It is a mystery to me how a person might think he is not a Catholic anymore because he refuses to pay a mafia-like monetary contribution (truly redolent of the Sicilian pizzo) to the local Church. Still, I do not come from the German-speaking world, where people tend, erm, to be a bit more rigid.
Now a Swiss citizen (a true Catholic, but fed up with the local mafia) decided to stop paying the Kirchensteuer and – obviously – remain a Catholic. Unsurprisingly, the local hierarchy was not persuaded baptism and orthodoxy are enough: if you don’t pay the pizzo to us, they said to her, you aren’t Catholic anymore. Kapiert?
A ten-year legal war ensued, at the end of which the local church spectacularly lost. The reason given by the judges is very simple: no religious organisation can impose the membership to a purely worldly structure (or I would say: the payment of a contribution to an administrative apparatus) as a condition for an individual to be a member of that religion; better said, it cannot impose the membership to the administrative apparatus to those Catholics who do not refuse the membership to the religion, but merely the payment to the apparatus.
To make a comparison, it is as if Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols would say to you “either you pay me money or you aren’t a Catholic anymore; and I don’t care if you are a perfectly orthodox baptised Catholic who doesn’t object to being a Catholic, but merely object to giving money for me to squander. Either you pay, or you aren’t Catholic”.
Madness, of course, for an Italian or an Englishman – and so un-Catholic, substituting Christian charity for a mafia-exercise in more than vague odour of simony – but unfortunately a serious problem for many Catholics in the German-speaking area, accustomed for several generations now to identify the paying of the tax with the belonging to the religion.
As a result of the decision, the membership to the Catholic Church is now formally separated from the support to the administrative apparatus through the Kirchensteuer. Therefore, every Swiss Catholic can refuse to pay the pizzo (the same way you and I don’t pay it) in the full knowledge of remaining as much a member of the Church as you and I are.
For the avoidance of doubt, I do not doubt the lady is a good Catholic who makes her charitable contributions for the welfare of the (Catholic) world. But as everywhere on the planet outside of German-speaking countries, she will be able to:
a) choose herself how much she wants to freely give (it’s called charity; a concept apparently unknown to Swiss bishops), and
b) choose herself to whom she wants to give her money, rather than feeling obliged to feed a corrupt, more or less heretical apparatus of very well-fed cowards prostituting themselves to the mood of the paying mob.
This is, in the long-term, a deadly blow for the Kirchensteuer, a system clearly based on the concept of automatic and obligatory payment and which cannot survive in its present form once the payment automatism is eliminated.
Kudos to the Swiss judges, and let us hope some people start to open their eyes even in Germany. It is now absolutely evident the Kirchensteuer is the main reason why the Church in Germany is so scandalously on the side of the lapsed ( but largely still Kirchensteuer-paying) Catholics, as the local clergy prostitute themselves to the mob in order to avoid their exit from the Kirchensteuer-system. It is better for this system to die, and for the Church to stop the addiction to the huge stream of money it causes, than to see this endless procession of priests, bishops and cardinals utterly selling themselves to people with no respect for Catholic truth, but whose money they want.
This is a small step in this direction. No doubt, the future will bring others. To a Catholic from outside the German-speaking area, the very concept one wouldn’t be a Catholic if one doesn’t pay a tax is simply absurd.