Pope on the ropes

I decided a day before my 37th birthday to leave the Catholic Church. But just the German Catholic Church, not the actual Catholic Church. Leaving the actual Catholic Church is impossible; leaving the German Catholic Church is possible for the bargain price of €30 in Berlin. Confused? So was I.

It all started when I received a letter in the mail with the catchy introductory sentence:

Festellung der Zugehörigkeit zu einer öffentlich-rechtlichen Religionsgemeinschaft

Trips off the tongue, doesn’t it? Even with my limited German, I could still recognise that the church was after me. Not for my shoddy attendance, but for cold, hard cash.

23431_10150180734690377_1528428_n
I’d thought they wouldn’t find me

You see, in Germany, if you’re a member of certain religions, Roman Catholicism being one of them, you have to pay church tax. The letter explained that I’d “forgotten” to tick the religion box when I first registered my address. Naturally I hadn’t forgotten; I’d been forewarned of this tax and advised to leave that box empty. But it seemed they were coming after me anyway.

I haven’t set foot in a church in years – I’d probably burst into flames if I did – so the thought of paying for something that was about as relevant to me as fly fishing rankled.

I joked with Hildeberta that I might look into excommunicating myself. Oh, how we laughed. Until I looked up the church tax online and discovered that they take around 9% of your annual income tax. NINE PER CENT. Jesus… Excommunication didn’t seem so ridiculous now.

Maybe I'd become Greek Orthodox instead
Maybe I’d become Greek Orthodox instead

I Googled “leaving the Catholic Church” and discovered that it is actually impossible to leave voluntarily – once you’re in, you’re in for life, whether you like it or not. It seems that a lot of people didn’t like it and in 1983, the Vatican brought in a law that allowed its members to defect.

However, in 2009, they changed their minds canon law and those defections had no legal standing.

Or Russian Orthodox
Or Russian Orthodox

I cranked up my internet searching skills and discovered that it is possible to leave the Catholic Church in Germany. They even have a nifty website that tells you how to do it. You “simply” have to make an official declaration at the local exitingthechurchtoavoidpayingstupidtaxesoffice. In Berlin, this costs €30 but it varies from state to state.

I weighed up paying 9% of my annual income tax for the rest of my time in Germany versus a one-off payment of €30 and the decision was made. Almost.

I just had to make a quick phone call to a higher power – Mammy O’Grady, not God. God’s wrath and maybe even a plague of locusts is mild in comparison to the wrath of an Irish mammy… Thankfully, Mammy O’Grady is a sensible woman and was equally outraged at this money-grabbing malarkey.

It was time for the chop
It was time for the chop

It seems we’re not alone either. More than 181,000 German Catholics left the church in 2010, and 126,000 the following year. In short, German Catholics are dropping like flies and the church is freaking out, sensing that its bottomless money pit might be about to dry up. Diddums…

You might think that I could simply tick the “no faith” box and send the letter back, or just ignore it. NEIN. This is not an option. If you’re from certain countries, the Finanzamt just assumes that you are a certain religion (Ireland = Catholic) and may just start charging you at some point in the future anyway. This had to be official.

It states on the home page of the website that “It is not possible to leave the church by means of a letter!” I guess they assume that most foreigners would rather tick a box and take the financial hit than go to a German office and deal with the nightmare that this usually involves. Well, not this foreigner.

The bell tolls for thee, church tax
The bell tolls for thee, church tax

Tomorrow, I will be hauling my 37-year-old ass down to my local exitingthechurchtoavoidpayingstupidtaxesoffice, filling in the form, coughing up the €30, and excommunicating myself. After all, as Herr Christ himself said, “It is written… My house will be called a ‘house of prayer’, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'”

I wonder what he’d make of the German church tax…

 

Sources: 

Article on trying to leave the Catholic Church in Ireland

10 facts about German church tax

Advertisements

154 thoughts on “Pope on the ropes”

  1. One of My FAVORITE LINES, in any movie ever, is when (Hannah &Her Sisters) Max Von Sydow says,

    “If God ever came down and saw what was going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up!” 🙂 I love the image that conjures up…perpetual puke!

