Lest anyone object, as well as to expand on the point: yes, I read the post a few weeks ago about overuse of the word “tragedy.” Think about it: “Aristotle says that an action is ‘tragic’ when it unfolds in a way that causes the protagonist to suffer, not by happenstance, but in accord with an intrinsic logic. The suffering of the tragic protagonist is fitting.”

    The Church in Germany is suffering. There is an intrinsic logic to it (which neither starts nor ends with the point about confessors neglecting confession), and it is fitting.

    “The head of the German bishops’ conference said: “We need a ‘sophisticated pastoral practice‘ that does justice to the diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith. The conclusion of last year’s synod of bishops and the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis are important signposts.” [What they need is a return to the basics: say Mass correctly and preach rudimentary catechism, revive devotions and put clerical clothing on, schedule confessions and get into the box. How is this hard?]”

    Yet, in a way, those basics are “sophisticated pastoral practice.” It seems basic to those of us who grew up with it, but consider the breadth, depth, and the interrelationship of the liturgy, the sacraments, elementary catechesis, the symbols like liturgical vestments (and art, architecture, etc), the Divine Office, the private devotions, etc, and the way all of these are universal across all “diverse lifeworlds,” because they all point people towards God, regardless of their age, race, health or illness, cultural background, wealth or poverty, how they seem to perceive their gender, or even regardless of past sins.

    These together comprise a pastoral practice much more sophisticated and rich than any of the numerous merely human traditions that we imbue with significance, like graduation ceremonies, the inauguration of a US president, the queen of England’s birthday, or the opening of the Olympic games.

    St. John Vianney, pastor and confessor, pray for the Church, especially in Germany.

  49. Supertradmum says:

    Alice, you are a bit touchy. I have spoken with many Gen Xers who never tithed or rarely. This is wrong. One must support the Church in some way. These people would be the age of your parents.

    The German Church Tax was initiated to keep Christianity going after the horrible persecution of not only Jews, but Catholics and even Lutherans who stood up against Nazism. The idea was to keep the churches financially stable after being scourged by the Nazis. One can understand the initial good intentions of keeping Germany Christian.

    However, the idea may be outdated. Having said that, living in England for a long time, I can tell you that the Catholic Church there is extremely poor because people do not tithe or give to any parish. Same in Ireland, where the people think that giving a Euro on Sunday is enough. This is an immoral attitude on the part of the laity.

    One must pay for buildings, heat, and upkeep on especially ancient, or very old churches. If one wants a sacramental life, one needs to contribute to the institutional Church.

    It will not be long before the Catholic Church in Great Britain is totally bankrupt because people are not obeying Church law.

  50. CarpeNoctem says:

    Ok… my understanding of the so-called “Church Tax” is that it is not a de novo charge against churchgoers in the country, but it is a designation that some percentage (somewhere around a tithe) of what is otherwise being charged by the government is being directed to the churches under the idea that “church” has a cultural and aesthetic value to the nation, which I think at first glance is a laudable idea. Many of the church buildings, for instance, are considered historical sites and are maintained with that purpose by these funds… indeed, the parish I lived in for a short time had some 12-15 buildings spread all over the place, with, I think, three priests who were basically ‘circuit riders’ from a central location. There was Mass every weekend at the main place(s), but the remote missions were only often enough to officially consider them ‘open’, Indeed, the ‘historical’ church up in the hills was 500 years old and did not actually, really, have a congregation… so it was there for weddings and events and had to have Mass said so often to keep it ‘active’.

    The other thing to note is that the priests (as all ministers) are considered ‘civil servants’, in that, if I understood, their salaries/benefits were paid by the government out of this pile of money. And a number of years ago, when the dollar was somewhat weaker against the Euro, it figured out to a $100k salary. Thus, also, the reason everyone finds a doctorate degree from whatever diploma mill they can get it from… I would argue not because the German Church is really that intellectual, but instead, so that they can be at the top of the pay scale. Now, $100k USD in Europe is good, but you do need to realize that 50% comes off as taxes right off the top, and then the cost of living for food, fuel, and other taxes is much higher over there as well. Of course, without families to support, a bachelor can do pretty well with what remains, I would guess.

    People are withdrawing their support from this tax, I think not only because of the lousy service they are getting from their parishes (like they do here in the States sometimes), but I think there is some deep-seated anxiety which is often expressed here as the desire to separate Church and State… and I don’t think that’s all bad. I suspect that the bigger problem is an outright rejection of the faith, though. But when it comes to funding and the tax, the alternative is that the Church in Germany would need to come up with its own funding mechanism.. passing the basket, once again, which in secularist Germany might become a tragic problem. What will become of those churches up in the hills? I suppose they ceded to the government which may be an even worse outcome that anyone could imagine.

    There have been some nasty things done in the name of maintaining that ‘church tax’ regarding who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ of the Church, and I can’t imagine that is good for business in the long run, or in the ideals of what Church law would say… but if (a big if… I hope I am understanding this correctly) it is not costing people any more or less to pay the tax… wow… what do you say to someone who publicly renounces their participation in the church through this way? Again, I don’t think it’s right to reject such persons out of hand, but there is a two way street here.

    Again, my time in Germany was very short… less than six months over a couple of years, so I might not have all of this completely right. I think, though, there is a perspective here that is not being reflected in the comments… and I would encourage and invite someone with more understanding to further illuminate/correct…

  51. acardnal says:

    There is a report today, July 18, from EWTN/CNA quoting Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, describing the excommunication of those who do not pay the tax as “incomprehensible” and “excessive”:

    “Yes that [excommunication] is a serious problem. How does the Catholic Church in Germany react to someone leaving? By automatic expulsion from the community, in other words, excommunication! That is excessive, quite incomprehensible. You can question dogma, no one is concerned about that, no one gets kicked out. Is the non-payment of the Church tax a bigger offense against the Faith than violations of the tenets of Faith?”


  52. HeatherPA says:

    My husband and I are Gen X’ers who contribute at least 10% in tithing a year.

    We were never once taught a thing about tithing and the Christian duty to tithe in a single Rel Ed class (for me) or a single RCIA class (for him). We learned through reading, homilies, and other good Catholics who have apostolates that teach us poor uncatetchised Gen X’ers the truth.
    We give 5% to our parish, and the remainder is split between Opus Angelorum, Opus Sacerdoti, a few other priests and orders,
    and having Gregorian Masses said for the dead.

    We couldn’t support any order or worthy apostolate, let alone have masses said for the Poor Souls if the government took our tithe and gave it to the diocese, and frankly that is wrong to do IMO. We do not support CRS because they do shady stuff mixed in with the good, as well as other “charities” that are wholeheartedly supported by the US Bishops and have been shown to do many troubling and scandalous things. To know that people are being denied a Christian burial over taxation is especially upsetting.

  53. iamlucky13 says:

    “Second, it is not possible to renounce the Catholic Faith. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, even if just a bad Catholic. “

    It is not possible to renounce baptism and membership in the Church. It is possible to renounce your adherence to the faith. Apostasy is a real thing.

    In Germany, Catholics are reportedly formally renouncing their faith in droves, in the form of declaring on an official government form that they renounce it. It’s either a lie or apostasy.

    And the situation leads many to scandalously believe that the motive for the refusing the sacraments to those who do so is not apostasy on the part of the rank and file Catholics, but simony on the part of the bishops. I’m not in a position to assess the truth of the accusation about the actual motive, but it sounds to me like the scandal that results is real regardless of the motive.

  54. Viaticum says:

    “We need a ‘sophisticated pastoral practice‘ that does justice to the diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith. ”

    This is exactly what the leaders (sic) of the Episcopal Church in the USA have been saying for several decades as their denomination ever-more rapidly disappears from the radar screen. You would think that could serve as a useful object lesson about modernism’s staying power.

