As Europe continues to seek a way out of its financial straits, some countries are eyeing the wealth of the Catholic Church. Italy's prime minister wants a tax on church properties. British city councils have cut funds for transportation to religious schools, while Ireland considers similar moves. And a city councilman in Alcala, Spain, is pushing to tax church property that's not used for religious purposes, the Washington Post reports. "We want to make a statement that the costs of the crisis should be borne equally by every person and institution," he says.
In Spain, where the church owns vast amounts of property, that could mean a tax bill of nearly $4 billion. And while it's rich on paper, the church is encountering financial troubles of its own at the moment, with the Vatican reporting a decade-worst $19 billion deficit this year. While 100 Spanish cities have passed resolutions calling on the church to pay municipal taxes, the movement is far from universal; Spain's prime minister, for instance, opposes it on the grounds that the church serves a "very important social function." Adds a city council member: "It is in times of economic hardship that we need the church the most and need to support it."