MUNICH, Germany, May 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – More than 10,000 people from the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising officially left the Catholic Church in 2019, with the compulsory church tax in Germany thought to be a key reason for the record number.
Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that the Munich statistical office has informed them that 10,744 Catholics formally withdrew from the Church in 2019. The previous record number of departures for the diocese came in 1992 with 9,010 people officially leaving the Church.
Research by a Bavarian public broadcaster published earlier this year indicated that among the most common reasons for Catholics in Germany officially leaving the Catholic Church was to avoid paying the church tax, with many also citing clerical abuse scandals or that they no longer regularly attended church.
The church tax, or Kirchensteuer, is levied upon Roman Catholics, “Old Catholics,” Lutherans, two other Protestant communions, and Jews. The revenue was once kept by the German government for the upkeep of religious buildings and payment of ministers’ salaries, but it is now given directly to the governing bodies of these religious communities.
The Kirchensteuer represents eight to nine percent of an individual’s annual income tax, depending on where in Germany he lives.
Germans and foreign residents can opt out of the church tax by going to a government office or courthouse, signing documents stating that they are no longer members of their religion, and paying a fee.
Catholics who opt out of the church tax are denied the sacraments and a Catholic funeral. They are barred from being employed by the German Catholic Church or its establishments, including schools and hospitals. They are not allowed to join Catholic groups such as church choirs or to be godparents.
However, many faithful Catholics in Germany are reluctant to pay the church tax because in addition to the upkeep of churches, the monies are used in part to fund the heterodox activities of German Catholic bishops.
Just last month Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, the head of the German bishops conference, called for a change in the Church’s teaching on homosexuality in an interview with a German newspaper.
The German Church’s “synodal path,” which held its first meeting earlier this year, has in its preparatory documents indicated clearly the aim of dissenting from the Church’s sexual teaching, her ban on female “ordination,” and her apostolic discipline of priestly celibacy. At the first “synodal path” meeting at the end of January, a majority of the 230 synodal members voted against a proposal that only those votes that are in accordance with the Church’s teaching be passed on to the general assembly.