  55. stephen c says:

    I live a few miles from Georgetown University, a place I fell much affection for ; but if you asked me if I think that it is objectively a pro-abortion (and hence, sad to say, an anti-Christian – and by the way, if you look at the statistics regarding which children of which races are more frequently aborted, a racist) institution, I would have to say, extremely sadly, yes, it is objectively pro-abortion (and anti-Christian, and racist). (I would like to be wrong! Good people work there, but a minority of good people does not define an institution). But it is clearly, from the point of view of government bureaucrats, a “Catholic” institution. If the local government of the day tells me that I have no choice but to fund pro-abortion, anti-Christian, racist Georgetown University with a 10 percent surcharge on my taxes, or write a government imposed note saying I am not Catholic, (or, if I have the bravery to do so, refrain from making any taxable income whatsoever, or invest my time and energy in exhausting and difficult litigation), then I am the victim of Extortion (Not simony). If I do write the note (which I wouldn’t – I would just not earn a taxable income in this scenario) and then some time later a priest who thinks I wrote the note charges me a few bucks to let me have the last rites the government would say I am not entitled to, I am the victim of Simony. Where the Bishops are good Catholics these issues do not arise, because where the Bishops are good Catholics places like Georgetown University are not allowed to call themselves Catholic and act in an objectively anti-Christian, pro-abortion and racist manner. So the German tax controversy, while not a yes/no question of natural law, may be an equally important question of prudential concern for others. (Not to mention the question of whether tempting people to renounce, via a government form, a faith they may still feel mild attachment to is justified by a desire to obtain the money of every one who does not want to renounce, via a government form or otherwise, that faith).

  56. robtbrown says:


    The reason Catholic school tuition has increased so much is the use of lay teachers. In the days when religious institutes were the principal staff of schools, the costs were minimal.

  57. Supertradmum says:

    Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    Canon 1364 §1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”

    Sadly, this is not longer taught in the US from the pulpit. Apostasy is a serious sin. And, people are not leaving the Church in Germany because of the tax, but because of wanting ssm, marriage after divorce without an annulment, and the biggest reason why people leave the Church–contraception.

    An apostate must go back to Confession to priest who can remove the latae sententiaw excommunication. In some dioceses, bishops want to be the ones to remove this.

    Yes, to deny confession for not paying tax is an evil, but the apostate has a duty to come back to the Church and then support it.

    As to maintaining the ancient churches, yes, this is our duty as Catholics. Only Protestants want iconoclasm. These old churches breath life into even secular communities. Today, at Mass, I saw two Chinese tourists who were obviously very moved by their experience of an ancient Church, which includes live organ music before and after Mass daily.

    Beauty converts by leading one’s mind, heart and soul to God. The athestic experience can lead to an experience of the Holy Spirit. The Church’s heritage must be maintained, and if the Church tax is used partly to keep these statements of Faith from past generations open, yes, I agree with that.

    We are not an utilitarian religion, but a religion of beauty, truth, and seen in stone and glass. Only barbarians and those who hate the Trinity and Mary want to destroy the ancient churches.

  58. Supertradmum says:


    True, but, I taught in Catholic schools for years, at the high school level and my average salary was 19,000 only and in most cases, with no health plan or retirement plans. Those were private Catholic schools, not diocesan, as I would only teach in REAL Catholic schools with classical education curriculum. As a single mum, it was really hard. One sacrifices to teach in Catholic schools, which is one reason why there are so few men teaching in even NAPCIS schools. A wage earner can hardly make ends meet.

    Years ago, before I woke up, I applied to a SSPX school and even though I had a son at home, I was only offered 16,000. For one salary, that is not enough. Yet, schools need budgets.

    The nuns were supported by their orders, as were the many teaching orders of men. Those are now depleted, as you noted.

  59. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear iamlucky13 and Supertradmum,

    Thank you for clearly stating the issue: Exemption from the tax in Germany requires that one publicly state that one is not a member of the Church. The consequence of making that statement is that one should not expect to be treated a practicing Catholic until one has made it clear that the declaration is no longer true. We can speculate as to the reasons why a person might make such a declaration but the fact remains that the person has publicly renounced the faith.

    As to the objection raised that “once a Catholic, always a Catholic”, a look back to the Protestant Reformation shows that not to be true. Martin Luther, Henry VIII, John Calvin and the others who founded the Protestant Churches were all excommunicated for their actions. We must not mistake to assume that the indelible mark of Baptism is a vaccine against Actual Sin. Its effect in removing the stain of Original Sin is not to be minimized, but God’s gift of free will allows us to reject Him and His Truth. Apostasy, Heresy and Schism, as Supertradmum points out, are renunciations of the faith, either in whole or in part. And no one who is an apostate, a heretic, or a schismatic may receive the Sacraments without repenting of his or her renunciation, with the possible exception of being in danger of death.

  60. The Masked Chicken says:

    The history of the German Church tax comes out of German state pre-history and was adopted several times in different document as well as, in part, for re-building efforts after WWII, as Supertradmum notes, but it is, ironically, a law passed in pre-Vatican II days when church attendance was high and donations could be, proportionally, smaller. The law should have been abrogated once the church-flight after Vatican II started. As it is, the law is, clearly, immoral, so, technically, binding on no one. It is immoral because it penalizes the poor, forcing them into an impossible position of pay-for-services. In my opinion, this tax has become a form of spiritual abuse. Canon 222 does not specify either money or amount of money as the only means to assist the Church. The prayers of the truly poor should be enough to satisfy assistance to the Church. They are, as St. Lawrence points out, the treasure of the Church, but they are being robbed of even that standing by being forced to pay money.

    Now, exceptions for the truly poor may be baked into the law in Germany (anybody know?), but if the German Churches can’t catechize well enough so that people would support churches without a tax, then they deserve to go under. As it were, a group of poor people should be helped, pro bono, to petition the Vatican for a judgment on the moral and legal standing of the tax.

    The Chicken

  61. chantgirl says:

    Pope Benedict addressed these issues here. It is specifically stated that opting out of a government roll does not constitute an act of schism. ( I do agree that these gorgeous old Churches should be preserved, but not through the coercion of the state deciding who is actually a Catholic.) :



    Vatican City, 13 March 2006

    Prot. N. 10279/2006

    Your Excellency:

    For quite some time, a considerable number of Bishops, Judicial Vicars and others working in the field of canon law have been posing to this Pontifical Council questions and requests for clarification concerning the so-called actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica mentioned in canons 1086, § 1, 1117 and 1124 of the Code of Canon Law. The concept therein presented is new to canonical legislation and is distinct from the other – rather “virtual” (that is, deduced from behaviors) – forms of “notoriously” or “publicly” abandoning the faith (cfr. can. 171, § 1, 4°; 194, § 1, 2°; 316, § 1; 694, § 1, 1°; 1071, § 1, 4° and § 2). In the latter circumstances, those who have been baptized or received into the Catholic Church continue to be bound by merely ecclesiastical laws (cfr. can. 11).

    The issue was carefully examined by the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See in order to identify, first of all, the theological and doctrinal components of an actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica and then in turn the requirements or juridical formalities that would be necessary so that such an action would constitute a true “formal act” of defection.

    After having received the decision of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith concerning the theological and doctrinal elements, and after subsequently examining the entire matter in Plenary Session, this Pontifical Council communicates the following to the Presidents of Episcopal Conferences:

    1. For the abandonment of the Catholic Church to be validly configured as a true actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia so that the exceptions foreseen in the previously mentioned canons would apply, it is necessary that there concretely be:

    a) the internal decision to leave the Catholic Church;
    b) the realization and external manifestation of that decision; and
    c) the reception of that decision by the competent ecclesiastical authority.

