More than 6 billion of public money reported to go to the Catholic Church or its organisations in Spain (2009)
This report from Spanish organisation Europa Laica (Secular Europe) estimates and itemises the subsidies for both “faith-based welfare”, as well as direct grants to the Church. The figures will change from year to year, but not the surprising number of ways the state ends up supporting the Catholic Church.
Background: In the 1979 Finance Concordat the Spanish Catholic Church promised to become self-supporting within three years of the introduction of a “church tax”, which was finally imposed in 1987. Yet despite more than 10 years' warning, the Church didn't meet the deadline. Even after the Government increased the “church tax” in 2007 from 0.52% to 0.70%, still no luck.
The Finance Concordat (Article 2.2) obliges the Spanish Catholic Church to pay its own way by relying on what citizens chose to provide, either through donations or by designating a portion of their income tax for the Church. Since 1987 each income tax payer must declare whether he wants this "church tax", (at first 0.52% and later 0.70%), to go to the Catholic Church, another denomination or be used for other social purposes. Since 2008, this tax can also be split between a religious denomination and “social purposes”. However, due to the large number of Catholic charities, the Church benefits even when someone ticks the "social purposes" box. And that's not all: the state tops up the money from this tax to ensure that the Church receives the same income as it had before the system was introduced at the end of 1987.* This is in accordance with the Finance Concordat which guarantees (in Article 2.3.) that, come what may, “the Catholic Church shall receive funds of a similar amount”.
Europa Laica (Secular Europe), a nationwide organisation in Spain, has drawn up a report which conservatively estimates annual funding from State Bodies benefitting the Catholic Church at €6 billion a year. The following is a translation of the financial claims from the Europa Laica report of 13 May 2009.
- Private schools that follow the State curriculum and impart Catholic religion are bankrolled to the tune of approximately €3.8 billion, which is transferred as part of funding agreements in each autonomous region.
- Also under the heading of education, public institutions make increasingly large donations to private universities or other educational institutions run by the Church, such as Catholic organisations that own universities. e.g. Deusto University (run by the Jesuits), the University of Navarre (owned by Opus Dei), CEU (Centro de Estudios Universitarios, property of the Association of Propagandists), the pontifical universities of Comillas and Salamanca, the diocesan universities of Murcia and Ávila, 15 ecclesiastical faculties, 41 theological centres, 11 university colleges, 55 colleges, and 72 sixth form (junior) colleges.
- The wage bill for the nearly 30,000 people who teach Catholic religion in the State sector or private schools that follow the State curriculum was more than €550 million for the 2007 – 2008 academic year.
- Tax exemptions for local taxes such as council tax (IBI), tax on building or repair work etc, amounted to lost earnings for the State of about €900 million. Europa Laica believes that Spain is a tax haven for the Catholic Church.
- The amount that private individuals can assign to the Church out of their annual income tax increased from 0.52 % to 0.70% in 2007, so that this year the Church obtained €241 million to fund worship, the clergy and other Church activities. 21.71 % of tax payers ticked the option to assign part of their taxes to the Catholic Church box in their income tax return last year, and 11.68 % also ticked the “social and charitable purposes” box: choosing both has been allowed since last year.
- Thanks to the “social and charitable purposes” box in income tax returns, many Catholic organisations receive a further €100 million. 32.58% of tax payers only ticked the “social and charitable funding” box last year.
- Donations to the Catholic Church receive tax relief: 25% for income tax, 35% for company tax. Studies by the Bishops’ Conference suggest that these tax breaks could have amounted to €80 million in 2008. According to the Bishops’ Conference, donations from the Catholic faithful amount to over 70% more money than the Church receives from the specific Catholic Church tick box option in annual tax returns.
- The Church receives around €300 million a year for the maintenance, renovation and upkeep of its vast art collection and real estate holdings (280 museums, 103 cathedrals or collegiate churches with chapters, and almost a thousand monasteries). This is paid out by the autonomous regions or Central Government.
- The State also pays the salaries of more than 500 full-time hospital chaplains and nearly 300 part-time chaplains, of more than 100 prison chaplains, and of the military chaplains under an archbishop who has the rank of Division General. The total wage bill, including social security contributions etc, exceeds €3 billion a year.
- The central, regional and municipal governments provide financial support to the "charitable" activities organised by the Catholic Church through hundreds of associations, organisations, foundations and congregations. The number is difficult to estimate, but Europa Laica reckons the state subsidy to be several hundreds of millions of Euros a year.
The bishops and some of the population argue that the state would spend more if these educational and social welfare obligations were paid for by the State itself. Europa Laica believes that this is a specious opinion because the Church engages in proselytism and politics through its "Church charitable and social work”. Hundreds of cases prove that the State could perform these tasks, either directly or through other non-religious organisations, in away that would generate more wealth and jobs.
Many towns and municipalities pay grants for parades and processions and the brotherhoods that stage them, for pilgrimages to local shrines, for religious services and various other events which combine the religious, the pagan, the festive and the cultural. They also pay the police overtime for the events, as well as for the publicity for them, as well as many other related costs. The amount is difficult to quantify, as it is borne by almost 8,000 Spanish municipalities. To this should be added the costs of the pomp and ceremony laid on for visiting Catholic Church leaders, such as the forthcoming visit of the Pope to Madrid in 2011.
- Church organisations and the Spanish Bishops' Conference receive assorted grants and donations from the state to support their media and publishing activity.
- Public land is donated in many towns and municipalities to build churches, religious centres and schools. These buildings are also “generously” funded by almost all the municipalities. The cost of these direct and indirect gifts cannot be calculated.
The Catholic Church has launched its campaign to persuade taxpayers to tick its box on their income tax return, a campaign that will cost about €4 million of tax-payers’ money. The Catholic Church is funded by complex mechanisms of private income and public funding, including financial holdings, stocks, mutual funds and involvement in or ownership of companies and financial institutions.
This report has been prepared by Europa Laica based on information sources such as the Spanish Internal Revenue Service, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Education, Education Departments of the Autonomous Regions, education trade unions, education employers’ associations, and the Bishops’ Conference and some of its 60 dioceses. Europa Laica has had to make estimates and approximations which cannot be precise, due to the opaque nature of Church accounts, and the lack of Government transparency on these issues. [...]
* "Building faith in our future", The Archbishops’ Council, 2004, p. 14. http://www.cofe.anglican.org/about/builtheritage/buildingfaith/report.pdf