German Bishops Commit the Grave Sin of Simony

This month (Sept. 2012), the Bishops’ Conference of Germany decided to retain its policy of denying the Sacraments and other benefits of membership in the Roman Catholic Church to any German citizen who refuses to pay an income tax surcharge to the Church through the State:

The German bishops’ conference defended a controversial decree that said Catholics who stop paying a church membership tax cannot receive sacraments.

“There must be consequences for people who distance themselves from the church by a public act,” said Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, conference president, in defending the Sept. 20 decree.

“Clearly, someone withdrawing from the church can no longer take advantage of the system like someone who remains a member,” he said at a Sept. 24 news conference as the bishops began a four-day meeting in Fulda. “We are grateful Rome has given completely clear approval to our stance.” (CNS)

The tax is paid as part of the income tax system in Germany. The religious organization can collect the tax themselves, based on income data obtained from the State. Or the State will collect the tax, and deduct from the tax the costs of collection. Citizens can avoid the tax only by filling out a form to the State removing their names from a government registry of membership in their particular religious organization. The tax applies to Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and other religions.

The cost of the tax is a surcharge of 8 or 9% of the total income tax paid, depending on where within the nation the citizen lives. So if you make 30,000 Euros a year, you do not pay 8 or 9% of 30,000, but rather 8 or 9% of whatever your tax rate is. If your tax rate is 20%, then you pay 6,000 Euros to the State, and an additional 9% (540 Euros) to the Church through the State. The State deducts the cost of collecting that tax from the 9%, so the Church actually gets a little less.

Suppose that a German Catholic pays the Church tax. He does nothing wrong. He supports the Church in Germany by this system. The State does nothing wrong in collecting the tax and even in taking a portion of the tax for the costs of collection. The State does not require the Church to collect this payment through the State; it is optional. The Church could choose to collect money from its members directly. And the Church is not required by the State to deny membership benefits to someone who fills out the form for declining to pay the tax through the State. Some religious organizations deny the benefits of membership in their community to anyone who does not pay the tax; others do not.

The problem with this system is found in what happens when a German Catholic does not wish to pay the income tax surcharge. The Bishops of Germany have decided to equate not paying the income tax with formal defection from the Church. They then refuse to give the Sacraments and other benefits of membership in the Church to anyone who does not pay the tax. German Catholics who believe what the Church teaches, who practice their beliefs, and who have not sinned gravely in any way, are being denied the Sacraments because they decline to pay a set percentage of money to the Church through the State.

“Conscious dissociation from the church by public act is a grave offense against the church community,” the decree said.

“Whoever declares their withdrawal for whatever reason before the responsible civil authority always violates their duty to preserve a link with the church, as well as their duty to make a financial contribution so the church can fulfill its tasks.”

The document added that departing Catholics could no longer receive the sacraments of penance, holy Communion, confirmation or anointing of the sick, other than when facing death, or exercise any church function, including belonging to parish councils or acting as godparents.

Marriages would granted only by a bishop’s consent and unrepentant Catholics would be denied church funerals, the decree said. ( CNS)

The German Bishops are NOT required by German law to deny the benefits of membership in the Catholic Church to anyone who does not pay the tax. The German Bishops are NOT required by Church teaching, nor by Canon law, to deny the benefits of membership in the Catholic Church to anyone who does not pay the tax. The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts states that formal defection from the Church consists only in apostasy, heresy, or schism, and NOT in merely removing one’s name from a government registry.

This means that the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry maintained by the government in order to produce certain civil consequences), but be configured as a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church: it supposes, therefore, an act of apostasy, heresy or schism. (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts)

The PCLT specifically states that removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry — exactly what happens when a German Catholic refuses to pay the tax — does NOT constitute formal defection. ONLY apostasy, heresy, or schism qualifies as the type of sin that separates a baptized Catholic from membership in the Church.

The German Bishops have decided, arbitrarily and sinfully, to treat anyone who refuses to pay the tax AS IF they are committing apostasy or heresy or schism, and therefore to deny them the Sacraments. Neither the Church nor the State requires them to do so. They could do as some other religious groups do, and continue to provide the benefits of membership to anyone who believes and practices the faith. They could opt to collect money from their members directly, and not through the State. They could allow German Catholics to donate to the Church in other ways, by volunteer service, by works of mercy, and by direct donations.

The eternal moral law does NOT require the Bishops to treat someone who does not pay the tax AS IF he had defected formally from the Church.

