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…

Let me say once more…

(picture courtesy of Father John Boyle’s blog Caritas in Veritate)

As misleading headlines continue to appear left, right and centre (even in Christian newspapers such as the Nederlands Dagblad), the best source to find out anything sensible is still the pope himself. Numerous Catholic news sites offer full texts and quotations to counter the damage done by L’Osservatore Romano, who broke the embargo that was supposed to have stayed in place until tomorrow.

In a previous post I already linked to Jimmy Akin’s post about the subject, and I also have a Dutch translation of the same available here.

In closing I quote Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver:

In the context of the book’s later discussion of contraception and Catholic teaching on sexuality, the Pope’s comments are morally insightful. But taken out of context, they can easily be inferred as approving condoms under certain circumstances. One might reasonably expect the Holy Father’s assistants to have an advance communications plan in place, and to involve bishops and Catholic media in a timely way to explain and defend the Holy Father’s remarks.

Instead, the Vatican’s own semi-official newspaper, l’Osservatore Romano, violated the book’s publication embargo and released excerpts of the content early. Not surprisingly, news media instantly zeroed in on the issue of condoms, and the rest of this marvelous book already seems like an afterthought.

Don’t let that happen. Don’t let confusion in the secular press deter you from buying, reading for yourself, and then sharing this extraordinary text. It’s an astonishing portrait of an astonishing man.

From Open, Disarming, and Inevitably Misunderstood.

The hope of Easter

Father Wagenaar blesses the new fire

Both Anna Arco and Father John Boyle write that Church attendance seems to have been up this Easter. I can certainly say the same when I look back at the Easter Vigil here in Groningen. The number of baptisms and confirmations was at a steady nine this year (although Pentecost will see some more, especially confirmations), but the cathedral especially was well filled. Some people stayed at home because of the rain, but they made up for it by making Mass on the Sunday morning well-attended.  

Of course, this year Easter has been overshadowed by the crisis the Church finds herself in, a fact not ignored in the various homilies I heard. I am happy to see, though, that the media does not always succeed in its attacks on the Church or the pope (at least those that try). The letter composed by Eric van den Berg and Frank Bosman has reached over 1,000 signatures now, local parishioners interviewed outside the cathedral remained supportive of the pope and the Church, a short article in a local newspaper echoed the same, and last night Fr. Antoine Bodar offered a well-spoken defence of the pope on television. 

Of course, some media got in a huff about the fact that the pope did not mention or apologise for the abuse during his Urbi et Orbi speech. Apparently, some believe that the pope must make renewed apologies at every public appearance. But at the same time they refuse to acknowledge the apologies he and others already have made. It’s a no-win situation and one best not given too much attention.  

It’s a crazy Easter, but one that is not even close to being overwhelmed. The resurrection of Christ, His defeat of death, continues to shine brightly in our lives even if, as my bishop said, the Cross of Good Friday is still firmly present in the Church and in our hearts.  

Below are a few more impressions of the Easter Vigil at St. Joseph’s cathedral in Groningen.  

Darkness in the cathedral
A fire burns brightly
The lights in the sanctuary slowly come on as Fr. Wagenaar incenses the paschal candle
The credence table
The twelve consecration crosses are also illuminated
The elevation of the Blood of Christ

Petition for the pope

If you’re in the UK*, please consider adding your name to this petition that supports Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK. At the time of writing there are 759 signatures. The National Secular Society has already collected more than 15,000 signatures in their poll that protests the state paying part of the costs of the papal visit (although that is normal for any state visit: the inviting party, in this case the British government, supplies part of the funds).

The Catholic Church having to pay the full cost of the visit would be like you or I being invited to a party and having to pay for the decorations, the band and the food ourselves.

Credit to Fr. John Boyle for writing about this in his blog.

*Or not. The petition doesn’t seem too bothered by the nationalities of the people who sign.

Stats for January 2010

One month in, and my new blog has had a fair share of views.  Looking at the most popular posts, the dominant topics have been the two archbishops, Msgr. Eijk and Msgr. Léonard. The translation of the interview with the latter is far in the lead, thanks to links to it from such well-read blogs as Fr. Tim Finigan’s The Hermeneutic of Continuity and New Liturgical Movement.

I am also quite pleased to see that my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address has now reached 120 views. It has also been published at Catholica (although it seems to have vanished from their website now) and I have also received a request from the Latin Liturgy Society to use an edited version of the translation in the Easter edition of their bulletin. This is exactly what I had hoped to achieve with this blog: that important documents, interviews, speeches and what have you be available – and read! – in Dutch.

This is the top ten as of today:

1: ”The Belgian Church has been too passive” 858 views

2: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie 120 views

3: Why Belgium needs Msgr. Léonard 103 views

4: Support the archbishop 52 views

5: Mass and snow 34 views

6: A poignant photo 31 views

7: Msgr. Léonard new archbishop of Brussels 31 views

8: ’A courageous bishop 29 views

9: Help Haiti 27 views

10: Cardinals, a game of numbers 26 views

In total the blog had 3,484 views this month.

Fr Tim and the New Liturgical Movement are also the main websites through which people find my blog. Dutch blogging priest Schoppenkoning is also among them, with well over 150 referrals. Like Fr. John Boyle, he lists me in his blogroll, with visible results. Lastly, regular links on Twitter and Facebook also help.

A fun statistic to take a look at are the search terms people use to end up on my blog. The title of the blog is the best way to do so, but the name of Pieter Delanoy, the Belgian priest who doesn’t really get it, was also popular. So were things related to the College of Cardinals, Medjugorje, the pope’s new year address, Msgr. Léonard, Rector Schnell of the Bovendonk seminary, Father George Paimpilil, Haiti, Cardinal Danneels and the pope’s visit to the Rome synagogue. One person found this blog by accident, it seems: he searched from 25-year-old Inge from Amsterdam…