    Happy Birthday cutie! Night.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, I had no idea about church tax when we registered upon entering the country and for whatever reason, told the lady at the Amt that I was Buddhist. I’m not. I have no idea why I said it, but once I heard about mandatory tithing, I was really glad I did as much because I’ve never had to renounce or pay.

    I’m too broke to be paying my salary to the church I never go into — especially when it’s just paying Gerhard Richter to make their stained glass windows. Of course, I regretted it when I wanted to send Diva to a really great school that happened to be run by the Catholics, but I figure I’m saving her some nightmares by sparing the religious education I had as a kid. A little worried about her soul, but I figure that can take care of itself…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I don’t think paying 9% of your income tax guarantees you a spot in heaven beside the big man 😉 So funny that you just came out with Buddhist – good choice! And I went to a convent school too – I don’t think Milly will be missing out on much – those nuns were the unholiest creatures I ever came across 😉

      Like

  3. Hi Linda, I am glad to see that the Germans are as mad as the Italians when it comes to taxation 🙂 🙂

    I think you should join Pastafarianism, they are allowed to wear a spaghetti colander on the head for their driving licence photo. It is a recognized religion. I did think of joining, just to bring a smile to the Italian police when they do their driving licence spot checks, unfortunately Mrs S waved the dreaded wet wooden spoon in my direction.

    All the best PN

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you leave the church you don’t have to pay it. If you’re in the church and employed you can’t NOT pay it… it’s taken off your wages automatically with all your other taxes.

      Like

        1. Don’t know how it came about. Historical reasons? Supposedly it’s used for things like church-run Kindergartens. Apparantly one third of church tax is used to pay church “employees” (priests, bishops, etc.). Judging by how many people pay church tax, they must all be earning a fortune!

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Historical reasons is right! It’s all in the link at the bottom, but it mainly goes towards churches, religious hospitals, schools and a big chunk of the Catholic tax goes to the Vatican. I figure I’m already paying for hospitals and schools with my normal taxes. It’s been in place since the 19th century.

          Like

  4. I told Jan about the assuming you’re Catholic if you’re Irish thing and he said “that’s discrimination!”. As a German, he had never heard of that practice either. Shame on you, Germany! Even your own citizens don’t like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries! It depends on where you live as well – to de-register in Bremen is free, for example 😉 Best €30 I ever spent I reckon! I’ll be writing a follow-up post on it tomorrow… The process. Sigh 😉

      Like

  5. German politicians even try to establish the church tax also for Muslim communities, including not so trustworthy Muslim associations (which then will get officially raised taxes to finance whatever they have in mind). We Germans are not happy about this. Also state funding for Muslim welfare associations and Islamic teaching at state schools is in planning. Simply because the Christian churches have the same. Teh logic of current German politicians is: If Christians have it, Muslims must have it too – instead of reforming the whole system. Most Germans do not understand this, and the enforced payment for the church looses many supporters in these days. BTW: Among Catholic theologians there is a wild debate whether you leave the “real” Church if you leave the “earthly” Church. Most say “no”. BerLinda is not excommunicated, she’s only disobedient to the church’s authorities, i.e. a sinner. As long as the status of sin endures, she is not allowed to receive communion, but this is not (!) excommunication. Excommunication means exlusion from the “heavenly” church, i.e. damnation to hell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I know – excommunication just sounded more dramatic! I can’t take communion, go to confession or be a godparent, etc. I can still get my last rites read. And none of this is actually acknowledged by the Catholic Church – only by the German tax office. 😉 And I’ve been a sinner for a while now so I may as well keep going! Thanks for the comment! Linda.

      Like

      1. I taught for years in a Catholic church in the U.S., though I was never Catholic (raised Lutheran). During all-school masses I took communion and usually made a point to stand in the line where a priest would hand me the wafer rather than a student, since the students knew I wasn’t Catholic. According to church law, I shouldn’t have been allowed to take communion in a Catholic church/school. If the priest wanted to refuse me at the altar, that would have been fine with me, but I’ve never seen that happen. It would be the same if I were at a church service here in Germany. They don’t card you at the altar, so if I wanted communion, I’m sure I could have it.