    2. The substance of the act of the will must be the rupture of those bonds of communion – faith, sacraments, and pastoral governance – that permit the Faithful to receive the life of grace within the Church. This means that the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry maintained by the government in order to produce certain civil consequences), but be configured as a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church: it supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.

    3. The juridical-administrative act of abandoning the Church does not per se constitute a formal act of defection as understood in the Code, given that there could still be the will to remain in the communion of the faith.

    On the other hand, heresy (whether formal or material), schism and apostasy do not in themselves constitute a formal act of defection if they are not externally concretized and manifested to the ecclesiastical authority in the required manner.

    4. The defection must be a valid juridical act, placed by a person who is canonically capable and in conformity with the canonical norms that regulate such matters (cfr. cann.124-126). Such an act must be taken personally, consciously and freely.

    5. It is required, moreover, that the act be manifested by the interested party in written form, before the competent authority of the Catholic Church: the Ordinary or proper pastor, who is uniquely qualified to make the judgment concerning the existence or non-existence of the act of the will as described above in n. 2.

    Consequently, only the convergence of the two elements – the theological content of the interior act and its manifestation in the manner defined above – constitutes the actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica, with the corresponding canonical penalties (cfr. can. 1364, § 1).

    6. In such cases, the competent ecclesiastical authority mentioned above is to provide that this act be noted in the baptismal registry (cfr. can. 535, § 2) with explicit mention of the occurrence of a “defectio ab Ecclesia catholica actu formali”.

    7. It remains clear, in any event, that the sacramental bond of belonging to the Body of Christ that is the Church, conferred by the baptismal character, is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection.

    With the certainty that the Bishops of your Conference, conscious of the salvific dimension of ecclesiastical communion, will well understand the pastoral motivations underlying these norms, I welcome this opportunity to renew my sentiments of fraternal esteem.

    Faithfully yours in the Lord,

    Julián Card. Herranz

    Bruno Bertagna

    This notification was approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, who directed that it be transmitted to all Presidents of Episcopal Conferences.

  62. chantgirl says:

    I should have been more careful with my terminology. There are strict ways in which a Catholic can formally defect, but he can never undo his baptism into the body of Christ. So he can be a lapsed Catholic, or a bad Catholic, but he can never undo mark of baptism. Removing one’s name from the German registry does not constitute an act of defection in itself.

  63. Imrahil says:

    Ah yes, of course all the stuff comes up again. So, let’s address one thing at a time. First,

    dear chantgirl,

    although precisely this Legislative Texts document keeps mentioned again and again in a blatantly wrong way by those who want the German Church tax abolished, this is only because people keep and keep misreading “act of defection” for “act of schism”. Whereas, the text plainly says in No. 3 that a mere act of schism does not, per se, constitute an act of defection. It should be plain enough that even a mere act of schism is still an excommunicable offense. (By the way, the juridical consequences of an act of defection specifically, mainly marriage-wise, have been abolished by Pope Benedict somewhen around 2009.

    It’s rather tiring, forgive me to say, to hear this document cited again and again in a context it has obviously nothing to say about.

    Dear Chicken,

    first of all, I’m sorry to contradict you, but – and I’m really sure about this one, so I may address other things you said later where I’ll be a bit more vague, but I’m not here:

    1. If a State can tax without being immoral, distributing the costs for its upkeep in a just manner among his subjects, then obviously a fortiori so can the Church.

    (And while we’re at it, as far as the State is concerned, only a full-fledged libertarian, which is a doctrine condemned by the Church, can deny that this may at least to some extent contain some public services not strictly necessary, which Society just chooses to afford.)

    2. Even if the Church tax were immoral which it isn’t, the Church ever has taught that even as the only means to achieve some good end, it is immoral to choose an immoral path. So even if it were a good end to withhold the Church tax, it would be immoral to deny one’s faith (and publicly with signature) even if it is the only way to do so. Surely noone would suggest that denying one’s faith isn’t intrinsically wrong.

    3. While it is true that Canon 222 leaves the manner and amount of Church-assistance to the conscience of the individual Catholic, there is nothing in it to hinder some other Church law (say, the Final Protocol to Article 13 of the Reich Concordat, 1933, duly signed and ratified by the Holy See) to enact a rule in itself just (for which see no. 1).

    (And of course, it may be refreshing to said individual Catholic if he firmly knows just how much he has to do, and how much is supererogatory. God loveth a joyful giver, it is said: working under the constant self-suspicion of not having done enough does not seem to be the ideal. But then I am, of course, German.)

    Dear IloveJesus,

    How is the Sacraments for Church Tax not simony?

    In the following manner: any Catholic (as long as he remains Catholic) has to pay it, whether he frequents the Sacraments and sacramentals or no. Sure that fact that law-breaking is not only forbidden but, in this case, impossible* does not change the situation.

    [* Of course, the Church-tax-evader could also choose to evade the State tax, which is possible, though imprisonable.]

    Dear Gerard Plourde,

    while not surprisingly I agree to the tenor of what you said, still as to

    to support the Church under the the laws of the BRD,

    apart from the fact that BRD used to be considered a disparaging abbreviation around here (because used by the DDR or GDR to imply equivalence of the two German states; FRG or BRDt is okay), it is not the laws of the Federal Republic in question here, but the laws of the Church. The German bishops have chosen to demand the tax. German federal and state law only comes into play in case they choose to do so, which they do.

    Dear Prayerful,

    Church Tax wealth which means 7 Series BMWs and 6 figure salaries

    Bishops are not paid from the Church tax. The 7 series BMWs are, as far as I know, sponsored by BMW in at least some cases, and it would in my view amount to ingratitude not to use them. And then, who in all the world should use a / series BMW of not a bishop and successor to the Apostles? (I’m not speaking of the special case of bishops from the religious clergy here.) There is such a thing as “upkeep befitting one’s social status” (looking for a translation for standesgemäß), and bishops have not vowed poverty. Nor have other secular clergy.

    Dear WYMiriam,

    Clearly the way the collection of it is set up, there is an unhealthy association between the Church in Germany and the German government.

    Note that the idea of “separation of Church and State” which, forgive the freshness, Americans and post-Revolution and post-1905 Frenchmen seem to consider written right into natural law itself was condemned repeatedly by the Church. The Church’s teaching assumes as the natural case of affairs that government is a good thing executed by the normal sort of good (though not flawless) people, and government and Church can well work together for the common good. And no, nothing of this was changed in the Second Vatican Council (which merely tinkered with the details of when such a government has to tolerate a false religion).

    Another question occurs: does the government take a cut of the tax for itself as the middleman?

    Yes; way more than their collecting costs them; way less than it would cost to the Church were she to collect by offices of her own. “Win-win”, as the economists call it. (I think the figure is a low one-digit percentage.)

    Dear CarpeNoctem,

    Ok… my understanding of the so-called “Church Tax” is that it is not a de novo charge against churchgoers in the country, but it is a designation that some percentage (somewhere around a tithe) of what is otherwise being charged by the government is being directed to the churches under the idea that “church” has a cultural and aesthetic value to the nation, which I think at first glance is a laudable idea.

    That is wrong. That’s how they do things in Italy, and no doubt many would prefer this in Germany, but for this you have the State to play along. The German Church tax is a surplus charge to (not “against”) the Catholics (irrespective of their churchgoing). Though it is tax-deductible, which means that part of it is then born by the State – but in this it does not differ from any charitable giving.

    As for the figures, it’s 8% (Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg) or 9% (rest) of the income tax. The income tax is between 15% and 42 % depending on how much you earn, after a free amount of 8000 €. So, depending on how much you earn and taking deductibility into account, the effective surplus cost by the church tax is between 1 % and 2.2 % of the income.

    The other thing to note is that the priests (as all ministers) are considered ‘civil servants’, in that, if I understood, their salaries/benefits were paid by the government out of this pile of money.

