FOLLOWING the announcement that German author Heinrich Boell had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, said that the Catholic writer is not paying his Church dues.
Boell, the newspaper said, is "a leftist Catholic who by no means shies away from disturbing and painful controversies, such as for example the refusal to pay church tax."
The 55-year-old Cologne author, who is the president of
PEN International, the prestigious literary association, has been waging a three-year battle against what he calls the "finalisation of .belief." As in many other European countries, the German government here turns about 10 per cent of a taxpayer's income tax over to his church. The only legal way to avoid this deduction is for a taxpayer to make an official declaration of leaving his church, thus cutting oneself off from the sacraments and church burial.
"I can't leave the Church and 1 do not want to pay," Boell told the authorities of his diocese. "Seize my property or throw me out of the Church."
Boell sent the address of his publisher --who last year brought out the author's bestseller "Group Picture With a Woman" — to the tax office, explaining: "There is nothing to seize in my home. Only books and my bed are there."
Boell was quoted by the news magazine Der Spiegel as explaining that he is protesting the tax to show that in the Church there "exists a kind of pimp alternative : pay or get out. And 1 am showing the people that one can defend oneself against that." When he started his antiChurch tax protest three years ago, Boell said he would not pay until the German supreme court decided on the constitutionality of the issue.
In April last, the court ruled against Boell on the grounds that he did not have to pay if he left the Church.
Up to now, the Church 'has given Boell an "unusual delay" in paying his Church tax. Last month, however, the Cologne archdiocese turned the case over to the tax office, pointing out that the Church has
nothing to do with seizing Boell's property. Boell announced he is willing to pay a fine — "I can afford that little luxury" -though the tax office seems as slow to seize his property as the Church was to collect.