German Catholic Bishops Like Mandatory Tithing


I didn’t know this, but apparently Germany has a really creepy law that assesses a higher tax to those who declare themselves adherents of a particular church, with the extra tax being given to that church. The German Catholic Church gets more than $6 billion a year from that policy.

Citizens can opt out of that church tax, but only by declaring that they are leaving their church. But as more and more people take advantage of that opt-out, the Catholic Church is forbidding them from taking part in church sacraments:

Germans officially registered as Catholics, Protestants or Jews pay a religious tax of 8 or 9 percent of their annual tax bill. They can avoid this by declaring to their local tax office that they are leaving their faith community.

The annual total of church leavers, usually around 120,000, rocketed to 181,193 two years ago as revelations about decades of sexual abuse of children by priests shamed the hierarchy and prompted an apology from German-born Pope Benedict.

“This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the Church,” a statement from the bishops conference said. “It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the Church from the institutional Church.”…

Some Catholics have tried to remain active in their parish or have a religious burial despite leaving the church to avoid paying the tax.

The Vatican gave its approval for the decree before it was issued, the statement said.

Catholics who leave can no longer receive sacraments, except for a special blessing before death, the decree states.

They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.

They cannot be godparents for Catholic children and must get a bishop’s permission to marry a Catholic in a church ceremony. “If the person who left the Church shows no sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused,” it added.

In other words, you either give us a mandatory 8 or 9 percent of your income, or you don’t get to play our reindeer games. Jesus would be so proud. Apparently in Germany you have to render unto Caesar what the church demands you to pay. All of this is incredibly dangerous and creepy. Why on earth should you have to tell the government what religion you are? And why is the government involved in any way at all with what you give to your church?

Comments

  1. Mr Ed says

    Maybe they need to change to a fee for service type model. Commit a horrid sin just pay them and they will provide forgiveness. I can’t see how this could go wrong.

  2. phil says

    The German system is even funnier. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be part of this institution. Because my parents are catholic, and because they had me baptized, I was automatically part of this, church tax included. And when I wanted to leave this club (money being the last reason to do so), I had to go to the court and pay 30 euro to them for allowing me to leave church. Yeah, we Germans take this separation-of-church-and-state-thing really seriously.

  3. kesara says

    I didn’t know this, but apparently Germany has a really creepy law that assesses a higher tax to those who declare themselves adherents of a particular church,

    It´s even worse than that. Most germans automatically join the german lutheran church or the catholic church as infants. If your parents chose to have you baptized, you have *officially* joined the respective church and will pay church taxes as an adult if you don´t opt out.

  4. says

    OK, short recap on German law to correct a few things and clear them up.

    First, this whole thing is due to the “Reichskonkordat” between Germany and, yes, Hitler. This grants the Catholic and Lutheran church great privileges and has, of course, never been challenged by either side on account of being icky because Hitler.
    The Reichskonkordat grants the churches the church tax (8-9% of your income TAX, not income).
    It further grants religious indoctrination in school and other privileges
    It also superceeds the constitution because it’s treated as an international treaty between two countries.

    This decree is a way to close a loophole German catholics used that declared that because of the secular implications you could leave the “company” RCC but still remain a member of the church. Course they couldn’t be having that

  5. DaveL says

    How do they know who still pays the church tax? Does the government actually release individually identifiable tax information to the church?

  6. says

    I don’t care one way or the other whether the German government helps the churches get money from their flock, but you have to laugh at the strategy of the Catholic Church.

    They are making people choose between being involved in the Church and not paying the tax. Given this choice (and so bluntly) I think very few people are going to start paying the tax again. I think most will take the other option and just not be involved in the Church.

  7. steve oberski says

    European countries with state religions appear to be slowing disentangling themselves from the parasitic state religions.

    In Sweden, for example, the church has been separated from the state since 2000. For religious assistance within the Swedish armed forces, there is an agreement which obliges the Church to make payments to the armed forces, mainly for the services of a Military Dean, which is something the nominally secular US government would do well to implement.

    And on a related note,the Missionary Church of Kopimism, whose tenets are based on file sharing, is now an official religion in Sweden.

    As creepy as the state’s involvement in ones religious preferences is, at least it is an independent, verifiable metric for how many adherents each religion has that are actually willing to pay to belong, as opposed to grossly inflated church figures.