    Forgive me, but well, that understanding was a misunderstanding. It is true that the priests are “civil servants” in the sense that they are not labourers or contract-employees; they enjoy the status of “civil servant”, which is because the Church is a “corporation under public law” (public as opposed to private. But their “lord of service”, as it is called, is very well the Church. Also, the Church, not the State, pays them. From the Church tax.

    Only the priests that work in prisons, (hospitals?), and the military actually are civil servants in the sense in which you understand the term.

    Thus, also, the reason everyone finds a doctorate degree from whatever diploma mill they can get it from.

    I seriously wonder in which connection you heard that and what it has to do with the German clergy.

    some deep-seated anxiety which is often expressed here as the desire to separate Church and State.

    Here, that’s usually only what the unbelievers say. The believers well defend the public rôle of the Church, mayors marching along in the Corpus Christi procession wearing their insignia chanting “A house full of glory”, crucifixes hanging in public schools as a sign that Christ is the true educator and in courtrooms as a sign that Christ is the true judge, and so on.

    So, so much in Church-tax-related plain answers. I may write another comment giving a bit of my own opinion (in so far as I have any) about the Church tax and about the real topic of this thread which is, rather, the state of the Church in Germany.

  64. Imrahil says:

    correction to the second but last paragraph: while Crucifixes do hang in school classrooms, what we have in courtrooms (for whatever reason) is merely a Cross.

  65. Imrahil says:

    As for the statistics,

    why are the German bishops so triumphant?

    Well, maybe, they should take some lesson in “how do I make sure not to appear as someone camouflaging defeat”. It’s a propagandistic own-goal of high magnitude to appear that way.

    But camouflaging defeat wasn’t the real reason the German bishops speak the way they speak; or at least, only in the very slightest degree among other factors.

    They speak the way they speak because they thought it would be worse.

    I recently heard Cardinal Marx preach at a Confirmation that some decades ago, he was told that there wouldn’t be any youths asking for this Sacrament, and there they are.

    There was once a government who campaigned for re-election using a third derivative, saying that the rate of growth of the rate of growth of the unemployment numbers is ascending slowlier than it did before. – It’s somewhat similar here.

    Here, also, as they said, there are still some 23 million Catholics. And, as they said, “in the year 2015, there have been a 38500 Church defections less than in 2014”.

    That the number of “Church entries” (that is, of former defectors returning, and of non-Catholically baptized converting) is lower (and much so) than that of defectors, I can’t help it seems somewhat usual. As for a defected Catholic returning, that amounts to a sort of miracle, and while miracles are possible and do happen, they tend to be few in numbers. As to Protestants converting to Catholicism, well, it’s no secret that there is no organized effort to make converts here (as some would call it, “proselytize”), so even a few number is a good number.

    As for the baptized babies, while it is true that some parents don’t baptize their children any-more especially if one of the parents is an unbeliever, and while it is true that this is (to some extent) a recent development which actually is problematic (though many, even many orthodox people, don’t think so, and actually condemn the fact that Baptism be something you just traditionally do), the most part of the decrease is simply demographic. There are less babies.

    The decline in Church attendance between 1995 and 2015 is, in itself, really a sign of decline. However, you’d have to know how was it in 2014, and the most recent years before, to draw a picture. Of course it was higher in 1995; but for that matter, it was still higher in 1955.

    A statistics that has an entry about “reception of Confession once a year or less” is, forgive me to say, an abuse of statistics in itself. It totally distorts the really important figure here, which is “do they make what was traditionally called their Easter duties, yes or no?”.

    [Just for the sake of completeness, the chance that pastors, who have no worldly business and by their very job have to pray constantly, etc., make it through a year without mortal sin does not seem too small, though – and only then Confession is strictly necessary.]

    Well, on the ‘sophisticated pastoral practice‘ that does justice to the diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith, about which I’m rather as critical as the rest of you, maybe something later.

  66. chantgirl says:

    Imrahil- To be honest, I can’t imagine Pope Benedict not having Germany in mind when the
    ACTUS FORMALIS DEFECTIONIS AB ECCLESIA CATHOLICA was released. Does anyone know of another situation in which a government is collecting information on which religions people belong to and then that religion’s pastors are taking the government’s information as binding? Perhaps China with the Patriotic and underground Catholic churches?

    I am not a lawyer, so I may have misunderstood something in the Actus, but I can understand how terrible it appears to many people that German Bishops and priests will let any number of people who are public, unrepentant sexual sinners (people who have wrecked families!) receive absolution and communion, but they draw the line at people who refuse to pay a tax. The general public will automatically make a connection (valid or not) between the Church tax and the objections of Luther to selling indulgences. The optics are awful.

  67. Imrahil says:

    Dear stephen c,

    it is rather funny that you insist on calling the German episcopate “effectively [whatever “effectively” means] pro-abortion bishops”, when an unfriendly and (perhaps overly) critical but objective observer might say that abortion is the one area from all the hot issues where the German institutional Church is unquestionably orthodox.

    (If he is, in addition, humorous, he might add, “at least since they were made orthodox, by a direct order of Pope St. John Paul II. After all, they are Germans and have to keep up to their stereotypes.”)

  68. Imrahil says:

    Dear chantgirl,

    whatever he imagined when he signed (and by the way, he only signed, the document was a Legislative Texts document dealing with the details on actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica), I’ll use for interpretation what he signed.

    The general public will automatically make a connection (valid or not) between the Church tax and the objections of Luther to selling indulgences. The optics are awful.

    I’ll maybe get to that later in the “vaguer things about the Church tax, real arguments against it, etc.” comment. However, here so much that whether the connection is valid or not is not an unimportant distinction.

    who are public, unrepentant sexual sinners (people who have wrecked families!) receive absolution and communion, but they draw the line at people who refuse to pay a tax.

    Now if they did consider the “people with marriage issues” as unrepentant sexual sinners, they certainly would draw the line at them too.

    They draw a line at people who stubbornly do not do what is right; they are Germans and just cannot understand such a thing, for all the talk about mercy.

    They wouldn’t admit divorced and remarried people to Holy Communion if they didn’t consider their actions, or more precisely their remaining in the state they entered into and the singular act of sex within such a partnership, as not sinful. Or probably not sinful. With some sort of moral certainty make-outtably not sinful.

    Not subjectively sinful, that is. What they want to change is that an objective state of sin hinders Communion even when no subjective sin is present. (Though it does tell volumes that the talk is all about Communion, which may be spiritual after all, but never about Confession.)

  69. Imrahil says:

    “as not sinful”, etc.: rather, “as not or only venially sinful”. Likewise in the rest of the comment.

  70. Imrahil says:

    Does anyone know of another situation in which a government is collecting information on which religions people belong to and then that religion’s pastors are taking the government’s information as binding?

    The system in Austria and Switzerland is similar, I am told. :-)

    But in any case, believe me, noone questions that when the State reports that someone has declared to its offices that he is no longer a Catholic, then such a declaration has in fact taken place. If the State regularly lied about this, it would be quite another matter. But noone claims that. But then, in Catholic social teaching, the State is not, just because he’s the State, automatically to be distrusted.

    That said, Italy has people mention “whom to donate the otto per mille to” in their tax documents.

  71. Imrahil says:

    Dear Prayerful,

    Yet, any clearly Traditional leaning bishop has to be doubly careful as they will find themselves retired on the slightest pretext, even for overspending on long agreed construction work, or similar.

    An annotation, not a contradiction:

    The bishop you refer to wasn’t even particularly traditional-leaning – in any other diocese, even any other German diocese, he would have been seen as some mainstream-Catholic bishop, the way they all are. Also, the opinion among his own diocesans at the time seems to have been, “well, he’s not a bad man; he just doesn’t fit here”.

  72. Imrahil says:

    Now for the arguments against the Church tax which are either really valid, or I am undecided, or at least more vague.

