German Catholics urged to pay religious tax or face sanctions

German Catholics who refuse to pay religious tax will not receive the sacraments or become a godparent.

The German bishops’ conference last week issued a decree, saying it was “worried” about the Catholic Church’s dwindling numbers and wanted to stem the drop.

Those who will refuse to pay the tax will not ba able to go to confession, join the celebration of the Eucharist, receive the sacrament of confirmation or the anointing of the sick – unless the patient’s life is in danger.

The new decree takes effect on Monday.

Germany has had a system in place since the 19th century asking residents to either officially declare their religion and pay a church tax, or to be classed as “non-religious.”

A change in status from being a member of a religion requires a formal procedure to “leave the Church,” as an increasing number of Germans have done, mostly from the Catholic Church but also from the Protestant faith, the Agence France Presse reported.

The tax amounts to between eight and 10 percent of income tax, depending on where the person lives.

Although the new decree permits a religious marriage for anyone who has left the Church, it stipulates two conditions – an approval from the local religious authorities and a promise to keep the faith and uphold the religious education of any children in the Catholic faith.

However, the bishops’ decree said “if the person who has left the Church has not displayed any regret before their death, a religious burial may be refused.”

A progressive Catholic movement reacted angrily to the move.

“It’s a bad decree coming at a bad time,” the “We Are Church” (“Wir Sind Kirche”) group said in a statement. “Instead of tackling the reasons for Church-leaving in large numbers, this bishops’ decree is a threat to the people of the Church and is not going to motivate people to remain loyal or to join the community of those who pay their church tax,” it said.


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