No viable alternative to Church membership fee, says Schoenborn
Austria’s most senior churchman, Pope Benedict XVI’s former pupil, Cardinal Schoenborn has said he does not see a viable alternative to the country’s much Church contested membership fee. Brought in by the Nazis after the Anschluss as a bid to de-stabilise the Church, the membership fee has in the recent past been used as a leveraging tool by lay people against the hierarchy. (Cf Dr Wagner affair)
During the Dr Gerard Wagner saga at the beginning of this year, “We are Church” urged members to leave the Church and stop their fee payments in order to show their displeasure with the “established Church”.
Speaking in an interview with APA last Sunday, Cardinal Schoenborn said: “There are alternatives [to the Church membership fee] but the political will is lacking for them.”
A system of voluntary donations–as exists in the United States or the United Kingdom–remains unfeasible, the cardinal said. Such a system would fail because the tax incentives for donations are still lacking.
While he praised new tax constellations which have improved the situation for those paying mandatory church fees, he remained critical of the existing Government schemes.
He said: “We see it as a great injustice on the side of the public institutions, because it is inconcievable that an every shrinking number of Catholics should look after Austria’s cultural heritage while the republic profits from it. This cannot work in the longterm.”
There was simply no alternative at the moment, Cardinal Schoenborn said.
“It’s really not too much to give 1.1 per cent of one’s taxable income minus 48 euros for the Church”, he said.