    1. “The Church should not be rich”, but a poor Church for the poor, etc.

    I tend not to be of this opinion. One should not confuse the Church with a religious order that has vowed poverty, not even (may I say it) the Jesuit order… The Church is a force for all the good, true and beautiful things in this world, and I for one would rather her to be a powerful force than a powerless force. We are preparing for the Second Coming of the Lord and the meeting of particular souls with their Lord at the point of their death, yes, but in the meantime, it really is the Catholic idea to form the world as best possible, not excluding enjoyment of the Earth’s goods, which is not damnable if it is done praising God (1 Tim 4,4). Spreading the Reign of Jesus Christ, it is called, and the Reign of Christ is not the State of Sparta. “The meek shall inherit the land”, and as Chesterton commented, when much of the land once really was in the hands of religious institutions which, as even the Church’s opposers usually concede, used it for a comfortable rule of the land’s subjects (“under the crook, there is good living”), that really was a way in which that promise was temporarily fulfilled.

    The somewhat cruder formulation of this argument is that money is evil and the Devil’s tool. Well, it isn’t, it’s just a tool. Just as a bullet.

    2. The Church tax it penalizes the poor, as the dear Chicken said.

    Well, the way it is constructed it would not penalize the very poor, generally, it seems: the first 8000 € per annum plus a flat-rate of some 1500 € meant to cover “expenses incurred in order to earn” are free of any sort of tax, including the Church tax. As are the 2290 € you pay less in tax, or if you don’t pay as much tax at all, get, if you have to care for a child (per child, somewhat more for the third, fourth and further children). As “poor” we generally consider someone who can apply for State welfare, and the amount of State welfare is some 4800 € per annum plus housing.

    However, if there would be such a situation, the obvious choice is to go to one’s pastor and beg for – not a reduction of the tax, that’s way too complicated in bureaucracy, but just some charitable support. Of course if it really is dependent on that, you had better rather humble yourself in this way, than renounce your faith, or pretend to have renounced it.

    3. “It would be better to draw on voluntary tithes, since that involves the people more.”

    This is a better argument.

    Maybe it does: if the habit is established. It is naturally enough that it isn’t in countries where there is a Church tax. Nor does this mean that because we rarely give more than 2 € in the Sunday donation, we are bad Catholics. It’s just that the system is different.

    And then, I wonder. The tithe seems to mean to me that one demands much more from those who pay it then does the Church tax (10 % vs. some 2 %), while the Church in all probability will get less. Hence, “we want to exchange the Church tax for a tithe” has the effect “we want the good Catholics to have less money and the bad Catholics to have more money”.

    4. “Even if the Church has, in itself, the right to tax, the taxes are, at present, used badly.”

    This is a much better argument than (1) and (2) and even than (3) , in my view. However, I think the loyalty of a Catholic towards his own Church should be at least as grand as that towards one’s fatherland. Right or wrong, my Church.

    Given that even bishops are not flawless, but even if flawed still hierarchs demanding our respect and at least principally at least some sort of obedience, they should be able to distribute of something of our fortunes even if doing so badly. After all, so does the State; and who dares think he could evade the State’s tax for this reason?

    Well, the State can imprison. But for a faithful Catholic, the command of a Church superior even if he cannot imprison should be of, if not more, at least equal worth than that of a State superior who can. Even if he should merely command to give this and that amount of money and you wouldn’t have to renounce your faith not to do so, but all the more if the latter.

    I’m not here arguing against those who would resist the State’s mismanagement in the same or in higher amount, but people generally don’t.

    – And besides, I think the notion (as alluded to, though he laudably said he did not know whether true, by the dear stephen c) that they actually “teach heresy” is not true. A part of me (which I don’t agree with) can’t help thinking “if the case only were so easy”. Failure to speak the truth when necessary maybe, non-heretic errors maybe, bad policy and strategy maybe, but heresy is some rather heavy accusation and I don’t think it applies.

    5. “Men are seductible to sin; a lukewarm Catholic who, for all his lukewarmness, is still a believer, might, by some reaction of his subconscious, cease to believe if he pondered long enough about the monetary benefits of not believing.”

    In my view that is the best argument against the Church tax there is; curiously enough I rarely hear it mentioned.

    Of course it doesn’t apply when the practical effect of Church-defection, or at least of the lukewarm sort of Church-defection, is social shunning, as it used to be (and there are many Church defectors who insist vividly that they did not do it for the money, but really held the Church to be wrong; probably for this reason).

    But in our times to defect from Church is practically considered the honest course of action, while staying in is considered the sentimental course of action of the “of course I believe there is somewhat”ters; apart, of course, from the real sort of dogmatic believers, but aren’t they almost negligible? [This, of course, is the real problem.]

    Now one of the ghastly aspects of this is that many people, even many orthodox (shall I say: otherwise orthodox?) people actually think it a benefit of the Church tax and similar systems if suchlike wimps leave the Church, leaving only the stronger behind. It seems here that our Holy Father’s words, “the Church is a field hospital that has to treat the wounded” (and make them able to fight, of course) really do apply.

    I should hardly know how one could counter this argument, unless,except perhaps that (after all there is no encouraging of defection from the Church) these lukewarm defections are to be tolerated for the sake of the greater good of, not epurgation of the Church but just simply Church maintenance, charities and (if we are allowed to dream) missionary activity; that while we should want each lukewarm Catholics to stay in Church, if he does leave it because that little bit of money is more important to him there is at least some positive side to it; and that after all there are still a good (probably still very large) number of Catholics who are kept to the Church, apart from the Christmas Mass, by the fact that, whenever they make their tax declaration, they see that some of their money goes off to the Church, know of course that they could defect and keep it, and consider this an indecent deed to do.

    [And what is the unsaid argument for the Church tax?

    “For the last sixty years, the atheists, secularists, modernists and all that sort of people have constantly been opposing it.”]

  73. Supertradmum says:

    Everyone in Great Britain PAYS for the National Church in taxation, which is then apportioned to that denomination.

    Going back to the original thread. The German Church is not any worse or better than the Church in England, or Wales, or Ireland. In those countries, the Church is imploding owing to poor leadership and the greatly sinful decisions of the youth who do not want any church telling them what to do. In addition, a long practice of going to Church without actually abiding by the laws of the Church has been the modus vivendi in Europe, and to be honest, in America–How many American Catholics believe that birth control is ok and use it? 82% of American Catholics in one Gallup poll said that artificial birth control was morally OK. Not to create yet another rabbit hole, but when the Pope said that most Catholic marriages were invalid, I think he may have been referring to the number who get married with the full intention of practicing birth control, which would create an impediment to the sacramental marriage. Refusal to have children is an impediment to a sacramental marriage. A couple who can but who intends never to have children may not marry in the Catholic Church and make it invalid.

    Many European Catholics and the American Catholic have the same problem with this fact, which, if there is a good pastor pointing this out, causes such people to leave the Church–hence, lower numbers.

    That the Church in Germany, where I was today, btw, is getting bad press is simply that the press is noticing the serious problems, while in Great Britain and Ireland, these problems are glossed over. I hardly see a difference between Vincent Nichols and Walter Kasper, both Cardinals of a strong liberal bent, and doing damage to the local Church in their respective nations .

  74. Imrahil says:

    Good comment, dear Supertradmum,

    though I’m of course partial.

    (Do really English Catholics pay for the Anglican Church? If so, that sort of thing at least doesn’t happen in Germany…)

    As somewhat of a correction, intention to use birth-control, while sinful, will invalidate a marriage only if they plan to do so whenever they consummate their marriage. Not if they plan to have their one, two, (three?) children with what they consider perfect intervals and birth-control only to prevent further children.

    the greatly sinful decisions of the youth who do not want any church telling them what to do.

