Scandal around Catholic Bishop in Germany

First the good news: No, it's not about child molestation.

He's been disparaged in France as "Bishop Bling Bling" and is the subject of mercilous media coverage in Germany this week. Now Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst is seeking to send out a different message -- one of modesty. On Sunday, he flew Ryanair to Rome [a very cheap European airline], where he is expected to have a tÍte-Š-tÍte with Pope Francis later this week during which his future in the Catholic Church could be decided.

Tebartz is under fire for allowing costs of a new bishop's headquarters and residence in Limburg, Germany, to swell to around one third of the bishopric's total estimated wealth. His lavish lifestyle is the antithesis of the message being sent by Pope Francis, who has been seen driving around Vatican City in clunkers in recent weeks. Indeed the contrast could not be greater to German bishops, who are often shuttled around their parishes in luxury sedans.

As Tebartz awaits his audience with the pope, the controversy over the bishop's spending is mounting in Germany. On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the church crisis via her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, who said the German leader was hoping for a "solution for the faithful," noting that "it was clear to everyone that a difficult situation had arisen," one that was a "major burden" for Catholics and the church alike.

[...]

Originally slated to cost €2.5 million ($3.37 million), the price tag on construction of Tebartz-van Elst's new bishop's headquarters and residence has since ballooned to over €31 million. Numerous sources involved in construction have strongly suggested that Tebartz-van Elst's special requests, including a €15,000 bathtub, contributed significantly to those cost overruns.

[...]

Although public pressure is mounting for Tebartz-van Elst to step down, Germany's Catholic bishops have remained largely silent on the issue. In the meantime, officials in Limburg and other communities that are part of the bishopric, are reporting significant increases in the number of people leaving the church -- a step that requires registry at local administrative offices.

Article (and more info on other media outlets) here:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-press-assess-scandal-around-limburg-catholic-bishop-tebartz-a-927944.html

So, yeah, basically this is about wasting millions upon millions of €uros of the faithful's donations. Not only that, though: Remember that people registered as members of a church that takes church taxes in Germany basically give every month to their church from their monthly income.

Anyway, the last bit is the one I'd like to focus on.

"Tebartz-effect" scares away Christians

[...]

Churches lose 200.000 members per year

Religion-sociologist Detlef Pollack from the University of MŁnster said these new numbers are part of a long-term trend. Christian churches in Germany must expect further lowering of the numbers of members: "The welfare- and education-level is so high and the social coverage so good, that less and less people seek the spiritual and social offers from churches."

The Catholic Church loses more than 100.000 members per year in Germany since 1990. The Protestant Church also lost significantly more than 100.000 members per year recently. Both Christian churches each count around 24 million members respectively.

Financial considerations

Pollack views financial considerations as an important motive for leaving the churches: "For years people have not felt closely linked to the church anymore, so in a situation of a financial shortage people make the move to leave to save on church taxes." Generally, towards the end of the year the rates of people leaving are higher, as Christmas bonuses are about to be paid, according to the civil registry office in LŁbeck.

Despite this general trend, the increase in people leaving the church in October specifically is presumably based on the Bishop in Limburg: According to a recent poll, these news have harmed the trust of people in the Catholic Church. 65% of German Catholics consider the Catholic Church to be little to not trustworthy at all. About a fifth are considering leaving the church due to the debates about riches and wastefulness.

image
Catholics leaving the Catholic Church in Germany over the years. The big pillar in 2010 was due to the child molestations in Germany that became known in that year.

http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/mehr-kirchenaustritte100.html

I'd also like to remind folks that, to leave their respective church, people have to go to a civil registry office, fill out forms and make it official. I have no numbers on this, but I'm reasonable sure that plenty of people who are officially still church members simply never got around to dealing with the bureaucracy of leaving.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on all this? Churches losing members in Western society is a well-known trend, but this trend is of course affected by scandals of various sorts.

Frankly, while I welcome the development - the fewer people are members of religious organizations, even if they still privately believe, the better in my view; it means less lobbying power and less risk of restrictive religious laws getting passed/being held onto - I don't even really care that much about this particular case. In the end, it's just money. Pomp and wastefulness is not new. So while this may be a particularly wasteful and bizarre example - seriously, people have tele-diagnosed this guy with narcissism - it's still just money, so I'm not nearly as outraged as I was in 2010. Hell, I'm not sure I care at all, apart from the enjoyment I get out of a little bit of gloating and reading about these trends.

Am I alone in this?

kinda....odd

the catholics "bling bling" style is honestly one of their biggest strengths. In my city, its the catholics that typically have the most lavish and beautiful churches. It is also the Catholic schools/college that are some of the most illustrious/elite in the city.

Granted, maybe they want to use that money towards schools/churches rather than bishops lifestyle.