  8. timberwoof says

    A German cousin of mine told me that there was a case where someone declared that he had never been baptised into the church and thus was exempt from the tithing. The church argued that it was up to him to prove that. Of course, the records of that particular church in which his baptism would have been not recorded were destroyed, so he could not prove he was not a member. He had to pay up.

    Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.

  9. says

    First, this whole thing is due to the “Reichskonkordat” between Germany and, yes, Hitler.

    That’s crazy talk, Hitler was an Atheist so why would he do such a thing for the churches? Everyone knows he was an Atheist because of all the killing and behaving badly and such. Atheists are bad. ATHEIST!! [/end sarcasm]

  10. says

    Giliell wrote:

    The Reichskonkordat grants the churches the church tax (8-9% of your income TAX, not income).

    So 8-9% of the income tax you pay is diverted to the church rather than funding the government? That’s even worse than I thought. A lot worse.

  11. says

    So 8-9% of the income tax you pay is diverted to the church rather than funding the government? That’s even worse than I thought. A lot worse.

    Ehm, no, sorry, my fault.
    You pay an additional tax which is calculated on your income tax.
    So, if you pay 200€ income tax you pay an additional 16-18€ of tax.

  12. Michael Heath says

    DaveL makes a great point.

    From the Rueters report Ed quotes here:

    They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.

    From a strategic perspective I was kinda hoping that the Catholics would win their contraception battle with the federal and state governments; that was their newfound desire to prohibit employees of Catholic entities from getting health insurance coverage for contraception. It seems to me that not providing contraception coverage for their employees would help encourage people to seek work with employers whose religious edicts don’t detract from one’s benefits and pursuit of happiness. The assumption here being my motivation to see religion die in my lifetime because I conclude that would be awesome advance in the wellbeing of humanity and the health of the planet.

  13. Trebuchet says

    In the USA, of course, your contributions to the church are deductable on your income tax. Not quite so mandatory, but still an entanglement. It’s not hard to guess where the majority of Mitt Romney’s $4M in contributions went.

  14. DaveL says

    MOre or less the other way round: Your taxes are automatically deducted from your income.

    I think you misunderstood. How does the church find out you’re no longer paying the tax? Does the government notify them of your change of religious status? Or even worse, do you have to file with the church and rely on them to follow through with the government?

  15. says

    Michael Heath

    . It seems to me that not providing contraception coverage for their employees would help encourage people to seek work with employers whose religious edicts don’t detract from one’s benefits and pursuit of happiness.

    Problem is that you actually have to still be able to find a job with catholic companies moving more and more into the profitable healthcare sector.
    In Germany, many people remain in the church because you have practiacally 0 chances of getting your child into one of the church affiliated daycares which make up a heavy percentage of the total daycare. Seriously, I was sweating like hell to get a place in the city-run daycare. It’s a problem if 50% of potential providers are off the list and you don’t get a bonus at the secular one for not being a church member.

  16. says

    Dave L

    I think you misunderstood. How does the church find out you’re no longer paying the tax? Does the government notify them of your change of religious status?

    You go to either the tax office or the courthouse (whichever is the right one, this varies), declare that you want to leave the church and they then pass this on to the respective church.
    When my husband left the Lutheran church he got a soppy letter back by the pastor with some yadda-yadda that they were sorry to lose him and if he wanted to talk about a crisis of faith and blablabla

  17. says

    And this is why there is no separation of church and state in Germany (and most parties except maybe the Left and Pirate parties do not oppose this)

    This grants the Catholic and Lutheran church great privileges

    no, Reichskonkordat is for the Catholic Church only, the various Lutheran churches (they are state churches, originally one church for each state) have so-called Kirchenverträge. None of them date from the Nazi era, the most important one of them, for Prussia, was signed in 1931. See a list here.

    As Giliell has said, it’s 8-9% of the amount equal to the income tax you owe, not 8-9% of your income. Now the state is compensated by the churches for it, between 2-4% of the amount levied, but as far as I know the amount paid in no way compensates the state for employing its tax apparatus to collect the tax (but this point is controversial, with the churches claiming the state gets overcompensated and secularists disagreeing)

    Also do not forget that the tithe is deductible as a charitable contribution, thus indirectly lowering the income tax receipts.

