Guidelines for paying the membership fee

The following are listed answers to the most frequently asked questions. For further informations feel free to contact the financial administrator Otto Nyberg (e-mail ekonomi@katolinen.fi).

What is the membership fee? The membership fee is payed by all Catholics who belong to the Catholic Diocese of Helsinki in order to support financially their local Church. Solidarity is one of the basic principles in the Catholic Church. This is why the members of the Church have always felt throughout history their responsibility for the activities of their local Church.

What does a ”voluntary” membership fee mean? It means very simply that people who want to pay the membership fee pay it, and those who do not want to pay it do not pay it. This is clearly exemplified in the case when somebody with a small income tries nonetheless to pay it, even if he/she has to cut back on other expenses. If it is not possible for somebody to save enough, he or she can pay what is possible even without reaching the amount that would correspond to his or her income. What really matters is the intention to support economically the local Church.

Who should pay the membership fee? The invitation to pay the membership fee goes to Catholics who belong to the Catholic Diocese of Helsinki, who are 18 years of age or over and who have to pay income taxes. All Catholics who have lived in Finland for three months or more belong to the Catholic diocese of Helsinki regardless of their nationality. Also Catholics who belong to the Eastern Rite, are members of the Catholic Diocese of Helsinki. The invitation for the membership fee does not depend on whether the person in question is registered in some parish.

How the membership fee is calculated? The amount of the fee is 1,5% of the taxable income. Everybody can easily calculate his or her own taxable income and thus the membership fee in the following way:

Almost everybody in Finland gets every year a paper from the tax office called veroehdotus (= tax proposal), ordinarily in the spring. It has several parts, one of which is the so-called verolippu (= tax bill). Take the tax bill of last year. It contains a list of incomes and deductions; first are mentioned the work incomes and then the corresponding deduc-tions. After this two data are mentioned, the so-called ”verotettavat ansiotulot valtioverotuksessa”, i.e. ”income taxable on a nationwide level”, and the so-called ”verotettavat ansiotulot kunnallisverotuk-sessa”, i.e. ”income taxable on a local level”. Take the figure mentioned in ”verotettavat ansiotulot kunnallisverotuksessa”, and take 1,5% from this. In other words, multiply this figure by 0,015 to get your annual membership fee. Now divide that sum by 12 to get your monthly membership fee.

Example: Assume that your taxable income on the local level (”verotettava ansiotulo kunnallisverotuk-sessa”) is 9.536,67 euros per year. Then your annual membership fee is 0,015% x 9.536,67 euros = 143,05 euros per year. Thence your monthly membership fee is 143,05 euros/12 = 11,92 euros.

If you don’t get a veroehdotus (tax proposal), you’ll nevertheless get a verolippu (tax bill). In that paper ”verotettava ansiotulo kunnallisverotuksessa” is under the section ”selvitys verotuksesta”. For getting the membership fee you have to take the figure corresponding to ”verotettava ansiotulo kunnallisverotuksessa” from your tax bill of the last year and calculate your membership fee as shown above. If that procedure does not seem satisfactory for some reason or other, please contact the financial administrator of the Diocese (see above).

ATTENTION: The membership fee in the Diocese of Helsinki is for everybody 1,5%. The Diocese supports with the membership fee also the parishes. However, the direct support of your parish is also recommendable.

How should the membership fee be paid?
To the bank account of the Catholic Church in Finland (Katolinen kirkko Suomessa):
BANK ACCOUNT: FI7810143000237491 (IBAN), NDEAFIHH (BIC)
REFERENCE: 90010

On what grounds can the Catholic Church ask its members for financial support? The Catholic Church in Finland is the Finnish part of the universal Catholic Church. Apart from biblical grounds, the regulations of the general Canon Law are legally recognised as applicable in the Catholic Church, also in Finland. This has been determined in Finland first in the Law of religious freedom, which came into force in 1922. This legal recognition is also valid after the renewal of that law (§10,7) which entered into force on 1.8.2003. In the Canon Law the financial support given by Catholics to their Church is regulated as follows:

Canon 222 §1: Christ’s faithful have the obligation to provide for the needs of the Church, so that the Church has available to it those things which are necessary for divine worship, for works of the apostolate and of charity and for the worthy support of its ministers.

Canon 1260: The Church has the inherent right to require from Christ’s faithful whatever is necessary for its proper objectives.

Canon 1262: The faithful are to give their support to the Church in response to appeals and in accordance with the norms laid down by the Bishop’s Conference.

What has the Nordic Bishops Conference said about the financial support of Catholics? The Nordic Bishop’s Conference is an organism of the bishops of all the Nordic countries (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark). The Bishops meet ordinarily twice a year in different places in the Nordic countries.

The presently valid Law of the Catholic Church entered into force in 1983; in autumn of that year the Nordic Bishop’s Conference stated that Catholics in the Nordic countries have a duty to support financially their parish as well as their Diocese. This can happen through voluntary collections as well as by Church taxes. The amount of Church taxes in a given country should be lower than the Church tax imposed by the State (for other churches). The particular way of putting this principle into practice is left to the discernment of the corresponding diocesan Bishop; similar regulations exist in many other countries.

This decision of the Nordic Bishop’s Conference was approved by the Vatican on October 5, 1985. In the Diocese of Copenhagen, a so-called voluntary Church tax was introduced in 1997. In 2000, the Diocese of Stockholm was granted the right of getting Church tax (1%) through the State. That tax is voluntary in the sense that a Catholic can ask for dispensation, which is always granted. In Norway and Iceland, the State supports in different ways all the Churches.

What has happend since then in Finland? In the years 1987 and 1989 the then Bishop Paul Verschuren encouraged the Catholics in Finland to support their local Church more efficiently, and response to this petition was positive. In the preparatory phase of the law of religious freedom that came into force on 1.8.2003, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Helsinki, Józef Wróbel SCJ, applied to the State that the Catholic Church should be granted the right to Church taxes. As this was denied, the Bishop decided on 16.9.2004 on the grounds of the aforementioned canons to introduce a system of voluntary membership fee in the Catholic Diocese of Helsinki. This decision was made after a series of consultations with all diocesan councils (i.e. bishop’s council, diocesan economic council, priest council and pastoral council). The amount of membership fee was determined to be 1,5% of the income of every Catholic. In practice, ”income” means ”kunnallisverotuksessa verotettavat ansiotulot”, that is to say, the income after the typical deductions before taxation on the local level.

How does the membership fee support the diocesan household? The Bishop answered this question already in his pastoral letter of 26.09.2004. The membership fee will cover all the expenses that serve the parishes, but which they cannot take care of themselves, i.e. the Information Centre, the Catechetical Centre, Stella Maris, the diocesan Curia (Bishop’s office), the theological studies of our priest candidates, children’s summer camps, and main-taining the priests in our Diocese who do not belong to any community, and finally a car for each parish. These are only the most important issues. In addition it will support the necessary renovations of church buildings and parish houses.

It must be said very clearly that the membership fee does not replace the Sunday mass collections. The aim of both membership fee and the collections is quite different. While the collections are destined to support the everyday life and activities of the parish, the membership fee will be destined to cover the more extensive expenses as mentioned above. It also goes without saying that the fee for the diocesan paper FIDES is not a part of the membership fee.