German bishops: Catholics who
formally leave Church [don't pay church tax] cannot receive sacraments
CWN – September 21, 2012
The German Catholic bishops have announced that any Catholic who formally withdraws from the Church, by announcing a decision not to pay the “church tax,” will not be allowed the receive the sacraments or hold office in the Church.
With a formal canonical decree, which has been approved by the Vatican and takes effect September 24, the German bishops said that someone who formally removes himself from the Church commits “a grave offense,” and his action should be regarded as “a deliberate and willful alienation.” Such persons, the decree says, will not be allowed to receive the sacraments unless he is in danger of death. Nor can such individuals serve as godparents, members of parish councils, or officers in ecclesial organizations.
The German bishops’ decree was prompted by the mounting numbers of baptized Catholics who announce their formal withdrawal from the Church in order to escape the “church tax.” In Germany, if a citizen is a declared member of a recognized religious body, a portion of his taxes are forwarded to that denomination. The “church tax,” collected by the government, provided about €5 billion ($6.5 billion) in funding for the German Catholic Church last year.
Some Catholics—notably including canon lawyer Hartmut Zapp, who has challenged the “church tax” in court—have argued that registration for the “church tax” involves only a political act, and should not affect one’s spiritual status. Others have protested that the “church tax” supports the “institutional Church,” while they regard themselves as members in a Catholic community that is not necessarily represented by the hierarchical structure of the Church.
In issuing their decree, the German bishops say that it is impossible to withdraw from the “institutional Church” while remaining a part of the Catholic community. The bishops announce that if any individual announces his decision to drop his enrollment in the Church, his pastor should contact him and explain the consequences of this action.
Additional sources for this story: See www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=15680