Ryotknife:
*snip*

Well, it isn't just the "bling bling", it's the "more than ten times more expensive than it was supposed to be"- and "expensive because of all the private treats he used the money for"-type of "bling bling" that gets to people, I think.

Skeleon:

Ryotknife:
*snip*

Well, it isn't just the "bling bling", it's the "more than ten times more expensive than it was supposed to be"- and "expensive because of all the private treats he used the money for"-type of "bling bling" that gets to people, I think.

I guess...but that is what typically happens to an organization that has a lot of money. The US government is no different. Corruption is to be expected with an organization that big and with that much money. Course, that does not mean you should not stamp it out, but nor should you be surprised that it happens

I mean, yea put this bishop's feet to the fire, but to act all shocked that it happens is a bit...weird.

EDIT: Obama gets in trouble with how much he spends on vacations all the time.

Ryotknife:
I guess...but that is what typically happens to an organization that has a lot of money. The US government is no different. Corruption is to be expected with an organization that big and with that much money. Course, that does not mean you should not stamp it out, but nor should you be surprised that it happens

[...]

EDIT: Obama gets in trouble with how much he spends on vacations all the time.

The difference of course is that the Catholic Church generally attempts to portray itself as an authority of morality, so the hypocrisy is generally more immense than when it happens to somebody else. Kind of like with some politicians going the "family values"-route to attack others, only to have mistresses or gay affairs or whatever on the side. So it's not exactly comparable to Obama or other politicians. Also, there's the particular irony with the new Pope trying to go for the "man of the poor"-image as this scandal came up.

I mean, yea put this bishop's feet to the fire, but to act all shocked that it happens is a bit...weird.

Personally, I'm not shocked at all and I'm not sure how many of those that decided to leave now were actually shocked, either. Maybe they just took it as a reminder of what they thought already, anyway, and took the next step now that it has become front page news and all.

Ryotknife:
the catholics "bling bling" style is honestly one of their biggest strengths.

In a time when the effects of the economic crisis are still visible and the topic is still on many people's minds, living lavish is not a good thing.
Many church goers are struggling as well and when they see that their hard earned donations go to fuel the vanity of an asshole, they lose their will to support the church.

HardkorSB:

Ryotknife:
the catholics "bling bling" style is honestly one of their biggest strengths.

In a time when the effects of the economic crisis are still visible and the topic is still on many people's minds, living lavish is not a good thing.
Many church goers are struggling as well and when they see that their hard earned donations go to fuel the vanity of an asshole, they lose their will to support the church.

While that would seem to make sense, I'm not sure. The Catholic Church has historically done very well being very rich when many believers very much were not (though might have been more acceptable because there were worse class issues in general).

People often turn to religion in times of trouble (atheists and foxholes and all). It seems to me that religious conflicts, for example, often end when both sides get more money to spend and find something better to do with their time rather than consciously making peace.

thaluikhain:
While that would seem to make sense, I'm not sure. The Catholic Church has historically done very well being very rich when many believers very much were not (though might have been more acceptable because there were worse class issues in general).

Yeah but most of that was when the church had a lot more power and there was a lot less information to contradict the "holy" books.
These days, people aren't afraid of the church like they were in the past. It's a service like any other. It provides spiritual comfort. The general consensus among church goers seems to be that they're supposed to have the moral high ground and do good for the world but people like this bishop aren't any different than the bankers and the people from Wall Street which are the epitome of evil at the moment.

People often turn to religion in times of trouble (atheists and foxholes and all).

That's why it hurts more when the thing you're turning to is just as bad as the thing you're running from.
Also, from what I've noticed, more and more people, while still spiritual, turn away from organized forms of religion (which is a good thing, in my opinion).

Double post?
OK.
I will use this opportunity to show this expensive house we're talking about:

image

Pretty fancy, isn't it?

And here's the asshole owner himself in a picture that fits perfectly:

image

HardkorSB:

thaluikhain:
While that would seem to make sense, I'm not sure. The Catholic Church has historically done very well being very rich when many believers very much were not (though might have been more acceptable because there were worse class issues in general).

Yeah but most of that was when the church had a lot more power and there was a lot less information to contradict the "holy" books.
These days, people aren't afraid of the church like they were in the past. It's a service like any other. It provides spiritual comfort. The general consensus among church goers seems to be that they're supposed to have the moral high ground and do good for the world but people like this bishop aren't any different than the bankers and the people from Wall Street which are the epitome of evil at the moment.

True, though not sure if religion isn't given a free pass by many.

HardkorSB:
That's why it hurts more when the thing you're turning to is just as bad as the thing you're running from.
Also, from what I've noticed, more and more people, while still spiritual, turn away from organized forms of religion (which is a good thing, in my opinion).