    In fairness to young people, they haven’t really so much experienced any church telling them what to do. They have experienced churches that are mortally afraid of doing that, but (this, in itself, might be nice enough, everyone likes to be able to do what he pleases) then if you do inquire further on, does have these rules back somewhere in their books, and the arguments of liberal-but-religious theologians that they don’t just don’t convince on their own grounds.

    The combination of having a Catechism which is, let’s face it, sometimes demanding, and being shy about it is… as they say when they don’t want to use stronger words… unhelpful.

    It is still aggravated by the fact that contemporary Respectable-Society seems to go like a hound after all those morally legitimate pleasures, such as eating to heart’s content, meat of course, smoking, drinking in the traditional Catholic style (Respectable-Society prefers occasional nights-out ending up really-really drunk and otherwise abstinece, just the contrary to traditional Catholic habits), and so on. “Pleasure is either illegal, immoral or fattening” they used to say: contemporary Respectable-Society really does go after the fattening things (litterally and figuratively) as if they were worst of all.

    That the Church in Germany is getting bad press is simply that the press is noticing the serious problems

    Thanks! In fact (if you suffer) one positive side, however small, of possibly tax-induced Church defections is that they are a hard number, and one of the external forum, which will appear in the statistics.

    Though I don’t see so many bad press around here at all. It’s just the usual publication of Church statistics for the year past, with some (tiny) amount of reporting.

  75. stephen c says:

    Imrahil – thanks for reading my comment. As you stated that you are not sure what I meant by effectively, I will briefly explain. “Effectively” was meant in the sense, as far as I can tell, that Aquinas used it – an effective decision to support something is different than a formal decision to support something. You are probably familiar with Aquinas so I will leave it at that.

  76. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    As always, your comments are examples of clear logic. I want to apologize for use of BRD. Although having been a German major earlier in my life I was unaware of negative connotations. I was thinking of the official name of the country i.e. Bundesrepublik Deutschland and do not remember running across the BRDt abbreviation but will gladly accept the correction.

  77. WYMiriam says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    Thank you for answering my comment (on the “unhealthy” relationship between Church and State) and question (on the State taking a cut of the church tax); please accept my apologies for my lapse in common sense in regards to “separation of church and state” when I said “clearly . . . there is an unhealthy association between the Church in Germany and the German government.” Clearly, I didn’t know what I was talking about, since I have no clue how Germany is governed and how the church tax there works in practice. In taking what I perceive to be happening in the USA, and applying it (without thought) to Germany, I wound up assuming things that I had no right to be assuming. I’m grateful for your efforts to address so many different aspects of this issue, and I hope I’m not just a little smarter but also maybe a little wiser now, too. :-)

  78. mpolo says:

    The argument used for exclusion of the sacraments is that the person has chosen to separate himself from the Church by choosing to have religious affiliation removed from all public records (and simulatneously from the tax). Before the decision of the bishops, I knew a priest who went and personally visited each person who removed himself from the church by juridical act to determine the motive and to encourage those who were in fact not in a state of apostasy to support the Church in some other way. However, the decision of the bishops makes this impossible now.

    The thing that gets me about the German church is that despite having money, it has managed not to get an approved translation of the Missal, as commanded by St. John Paul II, even after 13 years of work. There was a completed translation that was rejected by the bishops. I fear that we will never get a new translation, because the “special permissions” that the German Church enjoys (any old song of praise instead of the Gloria, any old song with the word “holy” in it instead of the Sanctus, any old song instead of the psalm, only one reading on Sundays…) are likely to be abrogated with the publication of the new missal.

  79. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear mpolo,

    The situation you describe concerning the celebration of Mass in Germany certainly is troubling and deserving of our prayers that it may be remedied.

    Regarding your description of the actions of the priest who visited those who had removed themselves does raise a question – If they were not truly apostate, heretical, or schismatic, then they had lied on the document they submitted claiming disaffiliation. One could argue that objectively analyzed they could be in the state of Mortal Sin (lying about one’s faith is a serious matter, one is presumably aware of its seriousness, and the lie was undertaken with full consent of the will). Did the priest tell them the hard truth that in order to be able to be readmitted to the sacraments they would have to make a good confession and recant their disaffiliation?

  80. Imrahil says:

    Dear mpolo,

    “despite having money”?

    A cynicist (not necessarily me) would perhaps say “because of having money”.

    The reason we have no Missal brought up to date is one specific thing.

    And it isn’t the remnants of the traditional pray-sing-Mass (where back in the day a priest would have been there to say the actual text), either. Nor that other remnant of tradition which is having only one reading ( :-) ). About which I, by the way, tend to be rather sympathetic. (Although this sort of thing, leastways for the Ordinarium, really would need a priest to pronounce, in a whisper, the Ordinarium’s actual text.)

    The reason we get no new Missal is that in new Missals the translation of “pro multis” must be”for many” or, at worst, “for the many” (and even the latter would run contrary to the Greek in theNew Testament, though), and our bishops just want to keep the “for all” in it.

    We’ll get new Missals the day the Pope orders the expiration of the old ones (and perhaps it is also necessary, threatens latae sententiae suspension to anyone continuing to use it), or, easier, orders that even with the old missal we have to say “for many” (and perhaps it is also necessary, threatens latae sententiae suspension for anyone continuing with “for all”). We’ll get new Missals when that happens, and perhaps soon – but from all we see now, not a minute earlier.

    (There is still the worse alternative around where it is the Pope that backs down, and allows “for all”.)

  81. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    Since you are closer to the environment than I, I will defer to your cultural observations, however, the underlying legality and theology, is, still, to my mind, suspect. You wrote;

    “3. While it is true that Canon 222 leaves the manner and amount of Church-assistance to the conscience of the individual Catholic, there is nothing in it to hinder some other Church law (say, the Final Protocol to Article 13 of the Reich Concordat, 1933, duly signed and ratified by the Holy See) to enact a rule in itself just (for which see no. 1).”

    In 1919, 1933, and 1949, all years in which the church tax were put in place, the 1917 Code of Canon Law was in effect. Now, the original church tax was instituted to replace the princely support of the churches which had existed before this (for Protestant churches after the Reformation and, probably, Catholic churches, before that). In 1933, when the Reich Concordat was signed, there was no prescription in Canon Law (at least I can’t find it in the 1917 Code after a cursory inspection) for tithing or for assessing support of the Church from the laity similar to Canon 222 of the current Code (again, I may have missed it, but I can’t find an obvious parallel in the 1917 Code). As such, any legal person (country or group or individual) was free to enter into a contract with the local Church for certain services. The governing law would have been Canon 1529 of the 1917 Code, which read (I’m using the French version for the translation):

    Can. 1529. Quae ius civile in territorio statuit de contractibus tam in genere, quam in specie, sive nominatis sive innominatis, et de solutionibus, eadem iure canonico in materia ecclesiastica iisdem cum effectibus serventur, nisi iuri divino contraria sint aut aliud iure canonico caveatur.

    Can. 1529. Ce que le droit civil décide dans le territoire en matière de contrats nommés ou innommés, et de paiements, tant en général qu’en particulier, doit être observé d’après le droit canonique en matière ecclésiastique et avec les mêmes effets, sauf dans les dispositions contraires au droit divin et sur les points où le droit canonique a statué autrement.

    [Google Translation]

    Can. 1529. That civil law in the territory decides on named or unnamed contracts and payments , both in general and in particular, must be observed according to canon law in ecclesiastical matters and with the same effect , except in provisions contrary to divine law and the points where canon law ruled otherwise.

    Now, as there were no prohibitions for collecting taxes to support churches in the 1917 Code, such a tax would have been considered legal as a contract, on the face of it (subject to the details of the contract), between the government and the Church in 1933 (reflecting the earlier princely support and the 1919 Weimar Constitution). In 1983, when the Code was revised, a specific Canon was put in place specifying that people were to assist in the support of the Church:

    Can. 222 §1. The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship, for the works of the apostolate and of charity, and for the decent support of ministers.

