Germany's Nobel prizewinning novelist, Heinrich Boell, asked if he still considered himself a Catholic, answered: "Fiscally speaking. yes".
Herr Boell, who won the 1972 Nobel Prize for Literature, explained in an interview in the Paris daily Le Monde that the Vicar-General of the Cologne archdiocese had just reminded him of his membership in the Catholic Church by sending a processserver to collect his Church tax. "It's like being baptised a second time," Herr Boell said.
The West German Government collects a Church tax amounting to from 8 to 10 per cent of an individual's income tax and turns the revenue over to the Church to which the taxpayer belongs.
The only legal way for a taxpayer to avoid this tax is to declare officially that he has left the Church and thereby cut himself off from the sacraments and Church burial.
The 56-year-old novelist, whose "Group Portrait With a Lady" was published in the United States last year, has been waging a four-year battle against what he has called the "fiscalisation of belief."
Herr Boell, who was in France just before leaving office as president of the literary association P.E.N. International, said: "In reality, my problem is not religious. It is political.
"You know that there are two definitions of the Church: the institution on the one hand (which is odious to me because of its link with the bourgeoisie), and the Mystical Body on the other hand. I refuse to play the game that consists in eternally justifying the first by invoking the second.
"Why haven't I left the Church, then? That is ,a question that my wife and I often discuss. Perhaps, quite simply, because Catholicism was the outstanding experience of my childhood.
"But when I hear, for example, that the Cardinal Archbishop of Santiago participated in a Te Deum for the military junta of Chile, 1 find that insupportable. I cannot tell you how much longerl shall remain a Catholic,"
Cardinal Paul Silva of Santiago presided at a Te Deum in Santiago on Chile's independence day, September 18, a week after the military coup that overthrew the government of the late Marxist President Salvador Allende.
In the Le Monde interview, Herr Boell called Germany "the most materialistic country in the world" and said that in 1945 it had missed an opportunity to engage in "a radical rethinking of the old social, economic or religious hierarchies, in an unprecedented sort of socialism uniting Marxists and Christians."
Herr Boa, who served in the German Army and was wounded four times during World War II, said: "One would have to be blind not to see that Nazism was a regime of terror."