{18:15} And they were bringing little children to him, so that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.
{18:16} But Jesus, calling them together, said: “Allow the children to come to me, and do not be an obstacle to them. For of such is the kingdom of God.
{18:17} Amen, I say to you, whoever will not accept the kingdom of God like a child, will not enter into it.”

{9:35} And taking a child, he set him in their midst. And when he had embraced him, he said to them:
{9:36} “Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives not me, but him who sent me.”
{9:37} John responded to him by saying, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name; he does not follow us, and so we prohibited him.”
{9:38} But Jesus said: “Do not prohibit him. For there is no one who can act with virtue in my name and soon speak evil about me.
{9:39} For whoever is not against you is for you.
{9:40} For whoever, in my name, will give you a cup of water to drink, because you belong to Christ: Amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

When did Jesus instruct His followers that anyone who refuses to pay a tax to the Church must be prohibited from coming to Him in the Sacraments? NEVER. When did Jesus instruct His Apostles to refuse to give the Sacraments, and even a Catholic burial, to anyone who refuses to pay a tax to the Church? NEVER. Such wicked greed was found among the Pharisees, but not among the Apostles.

On his blog, Jimmy Akin claims that the Bishops are justified in denying the Sacraments to those who refuse to pay the tax, because in so doing the individual is (supposedly) defecting formally from the Church, and departing from the Church is a grave sin. Akin’s error is in equating removal from a government registry of membership with the only sins that constitute formal defection — apostasy, heresy, schism. Akin’s position is ironic because he himself has formally defected from membership in the Catholic Church by his publicly proclaimed sins of heresy and schism. Read this summary of the schismatic and heretical teachings of Jimmy Akin. So his approval of the German Bishops’ sin of simony is merely one in a series of gravely erroneous false claims on religion.

The German Church-tax system is problematic, and should be changed. But as long as a German Catholic pays the tax and receives the benefits of membership, there is no sin. The member of the Church can choose to support the Church, and the Church can accept that support. However, if a German Catholic refuses to pay the tax, and fills out the appropriate form, he should still be given all the benefits of membership in the one true Church because refusing to pay a tax, or having one’s name removed from a government registry of membership, does not constitute apostasy, heresy, or schism. The sin by the Bishops consists in decided to give the Sacraments SOLELY to those who pay money.

What do you think Jesus would say if the Apostles were denying the Sacraments to willing souls, unless they pay a tax? I know what He would say:

{16:23} And turning away, Jesus said to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan; you are an obstacle to me. For you are not behaving according to what is of God, but according to what is of men.”

Since the German Bishops are in no way obligated by State law, or Church law, or Divine law to refuse the Sacraments to those who refuse to pay the tax, they are committing THE GRAVE SIN OF SIMONY by so choosing. The German Bishops are denying the Sacraments to anyone who does not pay them a set percent of their income tax payment. No money, no Sacraments.

The German Bishops claim that they are denying the Sacraments because of the grave sin of publicly formally defecting from the Church. But the PCLT clearly states that having one’s name removed from a government registry of Church membership is NOT sufficient to constitute formal defection.

The German Bishops are using circular reasoning. Why do the German Bishops deny the Sacraments to a German Catholic who has his name removed from the registry? They say it is because doing so constitutes formal defection from the Church. What is the basis for this claim? Nothing other than the decision of the Bishops to consider not paying the tax as formal defection.

What do the German Bishops do when a German Catholic publicly proclaims a sin of heresy or schism? Do they deny that person the Sacraments? No, they do not. See this post: 143 German Catholic theologians commit public formal heresy. If a person formally defects from the Church by a public sin of heresy or schism, they are automatically excommunicated under Canon law. But the German Bishops ignore this grave sin and this Canon law. Instead, they only treat someone as excommunicated if he refuses to pay a tax.

Simony consists in requiring money from a person in order to receive a Sacrament or other spiritual benefit. Some Bishops in Church history fell into this sin. They required a payment in exchange for indulgences. If an indulgence were granted in conjunction with a good work, even that of almsgiving — giving to the poor, donating to the building of a new church, etc. — it would not be simony. But selling an indulgence is simony, and this has happened in the past. So it is not impossible that a Bishop or group of Bishops could commit the sin of simony.

The Bishops of Germany are not committing simony merely by accepting the tax money through the State from their members. It is a good work to support one’s Church. What constitutes simony is the decision to refuse the Sacraments and all benefits of membership (even burial) to ANYONE who refuses to pay the money, and to give the Sacraments and other benefits ONLY to those who pay the money.

