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More than 220,000 people left the Catholic Church in Germany in 2020

In a July 14 statement, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, said that while the Church had made strenuous efforts throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it was nevertheless experiencing “a profound shock.”

The Catholic Cathedral of Limburg in Hesse, Germany./ Mylius via Wikimedia (GFDL 1.2).

More than 220,000 people left Catholic Church in Germany in 2020, according to official figures released on Wednesday.

The statistics issued by the German bishops’ conference on July 14 showed that 221,390 people exited the Catholic Church last year.

The figure was almost 19% lower than that of 2019, when a record 272,771 people departed. But it was higher than the 2018 figure of 216,078, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

In a July 14 statement, Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, said that while the Church had made strenuous efforts throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it was nevertheless experiencing “a profound shock.”

He said: “This is also reflected in the statistics of people leaving the Church, which I find painful for our community. Many have lost confidence and want to send a signal by leaving the Church.”

“We take this very seriously and must face this situation openly and honestly and give answers to the questions that are addressed to us.”

“This includes, first and foremost, a thorough examination of the cases of sexual abuse. And this includes the question of power and the separation of powers in the Church. I very much hope that the Synodal Way can make its contribution to building new trust.”

The “Synodal Way” is a multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.

The German bishops initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes — raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.

Bishops and theologians have expressed alarm at the process, which is expected to end in February 2022, but Bätzing and other German Church leaders have vigorously defended it.

The new statistics showed that there were 104,610 baptisms in 2020, compared to 159,043 in 2019.

There were 139,752 First Communions, significantly fewer than the 166,481 the year before.

There were also 75,387 confirmations, a notable decrease from 123,253 in 2019.

Just over 11,000 Catholic weddings took place in 2020, a major drop from the 38,537 recorded the year before.

But Catholic burials increased from 233,937 in 2019 to 236,546 in 2020.

If an individual is registered as a Catholic in Germany, 8-9% of their income tax goes to the Church. The only way they can stop paying the tax is to make an official declaration renouncing their membership. They are no longer allowed to receive the sacraments or a Catholic burial.

Only 5.9% of Germany’s Catholics attended Mass last year, compared to 9.1% in 2019.

The number of priests listed has decreased by 418 to 12,565. In 2019, there were 12,983 priests working in Germany.

The number of parishes is also decreasing. In 2018, there were 10,045 parishes. In 2019, there were 9,936. In 2020, there were 9,858, or 78 fewer than the year before.

The figures showed that there are 22,193,347 Catholics in Germany, 26.7% of the total population of 83 million. In 2019, the proportion was 27.2%

Only 1,578 people formally joined the Catholic Church in 2020, 1,390 of whom were Protestants. The number of people rejoining the Church after officially departing was 4,358, fewer than the 5,339 in 2019.

Bätzing, who succeeded Cardinal Reinhard Marx as president of the German bishops’ conference in March 2020, said: “Despite the depressing figures in these statistics, I would like to expressly thank all those who are committed and live their faith in church and society, especially those who work full-time in pastoral care: Priests, deacons, pastoral and parish assistants.”

“I would also like to emphasize this in view of the statistics: I am very grateful for those who put themselves at the service of the Church in these turbulent times. Even in small numbers, the new priests and pastoral workers will provide an indispensable mission in a constantly changing world.”


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18 Comments

  1. Said Bishop Batzing: ” I very much hope that the Synodal Way can make its contribution to building new trust.”

    Said his apparent confessor: “If banging your head against the wall causes a headache, then just bang harder and it might go away.”

  2. A failed experiment, indeed, is the German church.
    Nevertheless, the bishop of Rome actually encouraged Batzing to continue his efforts to move forward with this insanity of the German bishops.
    Is the Vatican anti-Catholic?

  3. A breakdown of religion in Germany pop approx 86 m reveals one favorable factor for Catholicism, which is the historical Catholic territories in the South and West remain largely Catholic. Whereas the East, what was Communist E Germany formally Prussia is predominantly non committal to any form of religion. Amazing to this reader on the destructive power of Marxism. Protestant Germany with the loss of mainly Lutheran Prussia is a N S swath between the Atheist? East and Catholic West. Insofar as traditional Catholic regions the loss of practice noted in this article trended at the 2000 year mark. Prior 2000 Catholicism grew post it plummets. German religious tax mandated by the Govt [although the churches are free to rescind the policy] is ancient pre Christian practice imposed by the tribal chiefs. It was retained through the centuries and adopted by several other European nations. Germans tolerated it when Catholicism surged presently with worldwide loss of faith not. Example, approx 66% German population claim Christianity only 10% claim certainty there is a God. That’s a remarkably distressing stat that may well be similar in most of Europe. Bishop Georg Bätzing seems delusional if he’s convinced himself the Synodal process of further liberalizing practice of traditional Catholicism will lure Germans back. Apparently he’s out of ideas except for this notion he and progressive intellectuals have of creating a more comfortable accommodating Church as the answer, when it was during the more traditional years of Catholicism that the Church increased. Germany is open for reconversion to a more dedicated practice that Catholicism can offer. Although Bätzings Synodality virtually insures that possibility will putatively belong to Islam. They’re sufficient German bishops and laity opposed with which the pontiff can reorganize and redirect German Catholicism.

