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Christianity Gotta pay to pray: Germany’s Catholic bishops call on faithful to hand over tax

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by Archived_Member16, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. Archived_Member16

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    Jan 7, 2005
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    Gotta pay to pray: Germany’s Catholic bishops call on faithful to hand over tax

    By Juergen Baetz, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS - September 28, 2012

    A woman sits Thursday on a bench in the Catholic cathedral of Frankfurt, Germany. The country’s 24 million
    Catholics have been told that, if they don’t pay their religious taxes, they will be denied sacraments, including weddings,
    baptisms and funerals.
    Photograph by: Michael Probst, AP

    BERLIN — The road to heaven is paved with more than good intentions for Germany’s 24 million Catholics.

    If they don’t pay their religious taxes, they will be denied sacraments, including weddings, baptisms and funerals.

    A decree issued last week by the country’s bishops cast a spotlight on the longstanding practice in Germany and a handful of other European countries in which governments tax registered believers and then hand over the money to the religious institutions.

    In Germany, the cost for Catholics, Protestants and Jews is a surcharge of up to nine per cent on their income-tax bills — or about $75 a month for a single person earning a pre-tax monthly salary of about $4,500.

    For religious institutions, struggling to maintain their congregations in a secular society where the Protestant Reformation began 500 years ago, the tax revenues are vital.

    The Catholic Church in Germany receives about $6.5 billion annually from the surcharge. For Protestants, the total is just above $5.2 billion. Donations, in turn, represent a far smaller share of the churches’ income than in the U.S.

    With rising prices and economic uncertainty, however, more and more Catholics and Protestants are opting to save their money and declare to tax authorities they are no longer church members, even if they still consider themselves believers.

    “I quit the church already in 2007,” said Manfred Gonschor, a Munich-based IT consultant.

    “It was when I got a bonus payment and realized that I could have paid myself a nice holiday alone on the amount of church tax that I was paying on it.”

    Gonschor added he was also “really fed up with the institution and its failures.”

    Such defections have hit the Catholic Church especially hard — it lost about 181,000 tax-paying members in 2010 and 126,000 a year later, according to official figures.

    Protestants, who number about 24 million nationwide, lost 145,000 registered members in Germany in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available.

    But the figures include some people who still want to baptize their children, take communion on major religious holidays, marry in a religious ceremony and receive Christian burials.

    The group We Are Church, which claims to represent tens of thousands of grassroots Catholics, said many Germans stop paying the tax because they disagree with the church’s policies or simply want to save money — not because they have lost their faith.

    “I haven’t quit because I still think that I might want to get married in a church one day, even though I know that’s absurd,” said Anna Ainsley, a 31-old-year banker and a Protestant from Frankfurt.

    “But when I see my tax declaration, then I think every year that I should finally quit.”

    Those are the people that Germany’s Catholic bishops had in mind when they decreed Sept. 20 that stopping the payment of religious taxes was “a serious lapse” and those who did so would then be excluded from a range of church activities.

    “This decree makes clear that one cannot partly leave the church,” the bishops said in a statement.

    “It is not possible to separate the spiritual community of the church from the institutional church.”

    Wavering Catholics will now be sent letters reminding them of the consequences of avoiding the church tax, including losing access to all sacraments.

    “Maybe you haven’t considered the consequences of your decision and would like to reverse this step,” a draft of the letter states.

    Protestants have taken a less stern position, saying non-taxpayers are still welcome to attend services and take communion. But becoming a godparent, getting married in a church or taking a job in church-affiliated institutions such as hospitals or kindergartens are off-limits to those who stop paying their taxes.

    Switzerland and Austria also tax Catholic and Protestant church members. In Denmark, the Lutheran Church collects a tax from its members. Members of Sweden’s Lutheran Church pay around one per cent of their income, collected by the national tax authorities, just as in Finland.

    In Italy, taxpayers have the choice of diverting a small part of their income taxes to religious institutions, including the Catholic Church and the country’s Jewish community, but the contribution is voluntary.

    In none of those countries have the churches take such a firm stand against dropouts.

