Germany's Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday issued a Decree and Pastoral letter providing that those who opt out of Germany's church tax will be ineligible to participate in a wide variety of Church sacraments and activities. (Press release and links to full text of documents in German.) Germans who register with the government as Catholics, Protestants or Jews are assessed an additional 8% to 9% of their income tax bill to support their religious organizations. However Germans can avoid this additional tax by filing a declaration with their local tax office stating that they are leaving their faith community. Growing numbers are filing this opt out. This threatens the 5 billion Euros ($6.5 billion US) realized by the Catholic Church from the tax. In their latest decree (which was approved in advance by the Vatican), the German bishops say that "one cannot partly leave the Church." According to Reuters, the decree provides that:
Catholics who leave can no longer receive sacraments, except for a special blessing before death, the decree states.
They cannot work in the church or its institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or be active in church-sponsored associations such as charity groups or choirs.
They cannot be godparents for Catholic children and must get a bishop's permission to marry a Catholic in a church ceremony. "If the person who left the Church shows no sign of repentance before death, a religious burial can be refused.[Thanks to Scott Mange for the lead.]