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Echoes of the Past
 
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Germany Special Report An Empire Crumbling
F
unded by a near-compulsory “church tax,” Germany’s Catholic and Lutheran denominations enjoy one of the world’s most lucrative income systems. The total amount directed by the government to the churches including church taxes and additional support totals 30 billion DM per year.

     A church could do an impressive amount of good work with such funds. Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of this money is used for social purposes. Between 60-80 percent pays for the salaries of priests and other church personnel.

     Statistics from a decade ago are instructive in showing how much money has come from the pockets of German taxpayers for these religions. The state of Bavaria paid 900,000 DM in salaries to bishops and archbishops in 1986, and 54.2 million in salaries to priests the same year. The total figure expended by Bavaria had swelled to 100 million DM by the early 1990s.

     The result? Sound institutions?

     On the contrary. Currently, dissatisfaction with both churches is so widespread that formal resignations have been increasing annually—more than 400,000 in 1996. This equated to approximately $1 billion in lost church taxes for that year alone.

     Even financial empires such as these shudder at such losses; moreover, the receding tide shows no sign of turning.

     Although the major denominations around the world are experiencing declining congregations, none are witnessing the exodus that is taking place in Germany—which is more significant since members there have to formally resign in order to stop the church tax engine.

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