In the average church, be it Catholic or Protestant, at some point before, during, or after the mass or services the church will ask for donations in order to help fund her operating costs, and many people will contribute something into the basket. However, not all churches operate in this manner. A particular exception is the Germanic world, where “Die Kirchensteuer“, meaning “Church Tax,” operates. Instead of donating directly to the church, the Kirchensteuer takes a part of one’s income directly as a tithe and delivers it to the church with the state acting as the handler for the money.
The Kirchensteuer has an interesting history, as it was a creation of the early 19th century in an attempt to strike a balance between the state and church in light of secularization, migration of populations, revolution, and the services provided by the church for the people. The idea is that as the churches provide essential social services and are majority land holders, and that while governments may be secular but the people are religious, the churches receive a supplementary stipend from the state as well as the faithful who, registering their religion with the state, directly pass a portion of their income to benefit the church. One may think of it as a more glorified and financially beneficial form of the IRS’s 501(c)3 status given to churches in the USA.
It would seem to be a good idea, but the Kirchensteuer did not solve problems, but only redistributed and caused more problems. The fundamental issue of the 19th century, which was the decline of religious faith and it being supplanted by nationalism and other forms of paganism continued. The payment of the Kirchensteuer did not compel more people to go to church, but reduced Christian charity to a form of patriotism combined with a concept of “social justice,” making religious institutions into a provide of social services without a necessary reference to God or the Faith.
But the biggest problem with the Kirchensteuer was the “welfare effect” it had on the churches. While it is good to help people and welfare can be good when applied properly, there are many cases of the abuse of welfare. For the Churches, Catholic and Protestant alike, the decline of the faithful but the continued registration of people as Catholic, and the increased prosperity of Germany, the Kirchensteuer became and is now the main source of revenue for Germany’s churches, both Catholic and Protestant. While as of 2011 only 13% of Germans attend church at all, the Catholic and Protestant churches earn respectively 6.09 and 5.36 billion Euros.
A majority of Germans do not like the Kirchensteuer, with it standing at a 16% approval. As a study from Katholisch.de notes, over half of Christians in Germany do not know why they associate with a religion and have considered leaving Church because of it.
While money is important when it comes to operating a Church, one cannot have money without people who believe. Likewise, charity is called charity because it is given out of love (caritas), not from compulsion.
However, Germany’s problems may soon be solved, for a recent study shows that with the impeding retirement of more Baby Boomers, the Kirchensteuer is set to rapidly decrease to the point of nearly ceasing to exist:
The Evangelical Church in Germany was waiting for recently with a remarkable statement. When presenting its annual statistics, the EKD predicted that with 180,000 baptisms and 25,000 admissions, more people would once again be in the Protestant church in 2017occurred as emerged from her. Formally, this bill is correct. In fact, it is about whitewashing, which is unworthy of a church. The actual balance only becomes visible when the 200,000 withdrawals are countered by the 25,000 entries and the 350,000 deaths by the 180,000 baptisms. Then it also becomes clear that the Protestant church is being tamped by two equally strong developments: a strongly negative demographic development and the continuing high number of withdrawals.
The situation of the Catholic Church is only slightly better. Although the Catholic Church continues to benefit from the lower tendency of its members to quit and from immigrant Catholics. However, this does not change the precarious situation of organized Christianity in Germany. Within a year, both churches together lost about 660,000 or 1.8 percent of its members. One must also call these figures dramatically because the mood in relation to the churches was by no means marked by negative headlines. In 2017, in the face of the anniversary of the Reformation, a pope who continued to be popular, and prevailing Western sentiment, benevolence prevailed.
Strengthen the organization of cooperation
The new numbers have increased the likelihood that the two major churches will face a twofold break in about five years. On the one hand, for the first time, less than half of Germans are likely to belong to one of the two major churches. In 1990, the year of reunification, it was still more than seventy percent. At that time 29.5 million Protestants were organized in the EKD . Today, the Protestant church with 21.5 million members is now even smaller than the Catholic with 23.3 million.
The second caesura concerns the financial situation of the churches. The current record income of about twelve billion euros in church tax is based on the fact that the decline in membership has so far been overcompensated by the good economic situation. However, as soon as the born after 1955 generation of baby boomers retire, which currently contributes disproportionately to the financing of churches due to their high church affiliation and their high income, their financial resources will be abruptly deteriorate. Well-off majority churches become needy minority churches.
