Cash-strapped governments in Europe are looking to properties owned by the Roman Catholic Church as a source of revenue.
This troubles me in at least two ways. First of all, the more functions the government takes on, the greater its need for revenue. If, having exhausted its individual and commercial sources of revenue, the expanded and expansive government turns to properties and income streams connected with a church, it is fueling its growth at the expense of “civil society.” Government drains old communal institutions to support its programs. There’s just a whiff of totalitarianism in all this. Just a whiff.
Second, it seems pretty clear that the government will decide which functions are core religious functions and which aren’t. (Shades of the contraceptive mandate here!) For fiscal purposes, then, religion is whatever the government says it is. While there’s talk about the separation of church and state (especially where there are long-standing cooperative relationships, let alone subsidies), the effect, ultimately, is to subordinate the church to the state. Another glint of totalitarianism.
I’m glad that we have a First Amendment and a culture that values religious liberty in the United States. But we also have elites that wish us to become ever more like our European brethren and regard our religiosity as a retrograde tendency. And we have governments looking for ever more areas of responsibility and ever more sources of revenue. When the irresistible force comes, I hope and pray that the object is indeed immovable.