German court: Catholics who don't pay religious tax must leave church

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, right, celebrates a mass at his 70th birthday in the cathedral in Freiburg, southern Germany, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008. The Catholic Church in Germany has the OK from the Vatican to penalize those who don’t pay their “membership tax.”

Associated Press

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Our take: It is common for church-goers to donate to their faith and for donors to enjoy privileges for those contributions. But the Catholic Church in Germany has the OK from the Vatican to penalize those who don't pay their membership tax.

WARSAW, Poland The German bishops' conference defended a controversial decree that said Catholics who stop paying a church membership tax cannot receive sacraments.

"There must be consequences for people who distance themselves from the church by a public act," said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, conference president, in defending the Sept. 20 decree.

"Clearly, someone withdrawing from the church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member," he said at a news conference Monday as the bishops began a four-day meeting in Fulda. "We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance."

The archbishop said each departure was "painful for the church," adding that bishops feared many Catholics were unaware of the consequences and would be "open to other solutions."

Read more about the change on The National Catholic Reporter.

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