Not sure. Certainly, if it's true it'd be a good thing, but I remember at the start of the GFC, people started taking those Virgin Mary in a tree stump or whatever things more seriously again.

Skeleon:

Ryotknife:
*snip*

Well, it isn't just the "bling bling", it's the "more than ten times more expensive than it was supposed to be"- and "expensive because of all the private treats he used the money for"-type of "bling bling" that gets to people, I think.

Honestly, I detest any form of excessive material spending in something that presents itself as spiritual (i.e a church).
In my mind, any elected clergy should have only the means they need to work and survive, and a modest salary for private spending, nothing else.

Realitycrash:

Skeleon:

Ryotknife:
*snip*

Well, it isn't just the "bling bling", it's the "more than ten times more expensive than it was supposed to be"- and "expensive because of all the private treats he used the money for"-type of "bling bling" that gets to people, I think.

Honestly, I detest any form of excessive material spending in something that presents itself as spiritual (i.e a church).
In my mind, any elected clergy should have only the means they need to work and survive, and a modest salary for private spending, nothing else.

That was (part) of the cause for the Protestant Reformation, as indulgences paid for extremely expensive cathedrals in Rome and it's literal armies. Of course, how much money any catholic priest and Bishop depends on a ton of factors, such as what brotherhood they are a part of and how much donations they are getting from their congregation. The Cardinals in Rome, for example, are living a much nicer life than the Lasallian Brothers educating children in Kenya.

Not G. Ivingname:

Realitycrash:

Skeleon:

Well, it isn't just the "bling bling", it's the "more than ten times more expensive than it was supposed to be"- and "expensive because of all the private treats he used the money for"-type of "bling bling" that gets to people, I think.

Honestly, I detest any form of excessive material spending in something that presents itself as spiritual (i.e a church).
In my mind, any elected clergy should have only the means they need to work and survive, and a modest salary for private spending, nothing else.

That was (part) of the cause for the Protestant Reformation, as indulgences paid for extremely expensive cathedrals in Rome and it's literal armies. Of course, how much money any catholic priest and Bishop depends on a ton of factors, such as what brotherhood they are a part of and how much donations they are getting from their congregation. The Cardinals in Rome, for example, are living a much nicer life than the Lasallian Brothers educating children in Kenya.

Which there is no excuse for. Why do they gather material wealth in this world when His Kingdom is not of this world?
When taken into account that just 10 USD a month can provide clean water to save lives every day to the poor in high-risk areas, it just makes it feel absurd. If they treat being a Bishop as just another high-paying job, then why should I listen to what they preach?

Skeleon:

Am I alone in this?

I was actually going to mention this in the opinions of Germany thread, but forgot. I find it kind of weird that the Church still has so much establishment power in Germany. I mean, generally, my view of Germany is as more progressive and less fractious than the UK. So finding that the Church still draws tithes from the populace is... weird.

This particular case is rather hilarious in an outrageous kind of way. The Pope has now suspended him (props to Francis), and by all accounts it seems like the local Catholic organisation is glad to be rid of him. Apparently some official has recommended, rather fittingly, that the renovated complex could be used to host soup kitchens or other charity events. I'd love to see Mr Tebartz's face if they open his beloved palace to the homeless.

And yeah, with regard to the loss of church members, this guy really hasn't helped. Apparently loss of members in his city are down about 40% more than the national average because people are disgusted with him.

Broadly, I'd welcome the trend towards less opulence from the church, especially because of the hypocrisy of wealth being extracted from people who are themselves relatively needy. The new Pope is making baby steps in the right direction and I honestly wish him well (which is something of a novel experience for me), but the Church hierarchy getting a boot up the arse in the shape of reduced funding wouldn't be a bad thing. And complete separation between church and state is something to work towards, if not a particularly critical or urgent issue in an enlightened Western democracy.

Realitycrash:

Not G. Ivingname:

Realitycrash:

Honestly, I detest any form of excessive material spending in something that presents itself as spiritual (i.e a church).
In my mind, any elected clergy should have only the means they need to work and survive, and a modest salary for private spending, nothing else.

That was (part) of the cause for the Protestant Reformation, as indulgences paid for extremely expensive cathedrals in Rome and it's literal armies. Of course, how much money any catholic priest and Bishop depends on a ton of factors, such as what brotherhood they are a part of and how much donations they are getting from their congregation. The Cardinals in Rome, for example, are living a much nicer life than the Lasallian Brothers educating children in Kenya.

Which there is no excuse for. Why do they gather material wealth in this world when His Kingdom is not of this world?
When taken into account that just 10 USD a month can provide clean water to save lives every day to the poor in high-risk areas, it just makes it feel absurd. If they treat being a Bishop as just another high-paying job, then why should I listen to what they preach?

