German bishops expect decline in church tax revenue due to COVID-19

German bishops expect decline in church tax revenue due to COVID-19

Limburg Bishop Georg Batzing, president of the German bishops' conference, is pictured in a March 5, 2020, photo. Catholic bishops in Germany are bracing for a major drop in church taxation revenues as a result of the coronavirus crisis. (Credit: Harald Oppitz, KNA via CNS.)

Catholic bishops in Germany are bracing for a major drop in church taxation revenues as a result of the coronavirus crisis, reported the German Catholic news agency, KNA.

BONN, Germany — Catholic bishops in Germany are bracing for a major drop in church taxation revenues as a result of the coronavirus crisis, reported the German Catholic news agency, KNA.

In Germany, wage-earners who declare membership to a religious faith pay a church tax deducted from their wages by state financial authorities and passed on to the churches. The state itself keeps about 3 percent of the tax money.

“It is going to be a painful process,” Bishop Georg Batzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, warned April 27 in Bonn following a video conference with fellow diocesan bishops.

KNA reported the bishop said there still were no reliable estimates as to how great the drop in church tax revenues would be.

“The corona pandemic is forcing us to enter a process in which we must weigh what we as a church can still afford in the future and what we must say farewell to,” he said.

Revenues from church taxes depend greatly on the number of people employed and on economic developments in Germany. The German bishops’ conference reported Catholics paid some 6.6 billion euros ($7.2 billion) in church taxes in 2018.

Batzing said the social consequences of the pandemic were not just related to the medical emergency, but also to the “economic and social crisis that has raised socio-ethical issues which we will have to deal with over the long run.” As examples, he cited the financing of hospitals, the handling of reduced-hour wages and the future of social welfare services.

Several weeks earlier, the bishops issued a position paper about ethical challenges posed by triage, the key issue being about which patients in an emergency situation should be given priority treatment if there was a shortage of intensive care beds and respirators.

The bishops also urged then that women and parents should as quickly as possible be provided access to personal pregnancy counseling and that existing quality standards should be guaranteed further. During the COVID-19 crisis, pregnancy conflict counseling as mandated by German law was made possible online or by telephone. Such counseling, for which the pregnant woman must normally appear in person, is a precondition for obtaining an illegal, but punishment-free, abortion.

At the end of March, the bishops’ conference expressed its understanding for the new rules put in place during the pandemic, but said the rules should remain temporary, KNA reported.

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