        Excommunication may be exclusion from the heavenly church, but it’s still a decision made and rite performed by men. Just because all those men said the accused witches in the Middle Ages were excommunicated doesn’t make it so. I’m pretty sure God makes up His own mind about whose soul goes where rather than obeying the men who snuff out the symbolic candle. I’m not worried about you, BerLinda. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, I’m not overly worried either 😉 Ha, could you imagine being refused at the altar? I think it would be more embarrassing for the priest actually – how petty would that be?! Unless they were a wannabe bouncer, I couldn’t see it happening 🙂

          Like

  6. Nein is right for sure. It’s wrong for them to assume that just because you’re from a certain country, you observe a particular religion.

    I hope you don’t have to travel halfway across the city to wait hours in line to pay your €30. Though it would be worth the time and trouble if you did.

    Happy Excommunication!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s been a busy week – a birthday, an excommunication… probably not many people can say that! 🙂
      You have to go to the office in your district so it wasn’t that far. Finding the actual office in the building was another story though!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I had no idea that the German government was doing this. From an American point of view, it’s bizarre! It seems especially weird that if you come from Ireland, they assume you’re Catholic. Are they unaware that the big cathedral in Dublin is part of the Anglican church?
    What happens if you’re an atheist? Do they have a godless tax?

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, well, she still goes to mass so I didn’t want to upset her! She understood that it was for financial reasons. I think she’d be a bit pissed off if Ireland started forcing her to pay church tax too!

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t think there’s any danger of Italians getting charged tax for the Catholic church – Italians are Europe’s worst tax evaders so they’d never pay anyway. They are terrible for nicking valuables from churches, too, it happens all the time. Since they’re devout Catholics, all they have to do is go to church afterwards and gain absolution!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So much for freedom of religion..

    I pretty much made a tax officer choke in Finland once: There is a church tax for members of the state church, Lutherans, in Finland. I’m not a part of it, but I asked once if I could still pay the tax as I was using a fair amount of the non religious services the church provides in the community. She couldn’t believe what she heard 😀
    So no, I don’t pay but I like a fair number of the things the church here offers for everybody.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Mandatory tax to the Catholic Church is also mandatory, but I am informed that international civil servants are exempted from paying it. Some friends complain that they do not have anything to do with the Church but still have to pay and there is no way out.

    Like

    1. I did find myself sending up a little prayer that I’d make it out of the building alive 😉 I figured I was allowed one last one 😉 What does the B stand for? Berlin Jesus? 🙂

      Like

  11. Wow, don’t tell Italy about this, it’s the only thing they haven’t yet thought of taxing (though I guess if the Vatican is getting all that German money they don’t need the Italians’ money too!). So, will you ever be allowed in a German church again or will there be a photo of you and a ‘don’t let this woman in’ sign at all the doors…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, yeah, me and hundreds of thousands of Germans 😉 Maybe that’s what they’re using the money for – printing out ‘Wanted’ posters 😉 I think they pay church tax in Austria as well so the Vatican is probably getting some of that too!

      Like

      1. I am in TOTAL agreement with livinginthelanghe!!! How it is possible that the Italians are not doing this??! I have NO IDEA! In fact, you would have thought they invented this! This whole situation creeps me out! VERY WEIRD!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It creeps me out too! I don’t like the assumptions and the tax stalking! Don’t tell your Italian in-laws you’re following a heathen’s blog – they’ll be after me too 😉

          Like

      2. its more of a “church contribution”… dunno how to eplain it. my parents used to pay a while ago but no idea if they still do. none of us has set foot in church for decades now… except when visiting foreighn countries as tourists.

        Like

  12. First of all, love the picture of you hiding from the Church, haha!

    Second, that is ridiculous. Slash when I think of how much tax I paid in America, it’s not that bad… wow America is the worst. Slash living in a country with no tax on anything, I have become extremely spoiled. I used to pay like 25% of my income for taxes/wheverelseAmericatakesout and now I’m floored by 9% tithe. Like totally floored. Still can’t get over it.

