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Does “church tax” help drive concern over the remarried and gays? Does “church tax” help drive concern over the remarried and gays?

Due to “church tax” Germany is the cash cow of the Vatican and to encourage this special rules seem to apply. A quarter of new German marriages are remarriages. Neither these couples nor gays are shut out from sacraments and thus discouraged from paying their church membership fees. And soon they may not even be fired from Church employment.

Pope tightens rules twice to prevent church-leaving (2006 and 2010) 
German “church tax”: Court confirms the bishops’ “pay to pray” decree (2012) 
How to leave the Catholic Church in Germany
How far can German churches discriminate against over a million employees? (2014)

Vatican doctrine is quite clear about forbidding remarried to take Communion. Otherwise, said Pope John Paul II, "the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage." [1] Church control over marriage requires that it sticks.

On the other hand, "if the rules were literally applied, no one whose marriage had failed could ever have sex again. This is not a practical way to ensure there are future generations of Catholics." [2]

And the threat posed by Chruch doctrine on divorce applies to more than membership growth. It also applies to money. This is where the German church poses a special challenge. It has been called "the cash cow of the Vatican". It pays for every priest not only in Peru but also in Brazil, the most populous Catholic country in the world. [3] This is due to the steep German church tax which, at 8-9 % of taxable income, is 3-4 % of their salary. In 2013 this tax brought the Vatican 5.4 billion euros. The next year another wave of church-leaving occurred when the church tax began being withheld from capital gains, as well as from salary. [4]

In 2012 the German church got a Vatican change to its membership rules, which mean that you must pay church tax in order to receive many of the sacraments. [5] These include Confession, Communion, Conformation and Last Rites, except in danger of death. (§1) In addition, there can be no church wedding without special permission. (§2) And unless the person who has left the Church has shown repentance before death, a Church burial can be denied. (§3)

The sale of sacraments is officially considered by the Church to be the sin of simony, but this has not stopped it. In fact, as soon as it was brought in, this "pay to pray" regulation was obediently enforced by a German court. [6]

However, for those who are willing to pay church tax and who are merely living in what the Church considers an adulterous relationships, the rules are quite different. A quarter of new marriages in Germany are now remarriages, with these “adulterers” officially ineligible to take sacraments. These people have no reason to pay church tax to the church that shuts them out. So the German Catholic bishops broke with Vatican doctrine, and allowed the remarried to receive sacraments in order to keep them. [7] After all, 70% of the income of the German Church depends on these taxes. This position was defended by Cardinal Walter Kasper in a frank interview which was quickly taken down, but is reposted here. [8]

It's not just in Germany that the Church loses gays and from their extended families who resent their exclusion. One gay couple in the US was told that to be allowed to take the sacraments, they must divorce and sign a statement that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. [9] And a Canadian archbishop admitted that “We have lost whole families over this.” [10] Pope Francis himself has lamented this exclusion, saying that "The divorced and remarried seem excommunicated". [11] 

In in 2013, to maintain control over marriage, the Vatican said it was chastising the German bishops. [12] However, for the sake of the income, it did nothing more. [13] The next year Cardinal Müller, the doctrinal watchdog, issued “another strong statement”, but no one got excommunicated, as has happened to many clerics violated Church doctrine. [14] Then, before the Synod on the Family, he staked out the position of the CDF that he heads in a book-length interview where he stressed that the indissolubility of marriage remains Church dogma. [15] Later that year the CDF issued a ruling reinforcing this. [16]

A prominent theologian pointed out that Cardinal Kasper's "mercy" in offering communion to the remarried was more than simply a welcoming pastoral gesture,i-t represented a doctrinal upheaval. [17] And the Pope Emeritus, (who claimed he was going to be “hidden to the world”), was seen as endorsing the orthodoxy of the CDF that he once headed by editing out his earlier support for the possibility of communion for the remarried. [18] At the end of 2014 Cardinal Müller turned up the theological heat still further by calling any discrepancy between the rules and the practice "a subtle theological heresy". [19]

Undaunted, the German bishops set a course for allowing the remarried and gays to work in Church institutions without being fired for doctrinal "disloyalty". When this comes through, there will be consistent acceptance of these two groups in Germany. They will be allowed both Chuch employment and Church sacraments. [20] Will this be enough to stem the costly defections from the Catholic Church in Germany? 

