Just one of the “Fascist concordats” is still substantially in place. Italy has got rid of the Mussolini concordat, Spain has replaced the Franco concordat, Austria has eroded through amendments the Dollfuss concordat and Portugal has scrapped the concordat made with Salazar. Only Germany still retains its Vatican concordat with Hitler.
The German postwar constitution was carefully designed by the Allies to decentralise the country and hence it handed over many formerly federal powers to the individual states. Thus the federal government has lost the constitutional power to revise the concordat. Instead, it is left up to the states to renegotiate directly with the Vatican in areas like education which under their control. This allows the Vatican to push for the maximal concessions obtainable in each region of the country. The Vatican now has a web of more than 50 concordats throughout Germany concerning individual states and even individual institutions. These are further cemented by numerous statutes, regulations, ordinances and other agreements.
Weimar Constitution let German churches become states within the state
However, the enormous power of both Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany today is not due solely to the concordats or church-state agreements. The privileges that these pacts give to the churches are amplified by another fateful German innovation. It was the 1919 Constitution of the democratic Weimar Republic which gave the churches wide latitude in substituting their own regulations for the law of the land.
These articles were incorporated into the present German constitution, including Article 140 (which in the Appendix takes over Article 137 § 5 of the Weimar Constitution) confirming the status of the Catholic and Lutheran Churches as corporations under public law. At the same time Article 19 § 5 extends to these artificial persons, the rights of real ones, thus setting the stage for a conflict between individual and group rights. On the second page of the menu below several articles show how this church autonomy lets faith-based social services remove millions of Germans from the protection of many civil laws.
Useful secularist sites in German:
State subsidies for religious bodies, Religious discrimination in the workplace,
Summary of a 2012 study on religious job discrimination, Dr Uppendahl on church employment law
As well as the national concordat made with the Nazi regime, every German state has at least one pact with either with the Vatican or local Catholic bishops. Over 50 German concordats currently in force. Highlights are given from one of the 18 concordats with state governments (Länder), the Brandenburg concordat. Also a list of state concordats is linked to the texts in German.
In this excerpt Prof. Francis Messner looks at Germany, where relations between church and state are regulated by treaties. This means international “concordats” for the Catholic Church, and national “accords” for the other religious groups. In the last hundred years there have been three waves of these.
Under the Bavarian concordat the bishop can veto all professors of Catholic theology (Art. 5 on the Catholic University) and 21 professors of philosophy, pedagogy, sociology and politics (Art. 3 on concordat chairs). These chairs are 85-90% funded by the state, yet non-Catholics need not apply, nor even a top Catholic scholar who criticised Pope Benedict.
Due to “church tax” Germany is the cash cow of the Vatican and to encourage this special rules seem to apply. A quarter of new German marriages are remarriages. Neither these couples nor gays are shut out from sacraments and thus discouraged from paying their church membership fees. And soon they may not even be fired from Church employment.
From birth to death many Germans depend on social services that are paid for by the taxpayer, but run by the church. These church institutions, both Catholic and Protestant, operate in accordance with their own religious laws and they affect both employees and clients. These stories about ordinary Germans show what it means to live in the shadow of religious laws. To keep their jobs many must endure interference in their private lives.
German church employees are outside the labour laws and are forbidden to strike. How do the churches justify denying employment rights? Through a theology of employment called the "third way": in church-run institutions there is so much brotherly love that any conflict of interest between employer and employee is impossible. Strikes are unnecessary and would only disturb the harmony....
German law opts for “church autonomy”, rather than “separation of church and state”. According to the Constitutional Court this lets the churches run huge enterprises (at public expense) where state employment laws do not apply, and the churches are free to make their own. This can mean that these employees can legally be fired if their personal lives don't conform to church rules.
Dr. Carsten Frerk, an authority on church finances, reveals for the first time in English that social service employees of German religious organisations number 2.5 million and that the German churches pay for less than 10% of their “good works”, with the taxpayer left to foot the rest of the bill.
The churches only subsidise a third of what the public believes is their own charity. This is undemocratic and dishonest, says Dr. Carsten Frerk. In addition, his research reveals the questionable legality of the huge “state benefits” which are paid by all the taxpayers, not for any good works, but simply for clerics’ salaries, foreign missions and the like. A political storm is now brewing.