Progressive Catholics in Germany are outraged over a bishops’ decree stating that those who do not pay taxes to the church will be denied the sacraments, including receiving a church burial, becoming a godparent or going to confession.
A tax requiring Christians, both Catholics and Protestants, to pay up to 9 percent of their income tax to their affiliated churches has been in place in Germany for decades and secures more than €9 billion ($11.6 billion) annually for Catholic and Protestant institutions.
German taxpayers can opt out of paying the religious tax by formally leaving their church through a declaration on their tax forms, though it does not require a renunciation of their faith.
Under the decree, those who have opted out of the tax may not receive Christian burials, receive communion, go to confession, become godparents at a baptism or confirmation or hold office within the church.
The bishops’ decree comes amid a growing number of Catholics opting out of the church tax. In 2010, more than 181,000 Germans formally quit their churches, according to the New York Times.
Approximately 30 percent of Germany’s population is Roman Catholic with a nearly equal percentage being Protestants.
The progressive Catholic group We Are the Church released a statement, saying the decree sent “the wrong signal at the wrong time,” the Associated Press reported.
“Instead of tackling the reasons for church-leaving in large numbers, this bishops' decree is a threat to the people of the church and is not going to motivate people to remain loyal or to join the community of those who pay their church tax," the statement added, according to the Daily Telegraph.