GERMANY: Catholic Bishops Crack Down On Church Tax Refusers
Germany's Catholic bishops have declared that they will no longer perform sacraments or burial services for those that opt-out of paying church taxes. Germans who officially declare themselves members of major denominations pay an additional 8% of their annual tax bill which is then granted to their church. The Vatican has approved the new decree.
Alarmed by a wave of dissenting Catholics quitting the faith, the bishops issued a decree on Thursday declaring such defection "a serious lapse" and listed a wide range of church activities from which they must be excluded. 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." Church taxes brought in about 5 billion euros ($6.5 billion) for the Roman Catholic Church and 4.3 billion euros for the Protestant churches in 2010, according to official statistics."In addition to being denied the sacraments, those that refuse to pay church tax can no longer be named as godparents and must request special permission to be married in the Catholic Church.