September 25, 2012 – 4:01am By FRANK JORDANS The Associated Press
BERLIN — A Catholic reform group in Germany criticized the country’s bishops Monday for declaring that believers who refuse to pay religious taxes won’t be able to receive the sacrament, become godparents or work in church institutions.
A century-old agreement with the state adds up to nine per cent to the income tax bill of Germany’s 25-million registered Roman Catholics, earning the church more than $5.2 billion annually. The same tax applies to Protestants and Jews.
The churches use the income to pay employees’ salaries and fund social work such as care for the elderly. The churches themselves aren’t taxed by the state but instead pay an administrative fee for the collection of religious tax.
The Catholic bishops’ decree in Germany last week is part of an attempt to stem the steady flow of people who opt out of paying religious taxes. It declares that they have committed a “grave lapse” and effectively left the church.