    Many years ago when I was a young Young Socialist (I still am technically speaking) I remember discussing this with a representative of the Chamber of Commerce from my (in parts rather rural) state. She was of the opinion that if you weren’t a member of the church (which we weren’t) we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the issue. Right, because

  18. says

    DaveL:

    in Germany like in most of continental Europe, you need to register with the municipality you reside in. That guarantees that you get your voting documents on time without registering anew, but you also have to tell the state if you are a member of a church, and if so, they automatically deduct it from your income.

    Trebuchet

    on top of that, the church tax is also deductible from the income tax.

    Catholics who leave can no longer receive sacraments, except for a special blessing before death, the decree states.

    They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.

    Churches in Germany have the constitutionally guaranteed right to discriminate against their emloyees based on reasons of faith. That means a Catholic church owned employer can fire you for being gay, an atheist or getting a divorce. Same thing n principle for Lutheran church owned institutions, but you do hear about the odd Muslim employed by a Lutheran organisation, and I’d think that some Catholic employers would also be more relaxed (but I don’t know about exact statistics)

    This is an area of the law I can see parties on the left which would otherwise be in favour of most other religious privileges to come together in opposition. It would be easier if the ECHR would topple those rules as changing the constitution against the will of the Conservative Party is probably near impossible, but many labour activists do see these exemptions critically (church owned businesses are also mostly exempt from trade union laws)

  19. amyjane says

    My sister is a right wing Conservative Catholic. She was horrified by this much entanglement between church and state.

  20. says

    Norway finally got rid of the clause in the constitution that quite firmly said witch religion was the states official religion. (paragraph 2 stated that the Evangelic-Lutherian religion was the states religion).
    This has now fortunately been changed, tough the constitution still acknowledges Norway’s Christian heritage.
    The Church of Norway (formerly the official “state church”) has been redefined as a “peoples church”, and is still state funded.

    Give it a few more decades and maybe we can finally get proper separation of church and state even here…

    When separation of church and state is discussed in the United States there is always one thing that strikes me: Exactly how stupid do the people that claim that the US is a Christian country think the “founding fathers” were? Surly, if they intended the US to be a Christian country, they would have clearly stated it in the constitution just as those who wrote the Norwegian constitution did?

  21. says

    amyjane,

    originally, both the Catholic Chuch and the Lutheran Church(es) have been pursuing the State Church idea, though at different points in history.

    In recent history it was more the Lutherans who chose to entangle their church with the state, while the Catholics were under suspicion of being the fifth column of Rome. Which is why the Reichskonkordat was so important to the Catholic Church, granting them the same rights as the Lutherans.

  22. NitricAcid says

    My sister (I’ll call her Carbonic) married young, divorced, then married her current husband. Her church-leader-whatever-his-title-is doesn’t consider her married to her current husband, because, well, divorce. So he would constantly berate Carbonic’s mother-in-law about the horrible position of her family- Carbonic was living in sin, her children were illegitimate, and Carbonic wouldn’t be buried in the RC cemetery after death, etc. He wouldn’t mention it to Carbonic (because my sister would tear him a new one), but he seemed to enjoy bringing Carbonic’s mother-in-law to tears over these horrors.

    To hell with him, and all his breed.

  23. tassilo says

    I remember a relative telling me that if you opt out of paying church tax, you will then be required to pay a cultural tax at about the same rate. The cultural tax goes towards maintenance of historic monuments and similar sites.

  24. fastlane says

    I lived and worked in Germany for a bit over a year, for a German company, so I had to pay local taxes (and US taxes, but that’s another story). When I filled out the tax paperwork, I declared no religion, or something similar, and simply didn’t get taxed the extra amount. A large number of German citizens seem to be doing the same thing these days. A lot of them still donate to the church, but they like having a say over when and how much. The catholics are just shooting themselves in the foot by doing this.

  25. Moggie says

    They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.

    Thanks, church, for confirming that (at least in Germany) Catholic charity isn’t really about helping those in need. If it were, why would they turn away anyone who had something to offer? What’s that, you want to save lives? Get lost, heathen!

  26. Michael Heath says

    NitricAcid writes:

    My sister (I’ll call her Carbonic) married young, divorced, then married her current husband. Her church-leader-whatever-his-title-is doesn’t consider her married to her current husband, because, well, divorce. So he would constantly berate Carbonic’s mother-in-law about the horrible position of her family- Carbonic was living in sin, her children were illegitimate, and Carbonic wouldn’t be buried in the RC cemetery after death, etc. He wouldn’t mention it to Carbonic (because my sister would tear him a new one), but he seemed to enjoy bringing Carbonic’s mother-in-law to tears over these horrors.