Canon Law says this: “Can. 1380 A person who celebrates or receives a sacrament through simony is to be punished with an interdict or suspension.”

But I say more. Any Bishop or priest who commits the sin of simony, by giving Sacraments only to those who pay, or by denying Sacraments to those who refuse to pay, thereby commits an objective mortal sin. Therefore, the German Bishops are obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin by refusing the Sacraments to all who refuse to pay the tax. (Ironically, under Canon Law, it is the German Bishops who should be refused the Sacraments because of this obstinate public grave sin.)

The German Bishops also claim that Catholics who remove their names from the government registry are committing the grave sin of refusing “their duty to make a financial contribution” to the Church. However, this is not necessarily true. All the faithful have an obligation to give alms to those in need and to support the Church. But a faithful Catholic can support the Church by volunteering to work at his parish, by ad hoc donations, by regular contributions in the collection at Mass or by mail, and in other ways: prayer, self-denial, works of mercy. It is patently false and a grave false accusation to claim that any German Catholic who does not pay the tax has sinned gravely by refusing to support the Church. There are many good ways to support the Church. Neither Canon law, nor Jesus Himself requires that this support take the form of money.

Jesus himself spoke about the concept of a Church tax.

{17:23} And when they had arrived at Capernaum, those who collected the half shekel approached Peter, and they said to him, “Doesn’t your Teacher pay the half shekel?”
{17:24} He said, “Yes.” And when he had entered into the house, Jesus went before him, saying: “How does it seem to you, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tribute or the census tax: from their own sons or from foreigners?”
{17:25} And he said, “From foreigners.” Jesus said to him: “Then the sons are free.
{17:26} But so that we may not become an obstacle to them: go to the sea, and cast in a hook, and take the first fish that is brought up, and when you have opened its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them, for me and for you.”

The half shekel tax was collected by the Temple in Jerusalem from the Jews. It was essentially a ‘church tax’. Jesus taught that the sons of the Church should be free. They should not be required to pay a tax. Donations to the Church should not be mandatory, especially not under threat of denial of the Sacraments.

Jesus also taught that the sons of the Church should pay this immoral tax, so as not to be an obstacle to their salvation, nor to anyone else’s salvation. So German Catholics should continue to pay the tax, even while working to correct this grave error in their nation’s Church.

But the German Bishops, by denying the Sacraments to German Catholics who refuse to pay the tax, are nevertheless sinning gravely. For Jesus taught that His disciples should do all that they can to save souls. And the Sacraments are one of the main means of salvation for souls. To deny the Sacraments to hundreds of thousands of German Catholics, who each year remove their names from the government registry, is to endanger the salvation of these souls because of money.

I tell you sincerely that the rich man, who was sent to Hell for refusing to help Lazarus, committed a less severe mortal sin than the sin of these Bishops, who refuse to help souls with their eternal salvation because of money. For the rich man only denied temporal food and temporal goods to one man, Lazarus. But the German Bishops have decided to deny the holy spiritual food of the Eucharist, and the other Sacraments, and all other benefits of membership in the Church, to hundreds of thousands of souls, for the sake of money.

And simony is not the only grave sin related to money committed by the German Bishops. See my post: German Bishops Refuse to Stop Creating and Selling Pornography.

A Catholic Bishop does not necessarily go to Heaven. Each human person is subject to the same eternal moral law and the same judgment by God after death. God is no respecter of persons. There are many foolish Catholic commentators who will figure out some clever way to agree with anything whatsoever that a Bishop, a Bishops’ Conference, or the Holy See decides. But to do so unswervingly, they must ignore truth and the will of God and the salvation of little souls.

{18:10} See to it that you do not despise even one of these little ones. For I say to you, that their Angels in heaven continually look upon the face of my Father, who is in heaven.
{18:11} For the Son of man has come to save what had been lost.
{18:12} How does it seem to you? If someone has one hundred sheep, and if one of them has gone astray, should he not leave behind the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go out to seek what has gone astray?
{18:13} And if he should happen to find it: Amen I say to you, that he has more joy over that one, than over the ninety-nine which did not go astray.
{18:14} Even so, it is not the will before your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should be lost.

The German Bishops are not in any way required to refuse Sacraments to those who do not pay the tax. They choose to do so without any requirement in State law, Church law, or the eternal moral law. They choose to deny the ordinary path to salvation of receiving the Sacraments to anyone who does not pay them a set percentage of money. May all persons who commit this grave sin of simony be severely punished by God. For they despise the little ones of Christ and are willing to see them be lost from salvation for the sake of money.

