Kirchensteuer: What The Church Really Says
As promised (with a slight delay, for which I apologise) my little explanation about what the position of the Church is. You will read this around on several German sites, like Kath.net, but I prefer to link to Kreuz.net anyway… There was another beautiful (and rather long, and technical) contribution I cannot find anymore…
In short, in 2006 the Church stated (obviously repeating Church teaching, not “innovating” in any conceivable way) that in order to be “out of the church” the faithful must severe three bonds:
1) the bond of the faith;
2) the bond of the sacraments, and
3) the bond of the hierarchy.
Only when all these bonds are severed, a person may be said to have left the Church. Makes sense. Let us see in detail what they meant:
1) There must be an internal decision to leave the Church. Mind here: a decision to leave the Church, not a decision not to pay the Kirchensteuer. The person must decide: “I do not want to be part of this anymore”. To find a rather clear example from this blog (though not from Germany) click the case of Anne Rice here. Mrs Rice says clearly “I am not part of the shop anymore”.
2) There must be the correspondent open rejection of sacramental life. The person does not want to go to Mass, or to confession. He is seen in the community as having voluntarily detached himself from the sacraments.
3) The Church must have accepted this decision. She must, in other words, have acknowledged the fact that Titius or Caius have decided not to belong to the Church anymore.
Now, some people have challenged (in Germany and Switzerland) the Kirchensteuer as tax, and have decided to want to get out of the Church as corporation under public law (“Koerperschaft des oeffentlichen Rechts”, which is the legal status of the Church as legal entity in Germany; the entity – or regional entities – entitled to the money of the Kirchensteuer) without going out of the Church as communion of faithful Catholics. This leaves, of course, their obligation to contribute to the Catholic work intact, but does not oblige them to finance the administrative monster, the luxury of the priests or the non-Catholic initiatives like, say, blasphemous art exhibitions, insurance companies run together with Protestants, or the countless heretical bishops and priests all over Germany. In the case of these people, it is absolutely obvious that they want to continue to be part of the Church as community of Catholics, take part to the sacramental life and contribute to the Church’s upkeep. What they reject, is a payment automatism which only feeds the astonishing corruption of the German church and perpetuates it.
The recent decree of the Bishop completely ignores the necessity of the persistence of the three conditions together. The reasoning of the bishops is as follows:
1) you are obliged to contribute to the Church’s upkeep;
2) by declaring your Austritt, you have refused to contribute;
3) therefore, you have put yourself outside of the Church and I can, as a consequence, not administer the sacraments to you.
This is, of course, total nonsense. When a devout Catholic declares his exit from the system of the Kirchensteuer, this does not mean that one does not want to contribute; it merely means one is fed up with making the wrong people fat whilst they destroy Catholicism.
Several other articles – all of them interesting, and all of them exposing the greed and shamelessness of the German hierarchy – have been published in the last days and I can’t cope with all the news and developments. There was the canon law specialist saying “simple: go to the priest with the receipt of the payments you have made to Catholic organisation you like, show them to him and let’s see how he can say that you are not contributing”, or the anonymous canon law specialist who insisted the German bishops’ decree had the worth of toilet paper; further critical interventions appear every day.
It is more and more apparent the dear German bishops have shot themselves in the foot, big time. They have left their greed prevail on their better judgement – and on simple common sense; and on elementary Catholicism – in the hope they could get away with thinly veiled threats of mass excommunication and the remark that the Pope has “recognised” their decree, so it must be right.
This uproar is not going away anytime soon, because the issue is huge under several aspects: the money involved (see above: that’s an average of around EUR 300,000 per parish priest in 2007 from the Kirchensteuer alone, probably much more now with the sinking number of priests; call it “upkeep of the clergy…”) the theological principles called in defence of the Kirchensteuer and the refusal to give the sacraments to those who declare their Austritt ( = purest simony), and the exposure of the bishops’ greed out of their own deeds and words, for literally all the world to see. This latest aspect will, no doubt, cause a further loss of credibility among the German clergy, and cause more people to get out of the Kirchensteuer-system, who really have lost confidence in the Church and decide they will not care anymore. I am rather sure the Bishops will now react with a bog “offensive” in defence of sacraments for adulterous re-married and scandalous sodomites who pay, whilst calling the Society of Pius X “schismatic”.
The German bishops probably hoped to score big with this ridiculous decree. Only a few days later, it is clear this is a tragic own goal.