Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

German Catholic Church (and the Bishop of Limburg) are wallowing in taxpayer’s money

October 18, 2013
Photo: DPA

Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Tebartz Van-Elst photo DPA (via The Local)

The excesses of the Catholic Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, have been much in the headlines. But what I  certainly had not realised was to the extent to which the Catholic Church in Germany is financed by public money.

It certainly seems to be a case of wallowing in a trough of taxpayer’s money – which the taxpayer cannot easily opt out of and which is subject to few controls.

The Bishop’s expensive habits catalogued here at The Local (Italy) include:

  1. a luxurious complex being built next to Limburg Cathedral in the state of Hesse. Earlier this week it emerged the costs had overrun by ten times the initial estimate from around €3 million to €31 million.
  2. €350,000 on built-in-wardrobes,
  3. €25,000 on a conference table 
  4. €783,000 on a garden
  5. his own apartment in the complex is costing €3 million with €478,000 going on furnishings (the bishop’s bathtub cost €15,000)
  6. guest rooms will cost €1.1 million
  7.  the new chapel costs €2.67 million

Jochen Riebel, the spokesperson for the diocesan finance council, told newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the bishop was “either a sophisticated deceiver or that he’s just plain sick.” 
A commission is being set up by the Catholic Church in Germany to investigate the spending. 
The bishop’s expensive tastes have landed him in the headlines before. He was criticized last year after magazine Der Spiegel revealed he flew first class to India to visit poor children.  
And on Thursday prosecutors claimed the bishop made false statements in affidavits submitted in two civil claims against Der Spiegel after the article appeared. They have now called for a punishment which could include fines

But it is the financing of the Catholic Church in Germany which is even less healthy than the Bishop. Another article in The Local (Italy) reports:

Limburg Cathedral Wikipedia

Its wealth has been estimated at €430 billion with interests ranging from television stations to mineral water. 

The €31-million bill for Franz-Tebartz Van-Elst’s residence, including €15,000 on a bath tub and €350,000 on built-in-wardrobes, has put the finances of the Catholic Church, much of which comes from taxpayers and state subsidies, into the spotlight.

Carsten Frerk, an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church in Germany, estimated its wealth at around €430 billion with about €140 billion of that in capital, theFrankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported. Frerk researched the church’s ledgers for a year for a book published in October 2010. But only a small part of the church’s finances are public and many of their records remain secret.

Bild newspaper reported on Thursday the church was Germany’s second-biggest employer after the state, running everything from schools and kindergartens toTellux, the TV company which makes the Tatort crime drama.  It also makes money from its breweries and selling mineral water called Adelholzener. The church also owns ten banks, countless insurance businesses and 30 housing associations, Bild reported.  

The church’s largest public form of income is the “church tax”, a system whereby taxpayers register their membership of a church or religious group, and a percentage of their tax goes to that church. The tax dates back to the medieval tithes, a one-tenth share of goods collected by churches in the Middle Ages. …. The Catholic Church collected €5.2 billion in church tax in 2013, a 15 percent increase on 2000. But in order to keep up with inflation, it would have needed an increase of 22 percent. …….. it also receives a state subsidy every year, a throwback from a still-valid 1803 agreement between them and the government of the day. 

The subsidies paid to the Catholic and Protestant churches out of the treasury this year hit a record high of €481 million, €6.6 million more than in 2012, reported the Humanist Union of Germany (HVD). Alongside these benefits, the church enjoys exemption from corporation, trade, income and capital gains tax thanks to its status as an “organization of public rights.” Universities also have this status, but have their finances are partially controlled by the state, while the churches do not have this oversight.

….. The scandal has also led to some churches revealing the extent of their reserves. Cologne, the largest and reportedly richest diocese in Europe, said on Tuesday it had reserves of €166 million in 2012. The small diocese of Trier had a reserve of €84 million, Reuters reported. Tebartz-van Elst’s seat, in the small town of Limburg – with a population less than a thirtieth of Cologne’s – holds reserves of €100 million.

But no matter how enormously wealthy the Church is, the vulgarity of the Bishop of Limburg takes some beating.


Christianity should do more for biodiversity!

September 5, 2013

I kid you not.

A new paper at Oryx – The International Journal of Conservation by Swedish and Australian researchers.

 ” … the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches appear to have the greatest per capita opportunity to influence discourse on biodiversity… “

Does this count as science? or advocacy? or is it theological economics?

What were they thinking?

Grzegorz Mikusiński, Hugh P. Possingham and Malgorzata Blicharska, Biodiversity priority areas and religions—a global analysis of spatial overlapOryx, available on CJO2013. doi:10.1017/S0030605312000993. 

