Saturday, 26 September 2015

Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried but not for those who refuse the Church tax?

Edward Pentin's "The Rigging of a Vatican Synod" (links below) is well worth reading. It is subtitled "An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family." One commentator suggested that Ignatius Press must have insisted on the question mark in the main title and the "alleged" in the subtitle. I'm not sure this is fair. Edward Pentin does present a studiously balanced account, giving quotations and arguments from both sides. The evidence that is presented is clear enough, but it is not forced on the reader.

We English are noted for understatement and it can be a powerful debating tool. Pentin genuinely leaves the reader free to make up his own mind, having taken the trouble to obtain replies from those who would take issue with the idea that the Synod was rigged. This results in the case being made more clearly and convincingly than it would be in a tendentious and one-sided account.

For anyone interested in the Synod, Edward Pentin's book is an essential contribution to the growing corpus of meta-studies on the proceedings. There are many nuggets of interest. One which jumped out of the (virtual) page was the comment of Professor Stephan Kampowski in relation to the Kirchensteuer, the German Church Tax. The Catholic Church in Germany receives about £5 billion each year give or take a few million. To stop paying the tax, you have to make an official declaration that you are leaving the Church.

I am not a moral theologian, but I guess that my colleagues in that discipline might be able to argue that there are grounds for making some sort of mental reservation on the grounds that you do not wish to actually renounce the faith, but wish to pay a little less in support of the Church according to your means. This would be difficult to justify, but plausible - as plausible, say, as arguing that your marriage is dead because you were both a bit young, or felt that you didn't take it all seriously and have now grown apart. However there are different approaches to the two cases.

Whereas many of the German bishops are in the vanguard of the campaign to admit the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, no such mercy is shown to those who refuse the Kirchensteuer.

In September 2012, the German Bishops issued a decree ruling that those who choose not to pay the Kirchensteuer. (Allgemeines Dekret der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz zum Kirchenaustritt) Section II.1 of the decree states that a person who has made the declaration of withdrawal from the Church,
  • May not receive the sacraments of penance, Eucharist, confirmation or Anointing of the Sick - (except in danger of death)
  • May not hold any ecclesiastical offices or functions in the church
  • May not be godfather or godmotther
  • May not be a member of a parochial or diocesan councils
  • Loses active and passive voting rights in the Church
  • May not be a member of the public ecclesiastical associations
This inconsistency is not an original discovery. Sandro Magister and many others have drawn attention to it before, but it is the first time that it has really struck me and I thought it would be of interest to others. Some of those pushing hardest for the admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion are apparently content to deny Holy Communion and other aspects of participation in the life of the Church to those who do not pay a tax that has made the German Church extraordinarily wealthy.

"The Rigging of a Vatican Synod" is available only as an electronic book download. Here are the links:
Ignatius Press
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