    This is a directive for the Christian faithful, exclusively, not implying any sort of relation between the government and the Church. In other words, the new code abrogated the existing ecclesial basis for the contract of 1933. Where there is nothing specific in a provision, it should be interpreted liberally. This means that the bishops lost the right to impose a more specific form of this Can. without permission of the Holy See. Have they asked for this permission?

    Speaking of that Concordat of 1933, article 13 says:

    “Article 13.
    It is agreed that the right of the Church to levy taxes remains guaranteed.”

    Of course, this means that it was the Church who levied the taxes, not the state. I know that the Church tax is thought by many to be initiated by the Church with State cooperation, but let’s dig a bit deeper.

    The current law:

    Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (2014)

    “Article 140
    [Law of religious denominations]
    The provisions of Articles 136, 137, 138, 139 and 141 of the German Constitution of 11 August 1919
    shall be an integral part of this Basic Law.”

    Let’s look at the earlier citations:

    German Constitution of 1919:

    “Third Chapter : Religion and Religious Communities.

    Article 135
    All Reich inhabitants enjoy full freedom of liberty and conscience. Undisturbed practise of religion is guaranteed by the constitution and is placed under the protection of the state. General state laws are not affected hereby.

    Article 136
    Civil and civic rights and obligations are neither conditioned nor limited by the exercise of freedom of religion. The exercise of civil or civic rights, the admittance to public offices are independent of religios confession.
    Nobody is obliged to profess his religious confession publicly. Public authority may only ask for religious affiliation as far as rights and obligations derive or an officialy decreed census requires. Nobody may be forced to participate in a religious act or festivity, to join in religious practices or to swear a religious oath formula.

    Article 137
    There is no state church.
    Freedom to form religious communities is guaranteed. Regarding the unification of religious communities within the Reich territory there are no limitations.
    Every religious community administrates its own affairs without interference of state or community.
    Religious communities acquire legal capacity according to general specifications of civil law.
    Religious communities, as far as they have been, remain public corporations.
    Other religious societies have to be granted the same rights on application, if they, by the means of their number and constitution, indicate to be lasting. If several religious communities with the status of public corporations form a confederation, the status of public corporation is extended to this confederation.
    Religious communities with the status of public corporations are entitled to raise taxes based on fiscal records and in accordance with state regulations.
    Religious communities are given equal status with civic organizations which cultivate a philosophy of life.
    Inasmuch as the application of these regulations requires further details, these have to be established by state legislation.

    Article 138
    State contributions to religious communities, inasmuch they are based on law, treaty or specific legal claim, are to be handled by state legislation.
    The Reich provides the principles herefor.
    The religious communities’ and organization’s right to own institutions serving public welfare, education and religious service, to own respective endowments and other property are guaranteed.

    Article 139
    Sunday and other state holidays are designated as days of rest from work and spiritual collection and are, as such, protected by law.

    Article 140
    Soldiers have to be given appropriate free time to fulfil their religious obligations.

    Article 141
    Insofar there is demand for religious service and ministerial work in the army, in hospitals, prisons or other public institutions, religious organizations have to be permitted to take care of these, and they have to be kept clear of any form of force.”

    Okay, two points:
    1. Correctly speaking, the Church is defined as a public corporation in Germany, not by the Church, but by the government. Technically, this is called a statutory corporation, because the church has been made into a public entity by a government statute. Of course, this has no binding force on the Church, theologically, but the Church could accept this definition in this locality for a good reason, insofar as it does not violate the moral or ecclesial law.

    2. It is the Church who has the right to raise taxes based on fiscal records and with regards to state regulations. Certainly, then, there is a cross-contamination of Church and State implied, here. While the Church believes it should have an influence in State affairs, one would be harder pressed to maintain that the State should have an influence in Church affairs, but that is exactly what they are doing, here. It is the government that is defining the status of the Church as a legal entity and defining how it should both administer and legislate its monetary collection. That the documents clearly indicate that the Church should use State census data instead of its own parish data to assess who owes money puts the Church in a fiduciary relationship with the State.

    The downside of making the Church a public entity is that one has to leave the Church, in a public sense, by declaring so to the State, not the Church. Where does it say in any theological document that the State has the right to determine membership in the Church, if even for a legal fiction of public incorporation? Such a right has never been granted. For the bishops to accept this State judgment is obscene and a complete misreading and misapplication of Can. 222. Yes, one could see this happening in the Anglican Church, since it is a, de facto, state church and one could see this happening in other Protestant churches, such as existed in Germany in the post-Reformation era, but it makes me wonder whether or not the Holy See studied the background to the 1933 Concordat before they signed it.

    The Church does not, generally, agreed to being a public corporation, I don’t think, but, rather, something called a corporation-sole, which means that all of the property rights belong to a single individual (usually, the bishop). Thus, the right of the State to tax the Church, technically, should, in modern times, belong to the right to tax the bishop, not individual members of the Church. So, at best, the bishop of a diocese should be collecting the tax if owed from his parishioners and paying the State, not the individuals. As I say, the Church tax is a one-size-fits-all tax, which works for state-directed churches of the Protestant variety, but not of the Catholic type. That the German and, to be fair, other European bishops agreed to this sort of taxation scheme, is, to my mind, a dangerous game. I know that the State has often protected the Church throughout history, but just as often, it has turned against the Church. In my opinion, especially given the moral viciousness of modern State Laws, the Church would do best to separate itself from undue civil entanglements with the modern State as represented by the European Church tax, since it leads to confusion and can, in some cases, contradict can. 1752, which states, in part, “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes.”

    I am not an expert in legal matters, so I will defer to better analyses of the data. I, certainly, do not think that the downslide of the German Church is unique, although certain aspects may be more pronounced there than in other countries. The interaction between the Church and State in many European countries seems to be one such stressing agent in the downslide, but is by no mean the central issue. In my opinion, it is the inability of the modern Church to proceed from any sort of an axiomatic (dogmatic) basis that has made the church so weak. No one complains of a downslide in physics, for instance. Physicists do not change their views based on prevailing psychology, as the Church seems to be doing, in some cases, today.

    The Chicken

  82. Imrahil says:

    Dear Chicken,

    thanks for the detailed comment. That is an interesting discussion :-)

    First of all, it would be interesting to know when exactly the Church tax (taken from the Church membership) started to replace the State subsidies (which in 1803 replaced financiation by the Church’s own property). At any rate they began at the latest in 1919.

    As such, any legal person (country or group or individual) was free to enter into a contract with the local Church for certain services.

    Well, yes, but as you duly observe*, all the documents in question on the State side speak of the right of the Church to tax, it is not a subsidy of the State to the Church which the State just chooses to levy as a tax from his Catholic subjects but in their capacity of State subjects, but a real tax by the Catholic Church on her own members which the State just acknowledges as such.

    And given that this is the case, to explain it as a contract would be to explain it as a contract to the detriment of a third party.

    [* My argument was a bit of by-implication and ex silentio here: while the documents, including the one I happen to know of that was signed by the Holy See, just indicate the Church has the right to tax, in actual fact she did tax at the time, so agreeing to the right to tax without stating explicitly that this right is not to be used does establish a legitimacy of the Church tax, even if only the Holy See and not also a diocesan bishop could possibly do so.]

    That canon 222, as it stands, does not specify in which manner Church-assistence is to be done is not in question. However, I do question

    In other words, the new code abrogated the existing ecclesial basis for the contract of 1933.

    Even if we explain the Church-tax as a contract and even if we should deduce from the omission of former-can. 1529 that the Church cannot enter into contracts any-more (which would be wrong; that’s probably somewhere else, and if not, assumed as self-explanatory – see however can. 22), then the rule is “pacta sunt servanda” and the fact that this contract happens to be useful for the upkeep of the Church and there is a canon now that also deals with upkeep of the Church doesn’t void it.