    Thank God (pun fully intended) you’re out of that mess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Guess I can’t say ‘Thank God’ any more now – that’s going to be a hard habit to break! But it’s more of an Irish thing than a Catholic thing! Tax, tax, tax… such a pain in the holiest of holies 😉

      Like

  13. Wow – 9% , that’s huge – and undoubtably after state taxes. Yikes! In Canada there is separation of church and state HOWEVER, in some provinces, like Ontario where I live,, the churches run their own school systems along side the public systems. There are also private schools. Each year, tax payers get a form to fill out asking which system they want their school tax paid to. There is no relief, regardless if you have children or not – you still pay the tax. It is rolled into the provincial payroll tax, so we never see any amounts or percentages, but it is there. We get a lot of gov’t services like socializd health care, social support programs, disability and unemployment payments, subsidized university – to name a few. Our gov’t services alone is a huge employer. mind you there ae issues with all these programs – none are perfect and there are always complaints about lack of funds. All that being said we are taxed up the ying yang. We have so many taxes that it is hard to keep track. In fact until recently (when the complaining reached a crescendo) we literally paid provincial sales on federal sales tax. (They were harmonized a few years ago but until then the federal sales tax on every purchase was calculated and then the provincial sales tax was applied to the total – a tax on a tax).We have a non-profit group here that keeps track of total taxes and they announce a day each year when, if we had paid all taxes first, we would be tax free. It is usually in June sometime – which means we pay almost 50% of all earnings in taxes.

    That is likely what my fellow Canadian was fuming about in the above comment.

    Good luck at the “Idon’t wnat to be catholic” department. We eagerly await your report you godless creature you – Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, I was pretty much godless anyway but now it’s official 😉
      Canada sounds tax mad! But I suppose you do get quite a lot for it – I wouldn’t appreciate paying a school tax if I had no kids though! I’ll pay my taxes and then whatever they want to channel into education is fine by me! But a separate school tax? NEIN 😉

      Like

  14. WHAT?! I had no idea they just assumed a religion if you came from certain countries. They’re even more outrageous than I thought (and I already find the idea of charging people for having a religion full stop pretty outrageous!). What if you’re Irish and actually have no religion? I’m sure there must be some out there. Can you leave a church you were never even in?

    By the way, it’s not just the Catholics. Jan is protestant and pays church tax to the Lutherans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think it’s Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Maybe if you can prove you were never in the church?? I was, so I guess it’s up to me to leave it – which I have done 😉

      Like

      1. I was christened Catholic but never uh… confirmed? What’s the thing they do where all the girls dress up like mini brides? My sister and I were only christened to appease my (strict Catholic, Ukranian) grandad, who was not impressed that my mum got pregnant with me before she was married! I’ve no idea how I would go about proving whether I was or was not in the church (although in my case maybe they’d assume I was CofE anyway?).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. First, christening, then communion (mini-brides!), then confirmation. I’ve no idea how to prove it either! If you’ve gone this far, you’re probably alright! I thought you were paying it though?

          Like

          1. the church is after you… they will find you and know that you have sinned… repent now before its too late..

            btw if I dont pay the church tax, do I still get to go to heaven? because if not than why the hell have I been saving myself all these years… staying away from drugs and alochol…. if nothing can help me now really… might as well go and do smth sinful while Im stil alive)

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I’m going to ‘start’ having all the pre-marital sex now 😉
              And yes, you can still get into heaven! This isn’t binding in the eyes of god, only in the eyes of the German state! However, you can still have your last rites read if you want to 😉

              Like

          2. I am, but only because the nasty woman I got when I first moved here said you HAD to put a religion… it wasn’t possible to say you didn’t have one. She didn’t say anything about assuming I was a certain religion based on where I’m from though.

            Liked by 1 person

  15. In my head I am thinking, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say…” How freaking boring right?. But I am afraid I could go either to the “Holier than thou” white cartoon angel on the shoulder or the Red devil angel…. So, all I will say is I prefer the separation of church and state of the U.S.
    P.S. I think you should do a post on German Rhyming insults.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. my parents are catholic too and they paid church tax in order to get married in church and get me baptized. I am doing neither of this thats why in Germany I am no member of no churches. if I ever get a kid and Ill really really have to get him baptized the russians do it for a small fee, no tax necessary plus the scenery is a lot prettier so there. otherwise no. let jesus love me for free.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I wonder now what Finanzamt would think to put for people who come from Latvia. «Okay, no religion, but please leave»? 🙂

