Vatican City, Sep 27, 2012 / 15:24 pm America/Denver (CNA).
A leading canon lawyer has called for further reflection on the German Church’s decision to refuse the sacraments and Christian burial to Catholics who do not pay the country’s Church tax.
Dr. Edward Peters, a canon lawyer and the first layman to serve as a consultant to the Church’s highest court, explained that excommunication is invoked today “only against the gravest ecclesiastical offenses, things like abortion, desecration of the Eucharist, or certain illegal conferrals of Holy Orders.”
“To invoke the consequences of excommunication, even if that term is not used, against those who object to paying a civil Church tax, raises some very serious questions about justice toward the faithful,” Peters said.
At present, all Germans who officially register themselves as Catholic pay a religious tax of 8 to 9 percent of their annual income tax bill. Therefore, if a German Catholic has a tax bill of 10,000 euros per year, they will also incur an extra 800-900 euros in Church tax. The money is used to by the Catholic Church to help run its network of parishes, schools, hospitals and welfare projects.
In recent years, however, some Catholics have stopped paying the tax, saying they’re disillusioned with the Church over issues such as clerical abuse. Meanwhile, the German bishops have become increasingly concerned at the number of Catholic immigrants to Germany, including many Polish workers, who also do not pay the tax.