Saturday, October 6, 2012

German Federal Court tries to protect outdated Church-tax-system

Regensburg Cathedral

Edit: Excommunicating someone for not paying the Church-tax means nothing to people who go to church for purely cultural reasons, or aren't really concerned about being married or buried with a Catholic ceremony.  Apparently, you don't even really need to be Catholic to be truly honored in German-speaking parts like Vienna, you just have to be a famous Communist "artist" who ridicules the Catholic faith.  For those people who are loyal Catholics, it means a lot, and they're willing to expend a lot of time and money to ensure their Catholic names, even though those in charge are working against them.

Doctor Andreas Janker is a Regensburg, Germany born Engineer. He's also, for the time being, a Catholic in good standing with some serious concerns about the way the Catholic Church in Germany does business.

We'll get back to him in a moment. You see, like the United States and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, the German Bishops also support abortion, the use of birth control and other forms of non-transparent activities, they hope no one really will question. The Catholic Church in the United States, like the German Church, also receives substantial Government largesse in the form of Student Loans and Grants. Catholic Charities alone receives over $2.9 billion dollars a year from the Federal Government, which accounts for about 70% of its revenue.

While America's Bishops receive substantial amounts of money from the American Government just like the German Bishops do, American citizens are selectively taxed for these gracious offerings as they are in Germany. Each German Catholic , who pays income tax (i.e. of all catholics only every third catholic) has to pay about 8% of his income tax on a Church-tax, which the German Government collects on behalf of the Church and itself keeps a 3-5% fee for managing it.

Many people object to what both the Catholic Bishops in Germany and the US do with the money, and with good reason too, since they both support programs which in various ways, violate Catholic moral tenets and even honest business practices. But while a few American Catholics opt out of Catholic systems by refusing to give money to their Diocese, (Unfortunately, they have to continue paying taxes which support Catholic organizations who misbehave), they don't have to worry at this point about being excommunicated as faithful German Catholics do who try to buck the system.

There should be nothing wrong with the government supporting the Church. It's an ancient practice probably going back to the days of the Apostles. (Since the Apostles had wealthy Roman patrons and benefitted from Roman Law in various ways too.) But what happens when the individuals running the Church and the government start working against the Church's favor, and even continued existence? Should individuals be dragooned into supporting this auto-leisionistic (self-destructive) system?

People are probably familiar with the situation where the German Catholic Bishops have produced a document effectively excommunicating Catholics who opt out of the German Church-tax for any reason. They do not specify special cases, like those involving Zapp or Janker, as the famous Canonist Father Gero Weishaupt explains .

At present, this document threatens to alienate some of the only people in Germany who actually have Catholic belief and are courageous enough to want to see it lived out in its institutions. One such man, we've already talked about is Canon Lawyer Prof. Harmut Zapp, who, counter to the way it's been reported in the official German Catholic media, at KNA for example, just won his case against the German Bishops. Strangely enough, the National Catholic Reporter has accurately reported on his case, here. Zapp's Diocese, Friburg, has sued his town of Staufen-im-Breisgau and lost its case.

Basically, the Federal Administrative Court in Germany has decided that for the GERMAN state the Church as "community of believers" and the "Church as a Statutory Body" is the same thing. But it has also decided that his declaration only to leave the Statutory body of the Church is valid because it makes a declaration not invalid if somebody declares he wants to leave the statutory body. It can only be the task of the Church to decide about the consequences of doing so. So the Church who fought 5 years against this kind of declaration has now been lost and has to pay the bill, while Zapp won his revision and is now able to conduct this discussion, being at the same point he was five years ago, within the Church this time.  Which is actually what  he wanted a long 5 years before.
Zapp's case is also vitally important for another courageous Catholic, the aforementioned, and widely discussed, Dr. Andreas Janker. Janker, like Zapp, wants to opt out of the Church-tax system. He currently gives money to Catholic and charitable causes he trusts, so it's not about making the sacrifice.  He also has no desire to leave the Catholic Church and believes in God, certainly he believes in God more than he does the German Bishops.
Not wanting to see the money he's worked so hard to earn misspent, he's decided to opt out of what he regards as a "non-transparent" system. He does not want 8% of his yearly income tax to go to unworthy causes that lack transparancy and whose incompetence he's witnessed first hand, like the Lutheran-Catholic medical insurance organization 'Ecclesia', for example . In Germany, both "churches" (the Evangelical and the Catholic Church) are owners of one of the largest insurance brokers in Europe, the 'Ecclesia GmbH', which also settles liability claim cases for non-church companies. The cases can have nothing to do at all with any, any Church affairs! And they understand the protection of the financial assets of their clients - which are big insurance companies - as Christian value! With such a business goal they operate against legitimate claimants - which Janker has personally experienced with his helpless mother, who was treated very badly in a state hospital. [Note also a kind of parallel, between this situation and the 'Weltbild' scandal, which has the German Bishops profiting directly from the sales of pornographic literature, for very large amounts of money.]
Doctor Janker, His Wife Karin with his Mother

