Kirchensteuer: Which Was The Vatican’s Role?

Cecco del Caravaggio – “Gesu’ caccia i mercanti dal Tempio”.

Before I pass – in the very next days – to the exam of how the latest invention of the German bishops is NOT what the Vatican said in 2006 (besides being obviously simoniacal), I would like to say two words about the role I think the Vatican has played in the matter.

In the only contribution I have read which gave a precise description of the Vatican position on the German decree, the verb used was that the Vatican has “rekognosziert” the decree.

Now, “rekognoszieren” is a word which in German can be placidly called non-existent in the usual sense of the word, though you will find it in the vocabulary. There are, though, the vastly more spread Italian verb “riconoscere”, and Latin verb “recognoscere”, which are, as I understand them, somewhat complicated words.

Let us say that I understand that the Communist Chinese government is the authority holding sway over the land. I “acknowledge” that they are in power, and deal with it accordingly. I will have an embassy, for example, and give the head of state the honours of the head of state when he comes to visit. I am simply recognising a reality, a fact of life.

I will also call the Archbishop of Canterbury “Your Grace”, because even if he is clearly a layman without holy orders, I recognise the fact that the English Government considers him to be an Archbishop. Of course he isn’t; but again, of course he is.

Now, this does not mean that I approve the Communist Chinese government; nor does this mean that I consider the Archbishop of Canterbury a real archbishop. Very simply, they are there and I deal with it, recognising a reality already in place.

Now, it is to me rather peculiar that the Vatican was not said to, say, “approve” (Zustimmen), or even the in my Italian eyes somewhat less explicit  Anerkennen the German decree, but merely to “rekognoszieren” it. It seems to me a linguistic gymnastic which can only have one meaning: the Vatican does not give an official seal of approval, but merely recognises that this is the interpretation of the German bishops.

Of course, this is the usual Benedict-style, “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds” attitude, and its aim seems to be to bend over backwards to allow – or let us say it Vatican style: not disallow – the German Bishops to maintain that their take is at least not in contradiction with Church teaching, whilst at the same time avoiding the unspeakable simoniacal shame of declaring urbi et orbi that the Church feels free to give sacraments only against fixed money payments in a measure decided by themselves.

My understanding of what has happened is therefore – and until I manage to know more about the matter – that the Vatican is saying  something on the lines of: “well, it’s complicated; I have given guidelines in 2006 which repeat what I understand as an Austritt (exit) which would justify an excommunication; but you have now put a certain interpretation on it and I recognise as a fact, acknowledge the reality that this is the way you German Bishops see things”.

It can’t be denied that the Bishops’ decree is in striking contrast to the Vatican instructions (themselves not a novelty; mere Catholic sense) given to the very same German bishops in 2006 (and object of the next blog post, hopefully).

My impression is that the Holy Father – whom we know was personally involved in this decree – wanted a formula allowing him to let them free to go on as they wished ( = ka-ching) but without appearing to approve of their position as they would have wanted.

The result was, methinks,  this neither meat nor fish decision, and this strange, factually unused verb “rekognoszieren”.


Posted on September 24, 2012, in Catholicism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Kirchensteuer: Which Was The Vatican’s Role?.

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