Monday, January 1, 2018

Germany's Catholic Church counts its many financial blessings

accountability Catholic corruption tax Germany

In the western German town of Limburg, a lustrous compound strikes an uneasy contrast to the ancient Romanesque cathedral it neighbors. Both are owned by the Catholic Church of Germany and one is a venerable historical landmark, the other a blemish on a millennia-old institution.

Five years ago, it emerged that Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, also known as the Bishop of Bling, spent €31 million ($43 million back then) restoring the 16th-century complex and erecting a sleek modernist residence. Its plush furnishings range from a designer bathtub (€15,000) to walk-in closets (€350,000), a heated-stone outdoor path (€19,000) and a koi aquarium (€213,000).

The current prelate refuses to live there. Talk has included turning the mansion into a refugee home or an addition to the local diocesan museum. Otherwise it’s nothing more than a monument to an increasingly secular German society’s misgivings about the church tax system.

If you live in Germany and you’ve ever been baptized, you’re considered a church taxpayer. The levy of 8 to 9 percent, depending on the state, is automatically deducted by the government off the income of all registered church members — regardless of how often people go to church. The arrangement was first legally mandated in a clause of the 1919 Weimar Constitution, which was transferred verbatim into the current constitution after World War II.  (more...)


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