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Norwegian Catholic Church Fined $142K For Roll Fraud

The Catholic church in Norway has been slapped with a $142,000 fine for artificially inflating the number of members it has so it could receive more state funding. 

Prosecutors fined the Diocese of Oslo, which is in charge of keeping national records of Catholics living in the Northern European country, Agence France-Presse reports. 

Officials claim that between 2011 and 2014 the diocese went through telephone directories to search for immigrants with names that sounded like they were from Catholic countries and added them to the roll of members of the church, often without their knowledge. 

In Norway, a largely Protestant country, the government funds religious organizations in proportion to the number of members. 

If the church does not pay the fine, it will face trial. The chief administrative officer of the diocese has been charged with aggravated fraud, the Independent reports. 

"We’ve never done anything illegal or received too much money," the Catholic church said in a statement. "We have always recognized that we have made mistakes and had an unfortunate practice in parts of our registration. This was cleaned up a long [time] ago."

The church argued in its defense that from 2004 onwards, Norway saw an influx of immigrants, many of whom were from Catholic countries, particularly Poland. These Catholics did not register, which caused a rise in church spending without governmental support. 

On top of the fine, the Norwegian government is demanding the church reimburse it for subsidy overpayments of $4.4 million. 

According to the national statistical institute SSB, the Norwegian Catholic church had about 145,000 registered members in early 2016. 

Sources: Independent, AFP via The Guardian / Photo credit: Pixabay

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