The Catholic diocese in Oslo is appealing a claim from the county administrator that it repay NOK 40 million in state and municipal financial support after allegedly inflating its membership roster. The county administrator (Fylkesmannen i Oslo go Akershus) claims the church violated regulations to obtain more support than it was due.
Religious organizations in Norway can apply for and receive money based on their membership. The Catholic Church received a total of NOK 105.4 million in 2014 after having registered 65,500 new members between 2010 and 2014. Of that, fully 56,500 members were registered using methods that are a matter of dispute.
The diocese in Oslo was raided last February and both Biship Bernt Eidsvig and the diocese’s finance director were charged with fraud amounting to as much as NOK 50 million. The church is charged with scanning telephone catalogues for Polish and Spanish names, tracking down their resident registration numbers in Norway and then logging them as members of the church without their knowledge.
Newspaper Dagbladet reported Monday that the county administrator now also claims, after reviewing church accounts, that the church must return NOK 40,581,723. The diocese is contesting the order.
“We have a completely different understanding (of the law) than the Fylkesmannen,” Lisa Wade, acting administrative leader of the diocese, told newspaper Aftenposten. She called the case “legally complicated” and declined further comment.