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Catholic Church in Norway fined over membership fraud

Catholic Church in Norway fined over membership fraud

Last year it was reported in Newsweek that Bernt Ivar Eidsvig, the bishop of Oslo, above, had been charged with ‘gross economic fraud’. He and his diocese was accused of overstating their membership numbers, thereby claiming state funding to which it was not entitled.

This week, according to the Independent, the case culminated with the imposition of a one million kroner (£95,000) fine on the Church.

The Church was accused of looking for immigrants with names that would suggest they were of Catholic origin and adding them to the list of members without their knowledge.

If the Church refuses to pay the fine it will face trial.

The Church responded in a statement:

We’ve never done anything illegal or received too much money. We have always recognised that we have made mistakes and had an unfortunate practise in parts of our registration. This was cleaned up a long time ago.

In Norway the state finances religious groups in accordance with the number of members.

The church claimed from 2004 there was an increase in immigration from Catholic countries such as Poland and these members were not registered, leading to an increase in Church spending without a corresponding increase in state funding.

In addition to the fine, the Norwegian state is demanding the Church returns an overpayment of 40.6 million kroner (£3.8 million).

Lisa Wade, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic diocese of Oslo, told Newsweek last year that bishop Eidsvig would not be resigning and had the full support of Rome.

He’s in constant dialogue with the Vatican but since we believe we have not done anything illegal and we have the support of the Vatican, he will not step down until anything changes in the case.

However, Wade admitted that improper methods were used to calculate the number of Catholics in Norway for up to four years. These include some church employees automatically registering people with Polish names found in the phonebook, a practice Wade says was promptly stopped when it was discovered in October 2014.

Wade says that the Church has struggled under the weight of an influx of Catholic immigrants who had come to Norway and practised their religion but failed to register with the Church.

In a video, bishop Eidsvig claimed that the number of Catholics in Oslo diocese had tripled to 120,000 between 2004 and 2012, and that 50 percent of the country’s Catholic population are Polish immigrants.

The country’s official statistics body put the number of Roman Catholics at 140,109 as of 1 January 2014.

Norwegian police raided the diocese of Oslo’s offices as part of the investigation in February, 2015.

Kristin Rusdal, the Oslo police spokesperson, told Newsweek the police hoped to have enough evidence to bring a prosecution by the end of the year and that the bishop and his financial officer could face a six-year prison sentence.

The Catholic Church in Norway has faced scandal before. In 2010, the Norwegian Church and the Vatican admitted that a former Norwegian bishop, Georg Mueller, had resigned after he was discovered to have abused an altar boy two decades earlier. The Vatican said church authorities found out about the abuse in January 2009 but did act upon it until it was reported in 2010 by Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

19 responses to “Catholic Church in Norway fined over membership fraud”

  1. Bill Bonk says:

    You name the crime and the RCC is guilty of it.

  2. barriejohn says:

    Bill Bonk: You’re right. You really do wonder what’s coming next.

    We have always recognised that we have made mistakes and had an unfortunate practise in parts of our registration.

    Talk about “weasel words”!

  3. Catholic divines always seem to be fiddling with their members. I for one find this extremely disturbing. Though I normally disapprove of Bashing the Bishop, in this particular case I am all for it. Bend Over Eidsvig, Bishop of Oslo, is a disgrace to his cloth.

  4. Newspaniard says:

    I am not in favour of religious organizations receiving tax relief. Actually paying a tax-payer funded subsidy in the 21st Century is very strange. Does Norway not have separation of church and state? Do atheists receive some kind of discount, after all, they are tax-payers too?

  5. AgentCormac says:

    ‘We’ve never done anything illegal or received too much money.’

    And this is the rcc speaking, right?

  6. Bill Bonk says:

    The whole catholic enterprise is designed to wrest power from the goverments of the countries it infects, to entangle goverments in unbreakable concordats, to blackmail people into enslavment and lives of submission and stupefaction, to bleed money from those who have very little, to enrich the coffers of the vatican, maximise the birth rates of its victims in order to provide more human raw materials for exploitation, to impoverish its victims so that their only hope is to trust in god for salvation, to treat children as sex toys for its officers. In short it is an abomination. A global crime syndicate operating in clear view but too powerful for goverments to eliminate.

  7. Laura Roberts says:

    I’m sure they’ve made loads of mistakes where they under-reported membership too, right?

  8. remigius says:

    AgentCormac, if he had managed to keep a straight face while saying that he deserves a medal.

  9. L.Long says:

    ALL religions are frauds! Why stop with the RCC!?!?!?

  10. Trevor Blake says:

    Although I live in the United States, I have a sincere and deep spiritual connection with whatever Norway is known for. I was told by my deity, which is definitely the right one and real, that every man, woman and child (and at least 47% of the dogs, but no cats strangely) was a member of my religion and I was the leader.

    I accept cash or paypal.

  11. Paul says:

    Is this the same Rcc that made the same sort of Mistakes covering up their priests’ abuse of children (for millennia) ?

  12. Robster says:

    The guilty bishops and various other recalcitrant clerics busted for cooking the books will be right at home in the big house which if the Norwegian prisons are anything like those in every other country,they are already full to the brim with mainly Catholic but also variously flavoured other clergies.Do they do the funny old wafer and wine carry on behind bars?

  13. 1859 says:

    Some heavy, gaudy make-up and he would be the perfect sad clown.

  14. John says:

    So why doesn’t the Norwegian government pass a law ending all payments to this and any other outfits of a similar nature?
    Do they pay other religions too?
    Madness – sheer madness!

  15. Smokey says:

    How did more churchgoers contribute to increased spending? I thought the church would earn more in tithings and shit.

    Maybe the Jesus crackers are really, really expensive.

  16. Bill Bonk says:

    Lllllloooongg
    Who’s stopping? Duhhhhuuhh!

  17. Brian Jordan says:

    It’s a good job Theresa May has rejected the “Norwegian Model”!

  18. Derpitator says:

    The national flag of Norway is a cross.
    They give national money to religious organizations.
    They’ve done this for a long, long time and all the churches have been lying about their membership numbers for as long as it has been used as a basis for funding.
    But don’t worry, they’ll ‘investigate themselves’ and find they did ‘nothing wrong’.

    Why don’t they stop paying these churches? Oh, wait, that would require rational thought.
    Nevermind.

  19. Tony says:

    Billy B. Your description of the Catholic church deserves to become the official Oxford Dictionary definition!