Kirchensteuer – sacrament for sale?

Much has already been written about the news from Germany – that people who don’t pay their Church taxes will not be able to receive the sacraments – and by people who are more knowledgeable than I am in these matters. So this will not be a blog post in which I share my opinion, but more of a road sign towards some interesting blog posts by others.

First, there is the blog by my friend Inge, who asks: “Do German bishops deny sacraments to those who don’t pay Church tax?“. She explains that the Kirchensteuer is a federal income tax, established and collected by the state, not the Church.

Father John Boyle also wonders what the German bishops can do, and delves into Canon Law to try and find an answer. Jimmy Akin then does something similar.

The Kirchensteuer is a relic from times past, but nonetheless law in Germany. The highest court of appeal has reinforced this by stating that the only way to avoid paying the tax is to officially leave the faith you belong to. And that has ramifications for our profession of faith, as Mr. Akin points out.

If we want to function in society, we need money. That is true for you and me, and also for the Church. In Germany, the Church receives disposable income via the Kirchensteuer. Should this be abolished, and much may be said for that, new sources of income need to be found. Voluntary and regular donations from the faithful is an option, but what we see in the Netherlands, for example, is that many don’t contribute financially, either because they’re unable or unwilling. A scaling down of the institutional Church and her activities, on the national, diocesan and parish level, is a consequence of that, and we see that happening as well.

And I haven’t touched upon the separation between Church and state, treasured by so many…


5 thoughts on “Kirchensteuer – sacrament for sale?”

  1. The ironic part is, that the Kirchensteuer is a relic dating back to the era in which Germany was ‘secularized’ (State confiscating Church possesions). The idea of separation between Church and State was behind this. To compensate, Church Tax is distributed over churches. As a result the German Church is quite rich and uses the money to support other dioceses for example in Scandinavia.

    This is not the case in the Netherlands, as you point out. Catholic parishes own the buildings they use for worship. Also, there is no formal separation between Church in State in the Dutch Constitution. There is a volutary donation system called ‘Kerkbalans’, but people hardly donate. Result: downsizing and closing of churches, cuts in Church finances.

    Both situations are not ideal for different reasons. I read a lot of inflammatory comments, mostly by Americans to who the whole ‘secularization’ idea is foreign. But it’s hardly helpful to yell at the German bishops, the Catholic Church or even German authorities. It doesn’t help. Both systems are flawed, but what is a viable alternative, given the fact most European Catholics simply refuse to donate money to their own church?

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