Pope Benedict Denounces Germany’s ‘Unmerciful’ Church Tax

News: World News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 12, 2016   

"Automatic excommunication of those who do not pay it, in my view, is not sustainable"

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ROME (Churchmilitant.com) - Pope Emeritus Benedict is denouncing the "unmerciful" German Church for excommunicating parishioners who don't pay the Church tax.

In his interview with Peter Seewald published recently, the retired pontiff calls out the German Church for placing money over mercy.

I do not mean that there should not be an ecclesiastical tax, but the automatic excommunication of those who do not pay it, in my view, is not sustainable. ... This situation saddens me, this excess of money that yet again is not enough, and the bitterness that it generates, the sarcasm of the circles of intellectuals.

A Church tax is not unheard of in Europe; Italy, for instance ,has one. The $5 billion that German bishops collect in taxes from their parishioners each year is more than five times as much as the "eight per thousand" system brings in annually to the Italian Church. In Italy, only $8 per every thousand of income are set aside for the Church. Germany's Church tax, however, amounts to roughly eight percent of the person's income tax, which accounts for about four percent of the person's yearly income.
What Benedict and others find scandalous is the way German bishops threaten to cut off the sacraments if their flock doesn't pay. While Italy's system of contribution is completely voluntary, Germany in effect excommunicates those who don't pay the imposed tax. This led Abp. Georg Gänswein, prefect of the papal household and secretary to both Popes Emeritus Benedict XVI and Francis, to speak out.

In July, Abp. Gänswein, a native of Germany like Benedict, said, "Yes, that is a serious problem. How does the Catholic Church in Germany react to someone leaving? By automatic expulsion from the community, in other words, excommunication! That is excessive, quite incomprehensible."

During the Synod of Bishops in 2014 and the Synod on the Family in 2015, the German bishops were notorious in pushing for Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, cohabiting couples and homosexual couples. Such proposals all flew under the banner of "mercy." Some speculate it's in the bishops' interests to be inclusive rather than teach orthodoxy on the matter of sexual morality, as it's more likely to keep paying Catholics in the Church and the coffers full.

Archbishop Gänswein decried this type of "false mercy" extended to people who don't practice their faith, but is not offered to those who choose to stop paying taxes to the Church. He noted the double standard:

You can question dogma, no one is concerned about that, no one gets kicked out. Is the non-payment of the Church tax a bigger offense against the Faith than violations of the tenets of Faith? As long as the Faith is on the line, that is quite acceptable, however when money enters the equation, things get serious.

Seewald's interview with the retired pope is a 240-page compilation of Benedict's memoirs titled "Final Conversations" published in Italian in September.


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