But no matter how ardently the German bishops woo the “church tax” of gays and the remarried, the faithful elderly canonist who has religious scruples about paying can expect no "mercy". That would set a dangerous precedent. [21] 

In both cases, the German position is at odds with Church teaching: admitting to Communion those formally not allowed, and forbidding those whom the Vatican says can validly receive the sacraments. [22]

But in both cases the actions of the German Church are tolerated, as this is so very profitable.

In fact, the German Catholic Church has disclosed that it is even richer than the Vatican. The first full report of its wealth indicated that in 2012 Cologne, the largest Catholic diocese in Germany, was worth 3.35 billion euros ($3.82 billion). And that's despite the fact that

its landmark Gothic cathedral along the Rhine is listed as being worth only 27 euros - one euro for each of the 26 land parcels beneath it and one euro for the priceless building. [23]


1. Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 1981-11-22 

2. Andrew Brown, “The war against Pope Francis”, Guardian, 2017-10-27.

3. “Germany: church income rises”, The Tablet, 2014-10-11

4. Tom Heneghan, “Capital gains mean church losses in new German tax twist”, Reuters, 2014-08-29

“Kirchensteuer verschreckt die Gläubigen”, Handelsblatt, 2014-09-26

As church-goers wane, Germany's controversial tax prompts unease”, CNA, 2015-02-12

5. “Allgemeines Dekret der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Kirchenaustritt”, 2012-09-20

6. “German ‘church tax’: Court confirms the bishops’ ‘pay to pray’ decree” (2012), Concordat Watch.

7. “German bishops will defy Vatican on divorced-remarried receiving Communion: Bishop Fürst”, Life Site News, 2013-11-27 

8. Edward Pentin, “Cardinal Kasper: 'Growing Majority' in Synod Support Divorce-Remarriage Proposal”, Zenit [quickly removed from the web] 2014-10-15 

Other liberal views expressed by Kasper — with links — can be found in “‘The Church is not against birth control at all’: Cardinal Walter Kasper”, Life Site News, 2014-05-09

9. Frank Bruni, “‘I Do’ Means You’re Done”, New York Times, 2014-09-23

10. “Nfld. archbishop: Gay unions should be ‘accepted and respected’ in Catholic Church”, Life Site News, 2014-10-23

11. “The synod on the family: ‘The divorced and remarried seem excommunicated‘”, La Nacion, 2014-12-07

12. “Vatican intervenes to clarify marriage teaching in Germany”, CNA, 2013-11-14 

13. “German bishops will give Communion to those ‘remarried’ outside Church despite Vatican’s opposition”, Life Site News, 2014-01-07

14. “Vatican’s doctrinal chief again: Communion for divorced and remarried impossible”, Life Site News, 2014-02-26

15. “Cardinal Mueller Stresses Need to Correct Misunderstanding of Church's Teachings on Marriage, Family”, Zenit, 2014-08-07

16. “Vatican’s doctrine office affirms Communion must be denied to ‘remarried’ divorcees”, Life Site News, 2014-11-14

17. “Renowned Theology Scholar Issues Strong Critique of Cardinal Kasper's Speech on Marriage”, Zenit, 2014-03-25

18. “Has Benedict XVI intervened in the debate on Communion for the ‘remarried’?” Life Site News, 2014-11-24

The following article tries to argue that because he changed his mind, he had to change the record. That seems to be a common response by the Vatican in order to bolster its authority.

“Ratzinger's retraction: the fruit of 42 years of theological maturation”, CNA, 2014-12-04

19. “Attempt to divide doctrine and pastoral practice is a ‘subtle heresy’: Vatican’s doctrine chief“, Life Site News, 2014-12-10

20. Edward Pentin, “Germany's Catholic Bishops Face Resistance Over Labor Reform”, Breitbart News Network, 2014-11-25.

21. “German ‘church tax’: Court confirms the bishops’ ‘pay to pray’ decree”, Concordat Watch, 2012

[Church tax brings the Catholic Church over €5 billion not €9 billion, as this article states. - ed.]
“German bishops mull allowing Church employees to live in same-sex relationships”, Life Site News, 2014-11-25

22. “For German bishops mercy comes at a price, critics charge”, CNA, 2014-11-06.

23. “German Catholic archdiocese reveals it's richer than Vatican“, Reuters, 2015-02-19.





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