Abstract:Numerous solutions have been proposed to slow the accelerating loss of biodiversity. Thinking about biodiversity conservation has not, however, been incorporated into the everyday activities of most individuals and nations. Conservation scientists need to refocus on strategies that reshape ethical attitudes to nature and encourage pro-environmental thinking and lifestyles. Religions are central to basic beliefs and ethics that influence people’s behaviour and should be considered more seriously in biodiversity discourse. Using data from the World Religion Database we conducted an analysis of the spatial overlap between major global religions and seven templates for prioritizing biodiversity action. Our analysis indicated that the majority of these focal areas are situated in countries dominated by Christianity, and particularly the Roman Catholic denomination. Moreover, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches appear to have the greatest per capita opportunity to influence discourse on biodiversity, notwithstanding the role of other religious communities in some key biodiversity areas.

From EurekAlert:

A new study carried out by ecologists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, among others, indicates that if the world’s religious leaders wished to bring about a change, they would be ideally positioned to do so

Leaders of the major world religions can play a key role in preserving biological diversity. A new study carried out by ecologists at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), among others, indicates that if the world’s religious leaders wished to bring about a change, they would be ideally positioned to do so. …. 

…. Religions strive to be morally good and for centuries have led people in terms of right and wrong. Therefore, says Grzegorz Mikusinski, they have the potential to guide them to “miracles” also when it comes to conservation in the places where the religion has a great influence on society.

– The results show that Roman Catholics, per capita, have the greatest potential to preserve biological diversity where they live, says Hugh Possingham, a researcher at University of Queensland, Australia, and a co-author of the study.

The Catholic Church has just elected a pope, Francis – a name associated with the Catholic Church’s “greenest” saint, Francis of Assisi, the special patron saint of ecology. Let us hope that he and other religious leaders seriously consider the possibility of becoming more involved in the conservation debate. But at the same time scientists need to more actively encourage religious leaders to take part in such a debate.

Many solutions have been proposed to halt the loss of biological diversity. But the notion of conservation has seldom become part of daily life, either among individuals or among nations.

– Conservation research needs to adjust its focus, toward strategies that can change people’s ethical attitudes toward nature and encourage modes of thinking and lifestyles that are good for the environment, says Malgorzata Blicharska, a researcher at SLU and a co-author of the study. Religions are central to fundamental beliefs and ethics that influence people, and they should be taken more seriously in the debate about biological diversity.

Or these religious leaders could just lead the prayers!

The spirit of the Inquisition is alive and well

April 22, 2012

The recent BBC story about the Catholic Church’s Office of the Inquisition pressurising some US nuns who are considered too liberal by the Church hierarchy got me to wondering whether our behaviour today is much different to that in medieval times.

To make the parallel to medieval times we have to substitute modern institutions. Governments and their institutions ( such as the United Nations or the IMF or the ICC) are today the equivalent of the medieval monarchs and their Catholic Church. They bless some countries and excommunicate others. They tolerate the same behaviour (for example the quest for nuclear weapons) in favoured countries and condemn it in others. They support uprisings against some of their less-favoured member countries and help suppression of rebellion in others. They enforce sanctions – even with the use of collective force – against some and ignore the same behaviour in others. And like the college of cardinals a select group of 5 nations and the 15-member Security Council makes up the holy inner circle controlling these institutions.


Saints galore – but plenty of room in Heaven for many more

May 1, 2011


The late Pope, John Paul II, has been officially beatified at a ceremony at the Vatican in front of hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful. Among those at St Peter’s Square is French nun Marie Simon-Pierre, who says she was cured of Parkinson’s Disease. Her apparently miraculous cure is part of the case for the beatification, the last stage before sainthood.

It comes amid criticism of the Church for the speed of the beatification and the clerical child sex abuse scandal. Much of the abuse occurred while John Paul II was Pope, from 1979-2005, and the Church has been criticised for not doing enough to punish those found responsible.

Police in Rome estimated that one million people had come to the city for the event, including large numbers of pilgrims from the late Pope’s native Poland. 

St Peter’s Square, in the Vatican, was packed, with the faithful waving banners and flags as Pope Benedict XVI declared his predecessor blessed, or beatified. Rome has not seen crowds of this size since the death of Pope John Paul II six years ago when some three million pilgrims converged on the Italian capital, says the BBC’s Vatican correspondent David Willey.

Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe was among those attending the beatification. A Roman Catholic, he was given special permission by the EU to fly to Italy despite being the subject of a travel ban.