I declare before God and all His holy Angels and Saints that every Bishop who chooses to deny the Sacraments to someone for refusing to pay the tax, or who chooses to give the Sacraments only to those who pay the tax, commits the grave sin of simony and will be severely punished by God.

Many wicked persons today, even some in the Church, laugh at the idea that God would punish anyone in this life, especially a priest or Bishop. They laugh at the idea that God would ever punish, in this life or the next, sins that are widely approved by secular society: sins of violence, sexual sins, and sins of greed.

But I say that the tribulation is about to begin, and the sinful members of the Church in Europe, including Germany, will be punished in this life as well as in the next life (if they remain unrepentant). God will send the armies of the Arab/Muslim nations into Europe. All those nations will be conquered and subjugated. The churches will be burned, desecrated, closed. The Mass will not be permitted. The German Church will lose its rich source of revenue through taxes. Bishops and priests will be hunted, imprisoned, tortured, and put to death. The Church in Europe will suffer greatly because of the sins of its members and its leaders.

The Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette said this:

2. ‘The priests, ministers of my Son, the priests, by their bad life, by their irreverences and their impiety in celebrating the holy mysteries, by love of money, love of honor and of pleasures, the priests have become cesspools of impurity. Yes, the priests are asking for vengeance, and vengeance is suspended over their heads. Woe to the priests and to persons consecrated to God, who by their infidelities and their bad life are crucifying anew my Son! The sins of persons consecrated to God cry out towards Heaven and call for vengeance, and see how vengeance is at their doors, because there is no longer found anyone to implore mercy and forgiveness for the people; there are no longer generous souls, there is no longer anyone worthy to offer the Victim without blemish to the Eternal on behalf of the world.’

3. ‘God is going to strike in a manner without example.’

4. ‘Woe to the inhabitants of the earth! God is going to exhaust His wrath, and no one will be able to take himself away from so many afflictions combined.’

5. ‘The leaders, the guides of the people of God have neglected prayer and penance, and the demon has obscured their intelligence; they have become these wandering stars that the old devil will drag along with his tail to make them perish. God will permit the old serpent to place divisions among rulers, in all societies and in all families; physical and moral pains will be suffered; God will abandon men to themselves, and will send chastisements which will follow one after another for more than thirty-five years.’

6. ‘Society is on the eve of the most terrible scourges and of the greatest events; one must expect to be ruled with an iron rod and to drink the chalice of the wrath of God.’

25. ‘Tremble, earth and you who make profession of serving Jesus Christ and who on the inside you adore yourselves, tremble; for God is going to deliver you over to His enemy, because the holy places are in corruption; many convents are no longer houses of God, but the pastures of Asmodeas and his sort.’

And Sacred Scripture says this:

{5:20} Woe to you who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light, and light for darkness; who exchange bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
{5:21} Woe to you who are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own sight!
{5:22} Woe to you who are powerful at drinking wine, who are strong men in contriving inebriation!

{5:23} For you justify an impious man in exchange for bribes, and you carry away the justice of a just man from him.

{5:24} Because of this, as the tongue of fire devours stubble, and as the heat of a flame burns it completely, so will their root become like glowing embers, and so will their offshoot ascend like dust. For they have cast aside the law of the Lord of hosts, and they have blasphemed the eloquence of the Holy One of Israel.
{5:25} For this reason, the fury of the Lord has been enraged against his people, and he has extended his hand over them, and he has struck them. And the mountains were disturbed. And their carcasses became like dung in the midst of the streets. After all this, his fury was not turned away; instead, his hand was still extended.
{5:26} And he will lift up a sign to nations far away, and he will whistle to them from the ends of the earth. And behold, they will rush forward speedily.
{5:27} There is no one weak or struggling among them. They will not become drowsy, and they will not sleep. Neither will the belt around their waist be loosened, nor the laces of their boots be broken.
{5:28} Their arrows are sharp, and all their bows are taut. The hoofs of their horses are like flint, and their wheels are like the force of a tempest.
{5:29} Their roaring is like the lion; they will roar like young lions. They will both roar and seize their prey. And they will wrap themselves around it, and there will be no one who can rescue it.
{5:30} And in that day, they will make a noise over it, like the sound of the sea. We will gaze out toward the land, and behold, the darkness of the tribulation, and even the light has been darkened by its gloom.

I tell you, this Scripture is about to be fulfilled. And the wrath of God will fall upon the European Christian nations and the world.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to German Bishops Commit the Grave Sin of Simony

  1. Roger says:

    Again, where is the Vatican?

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