Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

To be, or not to be, a Catholic in Germany

Something that’s been going through the news recently is the status of members of the Catholic church who do not pay church tax.

For historical reasons, certain religious communities in Germany (including the Roman Catholic Church) can have contributions collected from workers’ salaries automatically, at a fixed percentage of their income tax (IIRC); these monies are collected by the government and passed on to the religious community that the person is affiliated with. (Which is why your religion is part of the tax forms, though they only care whether it’s one of the dozen-odd religions that church tax is collected for, or “other or none”.)

A fair number of people are unhappy with paying church tax and have left their church in order not to be obligated to pay it. (Sometimes waiting until they have got married in a church ceremony.)

Now the news is that the Catholic Church in Germany is considering barring non-church-tax-paying people from receiving the benefits of church membership, such as a religious burial.

Now while I think that wanting to enjoy the benefits of association with a group without paying the associated dues (if the group regularly charges such does from its members) to be hypocritical, I’m a bit confused by the theological background of the new turn of events.

From what I had understood, the Catholic Church position was that once you are baptised, you’re a member, and it’s nearly impossible to leave the church voluntarily. For example, if you went off and converted to Islam, you’d still be a Catholic in their eyes (though probably a heretical one).

By those lines, what people are doing is not leaving the church (which is nearly impossible) but changing their declared religious affiliation with the government. So it’s between them and the government and doesn’t negate their baptism.

So I’m curious where they got the understanding from that suddenly it’s possible to say that somebody now isn’t a Catholic.

Or maybe I’m misunderstanding and the official line is that they are still, indeed, Catholics, but that not all Catholics enjoy the same rights (for example, to a religious burial), so that these non-church-tax-paying people fall into a second-class group that already existed previously.

Or something?

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