    So far, German courts have stood by the bishops’ decision. This week, the country’s top administrative court threw out a lawsuit against the archdiocese of Freiburg by retired theologian Hartmut Zapp, who has spent years fighting the Catholic Church over the tax.

    Zapp argued that a Catholic should be free to stop paying but remain a member of the spiritual community and that his religious beliefs could not possibly be tied to a tax payment.

    The archdiocese responded in a statement that “those who lack solidarity bid farewell to the community of believers.”

    The tax issue presents moral and ethical dilemmas to millions of German believers, even dividing couples.

    Sonja Trott, a 34-year-old Munich teacher, said she quit the Catholic Church 15 years ago because she no longer believed in its teachings.

    “Now I’d like to convince my husband that he also should quit, that would save us a lot of money,” she said.

    But her husband Christoph, a sales executive, says he cannot imagine refusing to pay on moral grounds because it would seem like a betrayal of his faith.

    “I don’t like paying it, but I do because I fear the step of quitting the church,” he said.

    He would prefer to donate part of the money to charities, “but well, in Germany, the payment determines whether I’m allowed to consider myself a Catholic or not.”

    For other Germans, it’s unethical to stop paying the tax but continue to use the church when it suits them.

    Christine Solf, a Munich-based consultant, says she doesn’t attend services regularly but appreciates the church’s charitable work. For her, church membership is also a family tradition.

    “I know people who quit for financial reasons but then still want their children to be baptized. That’s not OK in my opinion,” Solf said.

    © Copyright (c) The Province

    source: http://www.theprovince.com/life/Got...ps+call+faithful+hand+over/7315169/story.html
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  3. namjiwankaur

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    Nov 14, 2010
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    _/|\_ Sat Nam

    I think more and more Catholics are straying away from the Catholic church and this is not going to help matters.

    peacesignkaur Nam Jiwan
  4. TigerStyleZ

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    Mar 31, 2011
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    Yes, heard about it.. but here the "catholics" aren´t real catholics.. they just got baptized in young age and thats it.. hardly 2 of 20 follow the Catholic church.
  5. Rory

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    Jul 2, 2012
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    More and more people of all religions are leaving their religions these days.

    I amn't sure why the author of this article is so focused on the Catholic Church. He acknowledges that other religious groups are doing the exact same thing in Germany, but then he waves it off.

    "A less stern position"? Where does it say the Catholic church has stopped non-taxpayers from attending services? Let's note that the Protestant church doesn't have "sacraments" as such, so even if they wanted to they couldn't exclude non-taxpayers from them.

    Maybe it's because I am from a Catholic background, but I'm getting tired of the biased criticism. I disagree with the Catholic church's position on many things, but if we're going to criticize, let's do so fairly?
  6. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
    Mentor Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jul 4, 2004
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    More and More are also.."changing seats"...like in Musical Chairs scenario...Sikhs becoming Catholics..catholics becoming Muslims..Muslims converting too Buddhists..Buddhists converting to Hinduism..and so on and so on...when a Sikh converts OUT..we are sad..when a Christian/jew/Arab. whatever converts IN..we are happy...BOTh are just emotions....GURMATT is least stressing on Conversions...it rather you stay in your own and become a better person..
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  7. Harry Haller

    Harry Haller United Kingdom
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    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Jan 31, 2011
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    I think you might find Sikhism has a similar problem..
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  8. TigerStyleZ

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    Mar 31, 2011
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    Exactly was my point. Esspecially in Punjab.. Outside Punjab, the "Sikh population" iis prospering.

    It is just like we are raised....
  9. Kanwaljit Singh

    Kanwaljit Singh India
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    Apache Spark, Scala developer
    Writer SPNer

    Jan 29, 2011
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    Let us see Sikh perspective on weddings, baptisms and funerals:

    Wedding - You need Guru Sahib's presence and a ragi who can sing Laavan :)

    Baptism - You need Khanda, Baata, Patasay and Panj Piyare

    Funeral - You need 4 people to give you shoulders

    I hope this remains tax free.


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