Recent beatifications

  • Oct 2003: Mother Teresa, 1910-1997
  • March 2008: Marianna Donati, 1848-1925
  • Sept 2008: Michal Sopocko, 1888-1975
  • Sept 2010: John Henry Newman, Cardinal, 1801-1890

Steps to sainthood

The process, which cannot begin until at least five years after the candidate’s death unless the pope waives that waiting period, involves scrutinising evidence of their holiness, work and signs that people are drawn to prayer through their example:

  • First stage: individual is declared a ‘servant of God’
  • Second stage: individual is called ‘venerable’
  • Third stage (requires a miracle attributed to candidate’s intercession): beatification, when individual is declared blessed
  • Fourth stage (requires a further authenticated miracle): candidate is canonised as a saint for veneration by Church
But the beatification, canonisation and recognition of Saints is a highly political process – and always has been. It is the Catholic Church’s version of an Honours system and canonisation carries with it many benefits for the region or Order or community the Saint comes from. There are also certain business benefits which flow as a consequence of sainthood and usually associated with the viewing of relics, sales of souvenirs and the promotion of religious tourism.

John Paul reformed the sainthood process in 1983, making it faster, simpler, and cheaper. The office of “Devil’s advocate” – an official whose job was to try to knock down the case for sainthood – was eliminated, and the required number of miracles was dropped.

The idea was to lift up contemporary role models of holiness in order to convince a jaded secular world that sanctity is alive in the here and now. The results are well known: John Paul II beatified and canonised more people than all previous popes combined.

There are over 10,000 named saints and beatified people from history, the Roman Martyrology and Orthodox sources, but no definitive head count. 

The Catholic Church teaches that it does not, in fact, make anyone a saint. Rather, it recognizes a saint. In the Church, the title of Saint refers to a person who has been formally canonized (officially recognized) by the Catholic Church, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven. By this definition there are many people believed to be in Heaven who have not been formally declared as saints (most typically due to their obscurity and the involved process of formal canonization) but who may nevertheless generically be referred to as saints. All in Heaven are, in the technical sense, saints, since they are believed to be completely perfected in holiness. Unofficial devotions to uncanonized individuals take place in certain regions. Sometimes the word “saint” is used to refer to Christians still sojourning here on earth.

Yesterday apart from a few minutes on the TV news I managed to avoid watching the massive political PR exercise represented by the Royal Wedding. Today I watched a few minutes of the beatification ceremonies and even if it sounds cynical, I could not help thinking that it was just another political and stage-managed PR exercise. No doubt the ritual and the pomp and the ceremony on display at both events fulfils some deep-seated human needs. 

It is fortunate that Heaven lies in the realm of the infinite and there can be little cause to worry about over-crowding (and again I can’t help wondering if there are any cases of some unfortunate people who have been recognised and proclaimed as Saints but who – for God knows whatever reason – are languishing in the Other Place).

Oh my ! Canada Goose will need a visa for Europe

September 17, 2010
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Biodiversity be hanged ! Alien wildlife must be banned from Europe.

Urgent call on EU to stop billion-euro ‘alien invasion’

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) was the worst culprit, having the biggest impact on both the environment and economy.

Leading experts on invasive species are demanding Europe-wide legislation be put in place by next year to tackle the threat to native wildlife. The researchers want urgent action from the EU to protect Europe’s indigenous species from these “alien invaders”. The scientists are meeting at the Neobiota conference in Copenhagen. They are demanding Europe-wide legislation to be in place by next year to ensure the threat doesn’t worsen. Invasive species are defined as those that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a place where they are not normally found.

Piero Genovesi is chair of the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), a global network of experts on invasive species. He told BBC News that the figure of 12 billion Euros represents a significant underestimate of the impact of alien species. “We’re asking the EU to rapidly develop and approve a policy on invasive species, fulfilling the formal commitment agreed by the council of European ministers in June 2009,” Mr Genovesi told BBC News. “This is urgent, we would like this to be in place by next year.”

A Ruddy Duck drake

The Ruddy Duck is just one of more than 1,300 alien species living in Europe which threaten biodiversity.

Scientists gathered at the conference are calling for urgent action by the European Union to implement laws similar to those that already exist in countries like New Zealand and Australia.

Wolfgang Nentwig, from the Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Switzerland has just published one of the first detailed studies of the impact of alien birds in Europe. The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) was the worst culprit, having the biggest impact on both the environment and economy.

There is something somewhat paradoxical in banning the adventurous and entrepreneurial wild life to protect the diversity of those that are failing !


Dr Guy Consolmango, curator of the Pope's meteorite collection

Dr Guy Consolmango

The Catholic church is more open minded than EU scientists. Pope Benedict XVI’s astronomer has said that the Catholic Church welcomes aliens. Highly evolved extra terrestrial lifeforms may be living in space and would be welcomed into the church – “no matter how many tentacles”, the Pope’s astronomer has said.

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