This is all the more so since the decline in membership will further increase the level of decision-making in which membership is no longer maintained for family tradition or social adequacy at the workplace or in the shooting club. One pays his church tax because one affirms Christianity, or at least considers his presence in society so desirable, that one participates in the continuity of the churches. This is an active attitude, from which the churches should also be committed. (source)
In a careful reading of history, one will note that heresies only last about five centuries before they disappear from an area. Protestantism is no exception, as it has been just over 500 years since Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Cathedral at Wittenburg and began what came to known as the Protestant Revolution. Luther’s sect, which was the creation of a “Germanic church” for the German people and was an extension of nationalism, was part of the dangerous process of reducing the church to becoming a mouthpiece of the government and in time, an irrelevant social club whose purpose is but to prove the patriotism of the individual, and it makes religious faith synonymous with good citizenship.
The Catholic Church is also not doing well. She has had many scandals today, of which a majority just as in the past have come out of Germany. One may remember the infamous Synod on the Family under Jorge Bergoglio, the Argentine Pope Francis of Italian descent, which many criticized was a covert attempt to justify sacreligious communion to the divorced, adulterers, and sodomites, which was heartily pushed by the German Cardinals and friends, Cardinal Walter Kasper and Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
The fact that she would debate “marrying” homosexuals is direct proof of serious problems because as the Catholic Faith has always taught, there is no such thing as “gay marriage” because it does not exist. There is also a tremendous amount of sexual abuse that has come out of the Church in Germany just like in the USA. Germany’s church may be very wealthy, but her wealth cannot save her in spite of the atrocious leadership within her. It has resulted in the creation of a “parallel Church” withing Germany that is actively in schism with the rest of the Church:
the biggest problem of the Catholic Church in Germany becomes visible, a problem that exists nowhere else in the Universal Church: namely the power of the ecclesiastical bureaucracy (chancery staffs) that has expanded beyond all bounds in recent decades, and of the committees which, because of the deliberate omission of catechesis for decades, now scarcely have any knowledge of the faith, as the director of the chancery staff of one of the largest German dioceses assured me. He said that they ought to fire 70% of the staff there, because they no longer have anything to do with Christianity. (source)
In 2005, 62% of Germans were either a member of the Catholic or Protestant Churches. 13 years later in 2018, it is now 54% and continues to drop.
This is also a very good thing.
Christianity has historically been a struggle in Germany. Whether it was Arian heretics such as Ulfias the Goth, pagans, or nationalists heretics starting trouble in neighboring regions such as with the Hussites, many of the conflicts in European history are between the Church and the state, and many revolve around attempts by German or Germanic rulers attempting to get power and use the Church as a weapon to control the people. Luther’s revolution was simply a successful execution of what Germany had been trying to do for centuries.
It must be said that the decline of the Faith is not good. It is a terrible thing. What makes this very good is that there is a tremendous amount of infidelity, atheism, and outright worldliness in the German Church that needs to be cleaned out. If one thinks about it in terms of the homosexual abuse scandal that recently was exposed in PA and is likely going to expand in the coming months, one must also see that the decline of the Church is really the Church being forced to address systemic problems that it refused to before.
Years ago, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the Church becoming in light of the secularism, paganism, and general decline something of a “creative minority,” just as she was in the days of the catacombs. It is thought by many that the Church, having evangelized the world, will eventually be forced to return to the catacombs where she one had mass in secret as she was a hunted and hated minority.
With the rise of Islam and paganism in Germany and throughout Europe, it is not impossible that this might happen. There will still be Catholic people in Germany, but they will not have the prestige, power, or influence they once had. While money is good, the Church did not rise to power through force of arms, the dominance of wealth, or the possession of power.
She conquered the world by Faith, just as Christ, the small babe born in a stable and Bethlehem, conquered sin and death from the most humble of circumstances.
Christ promised that His Church would not fall. However, in order for His Church to prevail, the pride and worldliness that has infected her must be done away with. This does not mean one gets rid of beauty, spendor, or detail, but it does mean that the arrogant behavior and ways that have become commonly accepted as “normal” must be put away, recognized for their being abnormal, unnatural, and not a part of what it means to be a Christian.
The Kirchensteuer was never good. It was a compromise with the secular governments in a way to keep control over the Churches while still attempting to stunt their actual mission and role in society, which is care for the good of souls in both the government and among the common man. Even for the good it did assist with, it was always a form of welfare and never meant to be a source of long-term dependency.
Like a drug addict going through detoxification, the Church coming off of the Kirchensteuer is going to be hard. Many people will leave the Church, churches will close, and it is possible that entire dioceses will disappear, as one diocese has already had to close 96% of its churches. However, it will be for the better because those who remain will actually believe, being composed of that “creative minority” who will carry on the light of Faith and professing the truth even if the rest of the society around them has turned wholly against them. This purgation is the mercy of God, for if one does not want to receive punishment for one’s sins and work through them now, one will be forced to do it later and at a much greater cost than one can even begin to comprehend.