I don't know. Although, not even all Bishops are living a high life. There are Bishops who give what isn't needed to maintain the churches to charities, and administrative bishops who are given Titular Sees (all bishops must have land they control all the churches, Titular Sees are of stretches of uninhabited lands, such as tiny islands or deserts, that have no churches in them) don't get so much money.

This is also behavior that the current pope wants to, at very least, curb, since it's going against his more minimalist message.

Any religion which requires your money to function is fundamentally wrong.


Just watch the first minute of the video.

Realitycrash:
Honestly, I detest any form of excessive material spending in something that presents itself as spiritual (i.e a church).
In my mind, any elected clergy should have only the means they need to work and survive, and a modest salary for private spending, nothing else.

Maybe Francis will go that route, but even if he wants to... I'm very doubtful even the Pope could do that against the will of the rest of the people in charge there. While Tebartz was a particularly spectacular example, it's not like pomp and wastefulness is rare among the Catholic Church.

OneCatch :
[I find it kind of weird that the Church still has so much establishment power in Germany. I mean, generally, my view of Germany is as more progressive and less fractious than the UK. So finding that the Church still draws tithes from the populace is... weird.

Well, Germany is full of such relics and it's difficult to get rid of them. But it's not like the Catholic Church draws tithes from "the populace", it draws tithes via the taxation system from its members. And it's not like only the Catholic Church does it, some Protestant groups (and other religious organizations) also draw tithes. Basically, the government allows those religious groups that want to draw tithes from their members to do so.

Apparently some official has recommended, rather fittingly, that the renovated complex could be used to host soup kitchens or other charity events. I'd love to see Mr Tebartz's face if they open his beloved palace to the homeless.

That's a good solution, I think. Obviously still wasteful, but at least it would be put to a good use.

And complete separation between church and state is something to work towards, if not a particularly critical or urgent issue in an enlightened Western democracy.

Absolutely, and I'd actually disagree with the second part; I think it's very urgent because we've been affected by these remnants for too long already.

Skeleon:

OneCatch :
[I find it kind of weird that the Church still has so much establishment power in Germany. I mean, generally, my view of Germany is as more progressive and less fractious than the UK. So finding that the Church still draws tithes from the populace is... weird.

Well, Germany is full of such relics and it's difficult to get rid of them. But it's not like the Catholic Church draws tithes from "the populace", it draws tithes via the taxation system from its members. And it's not like only the Catholic Church does it, some Protestant groups (and other religious organizations) also draw tithes. Basically, the government allows those religious groups that want to draw tithes from their members to do so.

Apparently some official has recommended, rather fittingly, that the renovated complex could be used to host soup kitchens or other charity events. I'd love to see Mr Tebartz's face if they open his beloved palace to the homeless.

That's a good solution, I think. Obviously still wasteful, but at least it would be put to a good use.

And complete separation between church and state is something to work towards, if not a particularly critical or urgent issue in an enlightened Western democracy.

Absolutely, and I'd actually disagree with the second part; I think it's very urgent because we've been affected by these remnants for too long already.

Calling this state religion is hyperbolic at best and progandist at worst. As someone who deals almost exclusivly with an era of history where state religion was a true major issue, I find your use of it here really dishonest.

I don't quite understand german taxation codes, but from what wikipedia said, it seems an individual has the ability to opt in or out of being part of a 'church', and the state handles deducting the tax out of said individuals pay check. Since they have the ability to opt out, it is NOT a state church.

Especially since they extend this to every religion who files the right forms, apparently, both catholic and protestant and other.

Bentusi16:
Calling this state religion is hyperbolic at best and progandist at worst. As someone who deals almost exclusivly with an era of history where state religion was a true major issue, I find your use of it here really dishonest.

I didn't call it state religion anywhere in this post or any other...? I talked about "relics" and "remnants" of the past, issues that remain from before. What am I dishonest about...?
At best, one could misrepresent the lack of a complete separation of church and state mentioned by @OneCatch as such, but that would be really dishonest, wouldn't you agree?

I don't quite understand german taxation codes, but from what wikipedia said, it seems an individual has the ability to opt in or out of being part of a 'church', and the state handles deducting the tax out of said individuals pay check. Since they have the ability to opt out, it is NOT a state church.

Especially since they extend this to every religion who files the right forms, apparently, both catholic and protestant and other.

Yes, which is why I said they only draw tithes from their members and never even used the term "state church". And I also already mentioned the bit about churches other than the Catholic Church. Did you read my post at all? Sorry, but I really don't see why you are so confrontational when you're not even saying anything new.

Me:
"But it's not like the Catholic Church draws tithes from "the populace", it draws tithes via the taxation system from its members. And it's not like only the Catholic Church does it, some Protestant groups (and other religious organizations) also draw tithes. Basically, the government allows those religious groups that want to draw tithes from their members to do so."

 

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