    And also:

    Where there is nothing specific in a provision, it should be interpreted liberally. This means that the bishops lost the right to impose a more specific form of this Can. without permission of the Holy See.

    Well, I’m from a Federal Republic and as such assume as self-explanatory the principle that if higher authority deals with a problem in general terms, then lower authority may deal with it in – not necessarily the most liberal, but in – any sort of specific terms compatible to the general ones, unless higher the authority explicitly forbids it.

    Let’s see whether I can substantiate that from the Code.

    Well, I do not find any explicit mentioning (can. 31 I mention below comes closest) that a particular law can specify a general law in a compatible, but not merely interpretatory way. (This is, I can’t help thinking, in the nature of things anyway.)

    However, the Code does say:
    – things agreed upon in diplomatic contracts remain intact (can. 3),
    – well-aquired rights […] that are in use and have not been revoked remain intact, unless abrogated explicitly (can. 4 – which i.m.h.o. the Church tax clearly falls under),
    – penal laws, laws restricting use of rights and exceptions are to be interpreted narrowly (can. 18 – but can. 222 speaks of exercise of a duty, not use of a right),
    – even a later general law does not abrogate an earlier particular law, unless it says so explicitly (can. 20),
    – a custom that has held to be a law for 30 years has, under certain conditions, the force of law (the case since 2014, unless we would claim “contrary to Divine law” or “irreasonable”),
    – so called “executive decrees” that are really laws (can. 29) can be issued by particular lawgivers and specify the manner of how law is to be applied (can. 31).

    It is the government that is defining the status of the Church as a legal entity and defining how it should both administer and legislate its monetary collection. That the documents clearly indicate that the Church should use State census data instead of its own parish data to assess who owes money puts the Church in a fiduciary relationship with the State.

    Well, they don’t, they say the Church should do so. They say the Church can do so if she pleases. By the way, non-constitutional law usually also contains a provision to raise it by the Church herself, if she so pleases (see, e. g., Law for the Area of Application of the General Tax Code of the State of Berlin, § 2 sect. 1).

    Where does it say in any theological document that the State has the right to determine membership in the Church, if even for a legal fiction of public incorporation?

    Well, nowhere. Nor does the State do so in Germany. To determine who belongs to the Church is left to the Church (which is why young unbaptized children of Catholic parents aren’t considered to be part of the Church even in the sense of a public corporation). Only if someone does not want to be a Catholic, then for the sake of religious freedom (for which see art. 4, etc.) the State has to treat him as if he weren’t, while being quite undecided on all this sacramental-bond-act-of-defection-etc. stuff whether he is.

    And I really can’t see how what the bishops are doing here should be “obscene”.

    The rest is, as far as I see, prudential matters and your own personal opinion on them, and I’ll leave you to them :-)

  83. robtbrown says:


    I am well aware that Pay and Benefits in Catholic schools is not the equal of P&B in public schools. Even with less pay, the cost for the school isn’t as low as when the religious orders staffed those schools.

    Elementary and Secondary Schools built by dioceses or parishes usually also had a residence for the religious who staffed them.

  84. robtbrown says:


    1. It’s not a matter of the whether the govt collecting money for the Churches is in se wrong. Rather, it’s whether the Church should in any way subject itself to secular govts that are increasingly anti-Catholic.

    We face a similar situation in the US. Obamacare has pressed the courts to require private businesses to provide health insurance that covers abortions. Now it wants religious orders to apply for a waiver even though Freedom of Religion (including the non interference by govt) is a Constitutional Right. I don’t know of any journalist who has to apply for a waiver in order to activate his right to Freedom of the Press.

    Whoever has the money (or other assets) has the power.

    2. We both know that it was part of the legal procedure in Germany that anyone considering abortion needed first to be counseled, with a signature confirming that it had taken place. Priests participated in the system, which was little else than signing off on abortion. It was not stopped until finally the Abp of Paderborn and two other bishops blew the whistle. And Cardinal Lehman and others did their best to try to stay in the system. Rome said otherwise, but I’m not sure how many dioceses actually stopped their participation.

    3. Three years ago German bishops approved the use of an abortifacient in their hospitals. When challenged, they publicly denied its abortive effects even though the manufacturer of the drug affirmed them. The drug works doesn’t prevent conception, but it does prevent implantation of the embryo.

  85. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    maybe more later, but

    ad 1: it may not be the real issue whether this is in se wrong, but it was said here is that it is, so I answered because I think (with reasons) that it isn’t. That, of course, has no more value than (I hope) in answering this specific question.

    ad 2: indeed, which is why I said “at least since they’ve been made orthodox by direct order of the Pope”, at which point they did get out off the system (in 2002) with a one-year delay in the diocese of Limburg. Since 2003 all of them actually are out.

    Technical points: 1. when you say “the Archbishop of Paderborn”, I think you mean the Archbishop (ad personam and Bishop) of Fulda.
    2. I don’t think it was “priests” in any sizeable number, if only because they had and have other things to do. It was caritative workers in the system organized by the Church.

    Also, it may be fair to say that to all appearances their intentions were sincere, and it was more of the “may we do evil that good may come of it” and “it it really contributing in the act if I sign a sheet that I counseled them not to” problem than actual fostering of abortion.

    ad 3: It is news to me that the manufacturer affirmed it was an abortifacient. In any case, the approval was done on the assumption that it wasn’t, but even though a “pill after” only a mere contraceptive; after all, there is some time between sex and conception.

    Although it is no secret that the bishops heard rather gladly (from some sort of medical group) that it was only a contraceptive, given the huge bad press they had got for denying it to a raped woman (because that is what they did at first). Of course, the raped woman could have gone elsewhere, but then the Church’s opponents do know how to play their propaganda tools.

  86. robtbrown says:

    Imrahil says:

    (Do really English Catholics pay for the Anglican Church? If so, that sort of thing at least doesn’t happen in Germany…)

    It is established by law as the National Church. Its head is the Monarch.

  87. robtbrown says:


    1. It was Abp Degenhardt of Paderborn who made public the abortion situation.

    2. The Plan B drug Levonorgestral can prevent fertilization or implantation. This was easily found on the Internet and can be seen on WebMD.

    3. A similar situation happened in Connecticut before the German controversy. State law required the use of Plan B in cases of rape. At first, the bishops refused, then gave in with the evasive explanation: In so far as it wouldn’t be known whether there was fertilization, it could not be an intrinsic evil.

  88. robtbrown says:

    Should be Levonorgestrel

  89. robtbrown says:


    When BXVI visited Germany after his election, the German bishops told him they didn’t want any Latin mass.

  90. stephen c says:

    There are no doubt many good German bishops, better Christians than myself, but my heart goes out to the parents of some German bishops. Playing around with evasiveness (to use the word that Robert Brown correctly, I am fairly certain, used) on a subject like abortion is exactly the opposite of what we would want our Christian or just simply our not amoral children to do. (If there are any readers of this website with children who are priests or bishops, I hope you know, for whatever it is worth – maybe not much – that I am praying, and offering up my sufferings, for you and your sons and daughters!)

  91. Austin says:

    The Church of England is not supported by the direct taxation of British subjects. Tithes were once assessed on glebe land held by the church — this is no longer the case. The Church of Scotland, too, has no direct claim on taxpayers.

    The CoE continues to hold considerable properties on which it charges rent and has a portfolio of investments administered centrally by the Church Commissioners. It is exempt from taxation under the Charities Law. Cathedrals, parishes, colleges, societies and other entities have private endowments over which they have control.

    No ordinary person in the UK is obliged to support the established Church, unless one accounts for lost income from waived taxation. A few property owners inherit feudal duties to maintain parish buildings as part of their title.

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