German Church membership will be halved by 2060, new study says

Berlin, Germany, May 6, 2019 / 10:43 am (CNA).- The number of Germans who pay a state-administered “Church tax” to the Catholic Church or the country’s largest Protestant group is expected to be halved by 2060, according to researchers at the University of Freiburg.

Researchers say the expected decline can be predicted a dwindling number of baptisms in Germany, the number of Germans who have departed from formal religious enrollment, and a decrease in Germany’s overall population, which is expected by 2060 to be reduced by 21 percent.

In total, the number of Germans who pay the country’s “Church tax” is expected to decrease by 49%. German law collects an income tax on the country’s Church members, which it distributes to Church organizations, among them the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church of Germany, a federation of Protestant groups, mostly Lutheran, which constitutes the largest Protestant group in Germany.

Taxpayers have the option of opting out of tax payment by notifying state authorities that they have left the religious group in which they are enrolled. In 2017, the Church tax generated $13.5 billion for religious groups in the country. The predicted decline in membership would lead to major budget shortfalls for the Catholic Church in Germany.

Economist Bernd Raffelhüschen, who led the project, told the protestant church portal that there is still potential for change, and the prediction should not be read as a “doomsday prophecy.

Instead, Raffelhüschen said, it presents a “generational task,” since for the next two decades Catholic and Protestant Churches will still have “resources for transformation.”

Likewise, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German bishops’ conference, has said the report represents a “call to evangelize.”

In March, Eichstätter Bishop Gregory Maria Hanke had called the German bishops to discuss the topic.

“We, the German bishops, urgently need to consider how church taxation can and should continue – I miss this discussion because the Catholic as well as the Protestant Church faces a large number of church departures each year,” Hanke said.

“At the latest in ten years, the church tax receipts will collapse.”

A better way for the future is for the Church to rely on voluntary contributions, Hanke suggested.

After the study’s report last week, Cardinal Marx encouraged German Catholics, “in view of this project, do not panic.”

“The church is always about sharing the gospel, even under changed circumstances, and for me the study is also a call for mission.”

A version of this story was originally published on CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language sister agency. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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  1. “The church is always about sharing the gospel, even under changed circumstances, and for me the study is also a call for mission.”-Cardinal Marx

    “Do not proselytize” – “We can inspire others through witness so that both grow together in that communication. But the worst thing you can do is religious proselytizing, which paralyzes. ‘I am talking to you in order to persuade you.’ No. Each one must dialogue from his own identity. The Church grows by attraction, not by proselytism (conversion).” – Bergoglio

    And the number already “Catholic” will sadly ungrow by unconversion. The Catholic Church population in Germany by 2060 being halved seems optimistic…and what is the actual Church population really as beliefs change…as Faith itself and obedience to Christ leaves the Church…even if the numbers were to increase and pews filled?

  2. Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution of 1919 and article 140 of the German Basic Law of 1949 form the legal bases for this practice [as restitution for property lost before and during Napoleonic Wars in much of Europe]. On the basis of tax regulations the Govt or the churches [Lutheran, Catholic] may choose to collect the church tax (Wikipedia). West Germany 1949 simply copied the Weimar 1919 reg into its Basic Law. According to the 1949 constitution, the national government should draw up guidelines for ending the donations (Paris RNS). Although the German Govt hasn’t rescinded the policy neither have the German Catholic bishops declined to collect tax legalized by a veritable Ghost Policy. The imminent German Catholic membership dilemma already in crisis is evidently two pronged. The exorbitant tax and the disassembling of traditional Catholicism since Vat II. Now Germany the apparent prototype church modal for all autonomous national churches with the Vatican Super Dicastery designed to diminish doctrinal integrity in favor of Propaganda Fides. Without the imposed tax the Am church may fare better and our Bishops Conference seems stronger though leaning more toward a social justice environmental agenda also favored by a virtual Antichrist Democrat Party intending to hold the Catholic vote. All the more vital that Am bishops break this ideological stranglehold. In Germany Cardinal Marx’s idea of increased evangelization to fill pews and coffers is as things stand delusional.

  3. With a few exceptions (cardinals Mueller and Brandmuller) the opinions of the German Bishops when it comes to Church reform and evangelization mean very little to me. This article is proof why.

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