LEIPZIG, Germany, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Germany's Roman Catholics will be denied benefits of the church if they refuse to pay a special church tax, a bishops' decree states.
The decree comes into force as the case of a professor of church law, Hartmut Zapp, who in 2007 announced he would refrain from paying the tax but wished to remain within the church, will reach the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, the BBC reported Monday.
All German citizens registered as Catholics, Protestants and Jews pay an additional 8 to 9 percent in income tax, which is then directed to the specified faith, a levy introduced in the 19th century in compensation for the nationalization of religious property. Germany has about 30 million Catholics, 30 percent of its population, and the tax comes to about 5 billion euros ($3.85 billion).
The German Catholic clergy is alarmed by the decline in its congregations, blamed largely on discovery of sexual abuse by its priests, and the decree states any Catholic who forgoes the tax will be denied Holy Communion, religious burial and other sacraments, although it stops short of excommunication, the BBC said.