Monday, February 12, 2018

Sitting on a fortune. . .

According to an investigation by the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the Roman Catholic Church in Germany collected (mostly through the nation's church tax) a record €6 billion ($7.1 billion) in 2017, and the 27 German dioceses are sitting on something like €26 billion ($31.2 billion).

Of course, though the financial picture is rosy, the health of the church is not.  Worship attendance continues to fall, some 2.2 million have de-registered since 2000, and the reputation of the church among the people is not good. The report indicates the Church’s fortune is tied up in fixed assets ($24 billion in mostly real estate) and financial investments ($18.1 billion).

According to the newspaper, the German Roman Catholic Church provides “a generous fund for pensions, reserved for higher-ranking ecclesiastical dignitaries, to the tune of €5 billion ($6 billion), but that number could also be higher as several of the bishoprics’ business reports didn’t provide exact information.”

Every baptized German working adult (who has not de-registered) is required to pay a tax of 8 to 9 percent on their income, depending on the state.  It is an arrangement dating back to the 1919 Weimar Constitution and adopted by the current constitution after World War II.  If German citizens wish to stop paying the tax, they must de-register but, if they do, they are denied Holy Communion or other religious services, according to the German Bishops’ Conference.

How often don't we dream of what we might do if only we had the money?  It is the dream that keeps lotteries alive and flourishing in America.  Some of those in American churches (of various stripes) think that money is the key to vitality.  The state of affairs in the German Roman Catholic churches shows that money is not a panacea.  True vitality is measured more by attendance and confidence in what is believed.  Perhaps there is a lesson here for congregations and pastors and even denominations.  Concentrate more on faithful preaching and teaching and less upon fund raising.  Yet at the same time, it cannot be denied that if we are to take advantage of the opportunities to share the Gospel, funds are not incidental to the provision for missionaries at home and abroad.  It is something to think about. . .

1 comment:

Ted Badje said...

I’m not even going to say anything about the State churches, but it shows how you can’t just throw money at problems. A lot of colleges and universities have that issue.