Catholic Church officials have apologized for any misunderstandings, but maintain they have not received an undue amount of state financial support in Norway and have not broken any rules regarding church membership. State support is based on membership numbers.
Police raided church offices last month and charged the church with defrauding the state of as much as NOK 50 million (USD 6m) by presenting inflated membership numbers. In a report presented on Monday, the diocese in Oslo claimed the church had 130,000 confirmed members.
The church received state support last year based on 120,000 members, in part after listing immigrants from Catholic countries without asking them whether they wanted to join the church in Norway. Lisa Wade, acting administrative leader for the church, said there probably are far more Catholics in Norway than those now registered and the church has not received money to which it was not entitled.
Others disagree, with newspaper VG reporting that some local Buddhists complained in a letter to the county administrator that they’d been involuntarily included on the membership rolls of the Catholic Church. Several other people have discovered they also were registered as members without being consulted.
Various religious organizations have also reportedly registered members without their consent over the years, including the state church of Norway, a local mosque and, most recently, the Swedish church in Oslo. None has been charged with fraud, however, with the Catholic case singled out because of the large amount of money allegedly involved.