    Is she taxed and yet isn’t allowed internment in the cemetery? That’s seems the relevant question given the blog post topic. I.e., whether paying taxes to a church provides some protections to the privileges offered by the respective church to its members. If not then these people are getting screwed from at least three perspectives.

  27. martinc says

    This isn’t just a Hitler thing. The same thing happens in Switzerland. When my brother moved there, he had to fill in a lot of forms denying membership of a church, or get taxed extra.

  28. NitricAcid says

    Michael Heath- We’re not in Germany, but I’m sure she (and her husband, and her kids) antes up when the collection plate is passed around.

    I suspect the priest was trying to guilt Carbonic’s MiL into giving more to the church.

  29. says

    fastlane

    When I filled out the tax paperwork, I declared no religion, or something similar, and simply didn’t get taxed the extra amount. A large number of German citizens seem to be doing the same thing these days. A lot of them still donate to the church, but they like having a say over when and how much. The catholics are just shooting themselves in the foot by doing this.

    I’d doubt that. With your baptism, you are entered into the parish records which are routinely shared with the municipal registry. Once it is established you are a member of one of the state churches, you will not be able to deregister just like that, you need to present proof to the municipal registry that you have been stricken off the parish records.

    martinc,

    I think this is a misunderstanding of what Giliell said. It was the most important foreign policy objective of the Vatican to get Hitler to sign the Reichskonkordat. It was different for the Lutherans whose treaties didn’t have anything to do with the Nazi era, but I’ve explained that in #18.

  30. frog says

    Gregory@20:

    Ah, but fear will keep these parishioners in line–fear of this edict!

    The edict amounting to excommunication, without using that word. It’s not a bad plan, really. Truly religious Catholics will fork over the dough, rather than try to game the system by taking the “benefits” of being Catholic without paying.

    That said, the law itself is an abomination, and the notion of a church demanding payment or else something bad will happen to you is evil. The only difference between these churches and a “protection racket” is that their threats are based on lies.

    At least when the mafia threatens to burn your store down, they really can burn your store down.

  31. says

    “You pay an additional tax which is calculated on your income tax.
    So, if you pay 200€ income tax you pay an additional 16-18€ of tax.”

    Well, since, you’re a europeon, you must be making, like, 225 euros/annum. Everybody knows that europeon income tax is 125% of your gross income!

    “This isn’t just a Hitler thing. The same thing happens in Switzerland.”

    And Switzerland is what, a gay and carefree socialist atheoheaven?

  32. Tâlib Alttaawiil (طالب التاويل) says

    as an atheist, i find the german system rather appealing & think the u.s. should adopt it too. let believers put their money where their mouth is! if you wanna call yourself a christian, pay for the privilege!

  33. martinc says

    democommie, it surprised me how religious Switzerland was, at least in the small town where my brother lives. Considering high rates of atheism in Europe as a whole, I expected the same as here in Australia: big old mostly empty churches attended by a scattering of the elderly and brain-dead. But the whole community troops up on Sunday morning … and they ring those cursed bells for about 20 minutes beforehand. Drives you nuts if you had a late one on the Saturday night.

  34. says

    martinc,

    the statistics contradict you. Except for the so-called Freikirchen (free churches), which had an attendance rate of 111% (more people than they have members attend), attendance rate for services is low, for Catholic churches it was 4%, for Protestants (“evangelisch-reformiert”) 3%.

    A medium-size Free Church has only 72 members, an average Catholic parish has 1750 members and an average Protestant one even 2200.

    http://www.snf.ch/D/Medien/Medienmitteilungen/Seiten/2011.aspx?NEWSID=1507&WEBID=705D0BF9-BC95-43E6-BF65-F8B316A4D74E

  35. says

    I probably need to blog about this, but just today (Sept 27) the Federal Administrative Court ruled that you cannot quit the church partially.

    A canon law specialist had argued that according to Catholic canon law, declaring your resignation to an officer of the state would not be a valid resignation in the eyes of the church, and had argued that that way you could get out of the obligation to pay church tax while still being a member of the church to receive sacraments and the like.

    This was also what the decree of the Bishops Conference was about, but the verdict also reaffirms the legal side of this. Interesting enough though the bishops did explicitly state that such a resignation would not lead to an automatic excommunication.

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