Germany’s church tax, while not universally admired, has a new supporter: Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, Uganda. After visiting Germany, the archbishop suggested at a Sunday Mass at his cathedral that Uganda might consider adopting the model.
The suggestion has not gone down well, with Catholics protesting that giving to the Church should be voluntary. Protestant pastors responded vehemently, saying such an idea was “driven by greed”.
Archbishop Lwanga has said his comments were misunderstood. In his homily he lamented that many Catholics did not pay the tithe the Bible talks about – that is, 10 per cent of one’s income – and instead gave whatever they happened to have in their pocket. This impeded the Church’s work, he said.
In Germany, he noted, the government was responsible for taking the tithe directly from the salaries of Catholics. He said the system was “working very well”.
The comparison with Germany perhaps has not helped the archbishop’s point. The German church tax – 8 or 9 per cent of one’s salary – raised £5.4 billion ($7 billion) in 2017. Uganda, meanwhile, is among the world’s poorest countries.
But Archbishop Lwanga said that, by comparing Uganda to Germany, he was merely explaining that government assistance in tithe collection had “worked elsewhere and I believe the same could effectively work here”. He said he asked the congregation whether they would support such a scheme for Uganda’s Catholic state employees. “And the response was a big and wholesome yes,” he said.
The story took off. Florence Nakiwala, the youth and children’s affairs minister, clarified that no request had been made to parliament – but said that its “door is open”.
Archbishop Lwanga, meanwhile, said his concern was more moral than financial. “I was only urging Catholics within the Archdiocese of Kampala to go an extra mile in adhering to the spiritual obligation,” he said.
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