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Catholic Church in Germany lost 200,000 members last year

Church membership in Germany has been declining for years, and priestly ordinations have also plummeted.

A group of German bishops in a 2017 file photo. (CNS photo)

Berlin, Germany, Jul 22, 2019 / 10:55 am (CNA).- Continuing a years-long trend, the Catholic Church in Germany saw a significant drop in membership this past year, losing more than 200,000 members in 2018.

According to the German Bishops’ Conference, the Catholic Church in the country declined by 216,078 members last year. Protestant churches saw a similar drop, with 220,000 members leaving during that time period.

Fr. Hans Langendörfer, SJ, secretary of the German Bishops’ Conference, said the numbers show a need for the Church in Germany to be “more self-critical and constructive.”

“The current statistics are worrying. There is nothing to gloss over about the numbers, they confirm a trend that has shaped the Church in recent years,” he said in a statement.

Adding that a loss of trust and credibility has caused great damage, the priest went on to say that Church leaders must examine the question of how to make the Catholic Church a welcoming environment, where people can find hope and feel at home.

Recent sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church could be contributing to some of this drop, according to surveys cited by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

However, Church membership in Germany has been declining for years.

Priestly ordinations have also plummeted. In 2005, a total of 122 diocesan priests were ordained in the country. Ten years later, just 58 men were ordained priests.

Some 53% of the country’s population remains either Catholic or Protestant, according to DW. Both churches currently have more than 20 million members.

However, the University of Freiburg predicted that membership in both churches will be cut in half by 2060, dropping from a combined total of 45 million currently to below 23 million in the next 40 years.

German law collects an automatic income tax of up to 9% 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.

Several German bishops have been embroiled in a number of controversies in recent months, some of which have also led to tensions with the Vatican, in particular pertaining to the reception of the Eucharist by Protestants who are married to Catholics — a practice now officially established in several German dioceses — along with the reception of the Eucharist by divorced-and-remarried Catholics.

At least one bishop recently voiced support for a ‘church strike’ advocating women’s ordination.

Last month, Pope Francis sent a 28-page letter to Catholics in Germany calling for a focus on evangelization in the face of the “erosion” and “decline of the faith” in the country.

In his letter, Pope Francis issued a warning about the “synodal path,” a process announced the German bishops’ conference in March. The conference said issues of priestly celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power would be subject to a process of “synodal progression” that could lead to a binding, but as yet undetermined, outcome.

“Synodality presupposes and requires the action of the Holy Spirit,” Francis said in the letter.

The pope warned that “despite all serious and inevitable reflection, it is easy to fall into subtle temptations … therefore caution should be exercised, since they, anything but helpful to a common path, hold us in preconceived schemes and mechanisms that end in alienation or limitation of our mission.”

The pope also reiterated concerns he raised with the German bishops during their ad limina visit in Rome in November 2015 in which he had already noted a grave lack of participation in the sacraments among Catholics in Germany. He challenged bishops to “pastoral conversion” and warned of “excessive centralization.”

“To accept and endure the present situation … is an invitation to face what has died in us and in our congregations, which requires evangelization and visitation by the Lord,” Francis said. “But this requires courage, because what we need is much more than structural, organizational or functional change.”


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9 Comments

  1. One sure recipe that would begin to turn things around for the German church is this: preach the Cross of Jesus Christ. But my guess is that the current crop of German bishops won’t do this. They will preach the path of least resistance, go with the cultural flow and allow the dominant culture in Germany to inform the Gospel (which is no Gospel at all).

  2. “To accept and endure the present situation … is an invitation to face what has died in us and in our congregations, which requires evangelization and visitation by the Lord,” Francis said. “But this requires courage, because what we need is much more than structural, organizational or functional change.”

    So yes, this requires courage, the courage to embrace the reality of hypocrisy, authoritarianism and elitism which is embedded within Clericalism.
    This situation has to be tackled before any new structures (Wine skins) are put in place, as mere words are meaningless.

    Only a true seen transformation of the Priesthood will bring about a fundamental shift of culture, and for this to happen the leadership of the Church will have to be led by the Holy Spirit, to embrace humility. Because without a true reflection of the moral/humble/martyred leader-ship of St Peter, by Pope Francis, it’s credibility will continue to be incredible. Someone has to lead in humility and restore credibility and as Peter it falls upon him to do so.