At present, Doctor Janker has not paid Church-tax since December 17, 2009 and is currently back in the Church after various legal paths over years up to the the highest court in the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Signatura and to Monsignor Francesco Coccopalmerio, the current President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts begging for help according Art. 158 PASTOR BONUS. As it was mentioned in the German Catholic news that his case is already at the Apostolic Signatura, then in Germany, in the city of Regensburg the entry in his baptism register was removed only to make his cause in Rome "without grounds", and to keep the ball in the German field.
Ordinarily, the situation had been settled but the General Vicar of the current Archbishop Mueller of the CDF, who was his Bishop, intervened in turn to (vindictively in our opinion) put Dr. Janker back on the Church-tax rolls at the Civil Registration Office, urging via the Bavarian State that the civil-registration office has - after nearly 2 years - to withdraw his declaration of 2009. Dr. Janker has to sue against this withdrawal of the declaration, that it will not become valid and that his old declaration will become invalid,  and Janker has also argued successfully for a stay in order to await the decision of the highest court in Leipzig (Zapp´s identical case).
Consequently, the Civil Registration Office has been waiting  for the related case of Harmut Zapp to be ruled upon in the Federal Administrative Court at Leipzig. Now that the Federal court case has been decided in Harmut Zapp's favor, it should have a favorable result in that now Janker's case will be treated the same way, but very probably Janker and maybe Zapp also will be very soon "excommunicated" (again) by the German Bishops, i.e. the same punishments as before but described as "this is NO excommunication, that's just how you feel!"


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a surer way to secure a seat in Hell than to refuse a baptism, marriage or burial to Catholic Faithful without Just cause. That was just with a capital J.

c matt said...

The Catholic Church in the United States, like the German Church, also receives substantial Government largesse in the form of Student Loans and Grants.

I don't know how it works in Germany, but in the US, it is not quite accurate to say the US Gov't "gives" money to the Church. For example, with the loans above, the loan is given to the individual student who can then use it to pay tuition at a Catholic, public, or other private school. It is the student giving the money to the school, not the government giving money to the Church, and which the student later has to pay back to the Federales. Even if you want to call that "giving" money to the "Church," the "Church" is providng a service in exchange - an education. Same with Catholic Charities and what not - the money is in reality being paid in exchange for some service (adoption/orphanage, social welfare services, etc.) that the government would otherwise have to do itself. When the Government pays McDonnell Douglas or Halliburton to supply military weapons or construction services, are you saying the Government "gives" McD and Hall money?

Tancred said...

Catholic Charities receives most of its funding from Federal grants it doesn't have to repay. On the contrary, it's quit accurate to say that the United States government "gives money" to the American Church, which goes a long way for a few of us to explain why so many Bishops are so soft on defending the prerogatives of the Church, to say nothing of Her timeless truths.

c matt said...

It may "give money" to charities associated with the Church which perform services the governement wants or encourages (hence the government's ability to influence how those services are performed), but it does not give money to the Church in the same way that the German government appears to. It is just a different system - the US government is not collecting money on behalf of the Church as the German system apparently does. I am not saying one system creates less influence on the Church than the other, I am just pointing out the differences.

In fact, the German system may actually create less government influence. If I understand correctly, the tax collected by the German government goes to the Church through its diocese (i.e., the Bishop), not directly to a charity or school supported by the diocese. The diocese can then distribute the tax money, not so in the US. In the German arrangement, an argument can be made that the money is not properly government money at all, but the Church's money, which the government collects. If I hire a bill collection agency to collect money from my customers (paying the collection agency a percentage), they are collecting money owed to me, not them. Thus, it is in a sense, more my money, not the agency's.

In the US system, the Church affiliated agencies (Cath Char, Cath University, etc.) in a sense have to compete with other organizations for what is more properly government money. It therefore would have to comply more with the government's requirements in order to obtain the money.

My main point is that the phrase "giving money" implies that the government is not receiving a "quid pro quo" in the US - as if it is simply a gift for no reason. This is not true - government grants are giving with a specific intent to receive something of value back - be it services to the needy (i.e, a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, etc.) or other service (e.g., education) that the government wants performed that it would otherwise do itself. In the German system, there does not appear to be any particular "return" the government is seeking - it is essentially just a collection agency for the Church. In fact, it is the government that is providing the service to the Church. In the US, it is the other way around (the US Government is the "client," and hence has the similar influence a client would have over the service provider). In other words, the US Government doesn't "give" money to the Church; it more properly "spends" money on services provided by Church entities. In fact, the US government doesn't "give" money to anyone - it "spends" it. Whether that spending is wise or justified is a different question.

Tancred said...

Sure, it employs a different, more passive method of getting tax dollars to the Catholic Church. Arguably, the US method is more unjust because the money isn't just taken from people who declare themselves Catholics and are registered in a parish as such, it's taken from everyone (a shrinking number of people to be sure) who pays taxes.

And if you don't think the government have some influence over what the Church does, look at the HHS Mandate and the efforts, both in Europe and the United States, to force Catholic adoption agencies to place children with homosexuals.

Of course, in Germany, the Kulturkampf (German Governments Efforts to control and neutralize the Catholic Church) is ongoing and both the Bishops which are generally approved of by the government, and the Judiciary, are fighting like mad to keep the Church-tax system afloat.