    (and, hey, there are advantages to Orthodoxy, like priests not having to lie about life-long celibacy – they can marry, and the iconography is generally far better. But they’re still Christians, so fuck them in their beards. And they don’t allow you to sit in churches, so fuck them in their beards twice. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The no sitting thing would definitely be a deal breaker for me 😉 Maybe they charge Latvians tree tax – they’ll be hugging them so much they’ll wear away the bark 😉

      Like

      1. This is the first thing Hollywood always screws up when it shows a church in Russia – pews, pews everywhere! I’ve checked (this only time in my life I was in any sort of a temple) – no pews.

        I wonder if actually Finanzamt grants a moonshine subsidy – so that Latvians buy factory-made booze and don’t waste the time of ambulances and hospitals with their stupid methanol poisonings and don’t feed the organised crime buying contraband. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, me too! My friend is getting married in March but thankfully it’s not in a church! That’s the only time I ever set foot inside one.
          Leaving also means that I can’t be a godparent which is obviously a huge tragedy for me… 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Sweet Jesus, that’s a lot of money. I mean, I think my family would have a conniption if I wanted to leave the Catholic Church, but for 9% of my life’s worth…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was why I checked with my mam first! I didn’t want her to read it in the blog for the first time! She totally got it though. And it’s impossible to leave the Catholic Church anyway so it’s really just a financial thing. Most Germans who leave carry on as they did before – going to mass, etc. – which infuriates the church even more!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Hopefully sooner rather than later 😉 It’s only certain religions as well – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish, I think.
          I mean, if I go to mass, I’ll put money in the collection box; if I visit a church as a tourist, I’ll put money in the donation box or pay to take photos, etc. I just don’t see why I should be forced to pay for something against my will!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. okay here is my opinion on this. I believe in a country like Germany there are two main religions – protestantism and catholizism. this is not just the country`s religion but also its cultural heritage. of course it is important to preserve the countrys identity, architecture of the churches etc. thats why I believ churches must take mybe 1 % of every citizen who works full time.like if you live in germany, support their cultural heritage (eventually it also gives money via tourism etc). but than anyone should be able to marry, get baptized, be godfather etc. and if you wanna be a member of any church, you just become a registered member for free and maybe pay some additional fee for marriage, baptizm etc.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I guess I’m an unlikely choice as a godmother so that part is just fine by me 😉 I’ll pay my taxes and then whatever they want to channel into cultural heritage, education, health, etc. is fine by me. But I refuse to pay a church tax, a large chunk of which is going to the Vatican anyway!

              Like

              1. I know right? no all I was saying, as little opinion I have about religion, its still important for the countrys identity. plus there would be a lot less tourists if there were no beautiful domes in germany. so yeah I can understand a very small tax that would go straight to support the german churches/priests rather than just boom the influence of the catholic church and their brainwashing technologies. someone needs to pay to maintain all those buildings and Im fine with paying 1%, plus maybe additional fees for additional services (within reason) if I want them. but 9%sucks and its not effective. the reason they go after you is because they need money so its not a very effective system that forces people leve the church alltogether. german beurocracy all around!

                P.S: dont worry too much about excommunication though. im sure if you lived in middle ages you would have been banned from church anyway if they just read your blog (a pro choice single woman in her 30s who has an opinion of her own . jesus christ!)

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Heilige Scheiße! I should probably be burnt at the stake! 🙂
                  And yes, German churches are beautiful but I’m sure some of my taxes already go to maintaining Germany’s cultural heritage – well, not sure, but sure-ish 😉 And yes, people leaving in the hundreds of thousands is hardly an effective solution!

                  Like

  19. Wow, that’s interesting that they just assume that because of where you’re from. I’ve checked a big, fat, NEIN on all of those boxes I’ve encountered to date, and haven’t had a problem. Don’t worry though, they find a way to **** with all of us, one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. A long time ago I read samething like every one will be in a hell.
            Atheists from any Religious views will enter the hell…so ..whereas one can only belong to one religion (only really right ), it means that the followers of each religion exclude each other by sending “the wrong” believers to hell!
            Till we meet..in a hell???

            Liked by 1 person

Let me know what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s