The Catholic Bishop of Oslo, Bernt Eidsvig is suspected of defrauding the state of 50 million kronor. The church has disputed the allegations and asked for the payment demands to be suspended. But the Culture Department, which paid out the money, is now insisting that the money be returned immediately.
“To recruit people as members without contacting them to ask for permission, and put them in a register that releases direct state aid - that cannot be right,” said Bård Folke Fredriksen, state secretary in the Culture Department.
The Diocese of Oslo has said it plans to sue the government over the issue, and had requested that the government delay its demands until the case came to court.
“We have not yet decided how to react to this decision,” said Lisa Wade, administrator for the diocese.
The number of Catholics in Norway has more than tripled in the past decade, mostly due to immigration from Catholic countries. There were 140,109 Catholics registered in the country in 2014, compared to 46,440 in 2006.