Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg’

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.

 

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