Catholic membership fees?


Sorry I wasn’t sure where it would be appropriate to post this question, please correct me if this is a bad place to put it.

A friend of mine asked me why the church charges membership fees, to which I replied it doesn’t at least not in the UK… My friend grew up in Germany and said that many churches there have compulsory fees you have to pay to be a member of the church and I thought surely not the catholic church but he says he can’t remember what denomination it was.

Can someone enlighten me? Does the Catholic Church charge compulsory membership fees in some parts of the world?

Thanks :slight_smile:


This is the first I have ever heard of anything like this.


There is something to this. It has something to do with the German government, not the Church itself, charging fees to be a member of the Church, Catholic or otherwise.


Some countries have a church tax. If you are a member of a church, some part of your income is allotted to the church. There’s a Wikipedia article at

For Germany it says in part:

About 70% of church revenues come from church tax. This is about €9.2 billion (in 2010).

– snip –

The church tax is only paid by members of the respective church. People who are not members of a church tax-collecting denomination do not have to pay it. Members of a religious community under public law may formally declare their wish to leave the community to state (not religious) authorities. With such a declaration, the obligation to pay church taxes ends. Some communities refuse to administer marriages and burials of (former) members who had declared to leave it.

– snip –

Taxpayers, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant or members of other tax-collecting communities, pay an amount equal to between 8% (in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) and 9% (in the rest of the country) of their income tax to the church or other community to which they belong.[2]

– snip –


Huh. I never woulda thunk it. I guess you learn something new every day.

I guess that’s one tax the U.S. Constitution protects us from.


Some parishes – but I don’t know how widespread this was – used to charge pew rent. The closer to the front you wanted to sit, the more you paid. You could sit for free in the back. At my husband’s childhood parish there was a sign in the back of the church stating how much each family had paid in pew rent for the year.


I thought Protestant churches did that, had no idea Catholic churches did. Synagogues usually have membership fees, correct?


Yes, in Germany there is a church tax that everyone has to pay to the government. You have to pay it, but you specify whether you want your money handed over to the Catholic Church, to the Lutheran (Evangelisch) church, or whichever one. I don’t know what they do in the case of an avowed atheist who refuses to support organized religion in any form. It would be interesting to find out.

*[Edit] *I now see that a much fuller answer has already been given by SuscipeMeDomine (#4).


I have never heard of a “membership fee” for any church in the US, unless you consider tithing to be a fee. :smiley:

However, the situation in other countries has caused problems here due to immigration. Our parish has a very substantial Spanish population from Mexico, Honduras, etc. From what I have been told, very few of them tithe, or give to the church at all during offering at the Spanish Mass, because in their home countries the government supported the church & they assume that it is the same here. Quite vexing. :frowning:


I first heard about pew rents when I read Rocking Horse Catholic by Caryll Houselander. She was almost put off the Catholic Church by being ask to pay pew rent or move to the back of the church. She was so embarrassed she ran out of the church. I don’t remember how long it took for her to try again.

That was in England, my husband’s parish was in Wisconsin. I grew up Protestant and never heard of pew rents.


The Kirchensteuer.

Yes, this has been very controversial:

Frankly, it makes me angry. This is exactly the kind of thing that Luther used as an excuse to apostatize. Why not let people donate as they feel the need? Why continue to serve taxpaying German Catholics as if everything were honky-dory when they don’t even go to church most of the year? It’s shameful and corrupt. I don’t blame Germans for leaving the church if this is the example that they set there. Very sad.


How horrible. I had never heard of this!

Education is the key!


In Europe in many countries the Governments had at one time or another seized Church property and never restituted any of it. As a result of this many arrived at a concordat by which they would return a portion of the taxes collected to the Church, in later years as other denominations made inroads in Europe they too got part of the pie.

In Italy it is called 8/1000 and you choose on your income tax declaration to which denomination you want the portion to go to. If you leave blank the selection then contrary to what others have stated the money will be distributed to state sponsored charities.
This 8/1000 is a portion of your already paid taxes that the state reimburses the churches or charities.

The issue in Germany is that many Catholics were NOT declaring being members of the Catholic Church and yet they pretended that they would still have access to the Church “services” They wrongly thought that by NOT choosing to declare the affiliation they would not have to pay the 8/1000 “donation” when in fact the money had already been paid in.
What they did not understand is that by so doing they directly harmed the Church by withholding funds from her, that went instead to another destination selected by the Government.


The custom where I am was for the annual pew auction. I’m pretty sure now the front pews would go for the cheapest rent since no one seem to sit up front.


That translates to something like this: “We stole your property and never returned it, so we’ll steal money directly from your people and give it to you as recompense.” To which the Church gladly replied: “Agreed! That’s great!”

It may work differently in different countries. In any case, there is no reason for the state to force citizens to donate to anyone.

Regardless of the fact that the state has this flawed, immoral system of forced wealth re-distribution, the Church has said “Yes!” to it, and that makes her complicit. Additionally, this creates a very strong perception that money is being traded for holy sacraments, something that we should be very wary of, considering the issue with indulgences and other perceived or real Church abuses.

People should be giving funds to the Church because it comes from their hearts, in a completely voluntary fashion, not because they are forced to by the state. And the distribution of sacraments should not be tied in any way, shape or form to the monetary donations the individual has made.

This abomination is furthered by the fact that the sacraments are being given to people who come to church maybe a handful of times during the year, if that, as long as they’re paying up! Is the emphasis here on being true to the faith, or merely on paying for “services” as any business would have it (but even better with government coercion on their side!)


Actually those Catholics are doing something worse, they are actively renouncing Catholicism to the government.


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