    Presently he could deal with the McCarrick and abuse crisis situation transparently, if he did so, he would have to show his own vulnerability/failings (as all, to some degree, have been compromised within Clericalism), at whatever the personal cost to himself, but if he did so, he would lead the Church into a new era, one of the ‘Servant leader’ One who follows the teachings/dictates of Jesus Christ (Truth), setting an example before the leadership (Bishops), in been Peter, while he stops trying to maintain the status quo of an ‘old boys club’ which is compromising ‘all’ within the leadership (Clergy).

    Many within the clergy have ‘good intent’ but all are immersed in institutional hypocrisy, as they have served it’s Image rather than God (Truth) first. So we have institutionalized hypocrisy, as the leadership cannot face/show the reality of itself before it’s worldly Image (Clericalism), which has stifled spiritual growth, while ‘enslaving’ them to this worldly Image of perceived perfection.

    The antidote to sin is humility as a humble heart is the only place from where the transforming action of Holy Spirit can be embraced. “This is the reality of grace.”

    As St. Vincent de Paul put it centuries ago, “Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.”

    Our Lord Himself has given all men with ‘good intent’ the means to create a humble Church, by calling The Elite within the Church, to account for their collusion with the on-going breaking of the Second Commandment.

    “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”

    Why do they not do so?

    Please consider continuing via the link which my post/s give conclusive information on the on-going breaking of the Second Commandment.

    http://www.catholicethos.net/errors-amoris-laetitia/#comment-230

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  3. it is clear what is wrong. These bishops have strayed in morals and teachings so far from what is authentically Catholic that the would be faithful don’t even recognize the Church anymore. These bishops have allowed filth and horrible dehumanizing behaviours that no gulag would permit. Every study shows %100 that authentically traditional Catholic institutions today flourish and all’liberal ‘ ones die. The people want the true authenic Catholic church.. sad to say, i don’t blame them for leaving.. there’s nothing there. No longer a sense of sin, repentance, good litury, lgbt everywhere and feminism.. that’s all a new religion they don’t identify with. The Church in the West is in a very critical state. P. Francis aids the cause, sad to say again. In denying the role of gay network ,in the synod, in the clerical sex abuse crisis, he has sanctioned it , allowed it and promoted it. Who wants a Church like that? Inclusive of what? … child abuse? no thanks. At one time, the church offered salvation, sanctity..today it’s social justice, feminism, gayism.. very unspiritual and horribly hypocritical. the betrayal is unspeakable. No, these 200 000 have every reason not to recognize a Catholic Church. As the lgbt takes over, the Church will be a mere community church on a street corner no one recognizes.. lgtb flags will adorn the sanctuaries. When the church has nothing but that to offer, who would want to go there?

  4. Wait…the Protestants lost MORE? But but…they have women clergy and “gay marriage” and everything that the German bishops want! They say those things will help the German church. Perhaps the German church does need something new…new bishops.

    • I guess the German Bishops should read their own reporting, but then they will have to make difficult decisions. Now we can’t have that can we? Just return to Church teachings and all will return. The Truth that Jesus is will be front and center once more.

  5. “At least one bishop recently voiced support for a ‘church strike’ advocating women’s ordination.”

    **************

    And how has women’s ordination worked out for Anglican membership numbers? Or Lutherans or Presbyterians?
    It’s got to be more about an agenda if no one is paying attention to actual demographic trends.

  6. A welcoming spirit and evangelization only work if the Church in Germany proclaims the Truth. If she doesn’t, evangelization and a welcoming spirit will be undermined.

    Why?? Because the Church can not compete with secular society which does superficial things so much better. Since the fullness of Truth seems to be too much for our German prelates to proclaim, I feel it’s only a matter of time before the Church in Germany dies.

  7. “Some 53% of the country’s population remains either Catholic or Protestant, according to [broadcaster] DW. Both churches currently have more than 20 million members.”

    A German foreign exchange student in my secular high school, in 1960, introduced herself by saying that about half of Germans were Catholic and the other half Protestant. Now fully half are neither.

    But all is well: “ideological colonization” of Amazonia (Cardinal Kasper’s oracle toward a non-celibate priesthood) in the 21st century is also a reminder of German colonization of parts if east, west and south Africa in the 19th century. Very, what, Traditional.

  8. I think priest should teach the Catholic fsith. Educate the people about what we believe not pie in the sky preaching. Teach us theology
    Tell us why the 3 readings were picked for that day’s reading and how they are connected Teach Don’t Preach

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