  4. Quote: “If an individual is registered as a Catholic in Germany, 8-9% of their income tax goes to the Church. The only way they can stop paying the tax is to make an official declaration renouncing their membership. They are no longer allowed to receive the sacraments or a Catholic burial.” I find this totally unacceptable and scandalous. What mentality is there in the German Church that allows this sort of system to continue?

    • A few years back, Pope Benedict conceded that while the church tax might have a logical rationale, the penalty of excommunication for not paying (branded by the hierarchy/shepherds as “apostasy”!) is “indefensible.”

      And, as for the ascendancy of Islam in Germania (Fr. Morello’s correct point), the primary factor obstructing Muslim demands for a share of a church/mosque tax (like Catholics and Protestants) is probably the fact that the several immigrant Islamic sects are so congregational/divided that they cannot yet decide on the single or more federated mailing address for enjoying such status and largess.

      And then there’s the historical/cultural problem…the traditional Muslim tax is not based on annual income like the church tax, but instead takes a cut of total property ownership each year (the zakat, historically and very generally 2.5 percent).

      Ah, well, maybe the inclusive Synodal Path—arguably the ecclesial version of “open marriage”—can broaden its membership even further. And then, by sacred majority vote, mandate a “binding” decision governing this wider congeries of whatever. Quick, someone frame an action memo for Bishop Batzing’s blessing as already for gay unions!

  5. Germany’s problem is that they have incompetent bishops.

    They seem to think that the problem has to do with power, sexual morality, priesthood, and the role of women. These problems are ancillary. The problem is that the Church in Germany has abandoned Christ. They no longer know him, and so they flounder around grappling for answers.

    • We, the laity, have been waiting in vain for the Hierarchy to fix the problems in the Church. Let’s face it. They aren’t going to do it. They actually are heading from worse to total disaster. The laity must take up the defense of Christ’s Church by restoring the perennial Truth that Christ has taught through His Church for 2000 years. And by restoring Tradition preserved in the Church by God Himself and not by man. We must recognize that the pre-Vatican ll Church was God’s doing. Man has attempted to destroy all of pre-Vatican ll, but the Church is alive and well, just as Christ promised us, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Deo Gratias!

  6. We’ve seen various religious orders trade the Gospel of Jesus Christ for leftism. They seem inevitably to die out in a generation or two, since somehow — mysteriously — young people who love the Lord above all things are not attracted to orders that don’t.

    I wonder whether the same may be true of national churches, where believers who are committed to the Lord abandon a church whose leadership is not.

    Just asking.

  7. “Many have lost confidence and want to send a signal by leaving the Church”.
    I’ve pretty well lost confidence in the German Church too.

    • Gilberta,

      Just like America, the “signals” have been going on for decades, only the prelates don’t like these signals. By scheduling more meetings and promoting their own agenda they think the signals should change. This is willful blindness on the part of the uppers. Meanwhile the forlorn will retreat to their desert to pray and fast or they will wander away from their neglected home.

  8. Lieber Bischof Georg Bätzing,

    Sie versagen in ihrem Charakter.

    Sie wollen das Rad neu erfinden.

    Sie scheinen wenig Frömmigkeit zu haben.

    Könnten sie die Liturgie richtig feiern?

    Wir stecken in großen Schwierigkeiten.

    Wer das Gebet vergisst, hat alles vergessen.

    Bitte, komm zurück zu deinen richtigen Sinnen.

  9. In common with Catholics in a number of other countries, there are three groups leaving the Catholic Church (or any other denomination). 1) Those who strongly disagree with Church teachings but are honest enough to leave instead of trying to overthrow from within. 2) Those who are fed up with the attacks on traditional beliefs and what they view as personal insults to their faith (this group feels that they are not leaving the Church, rather, the Church left them long ago). 3) Those who see the Church as filling no need or want in their lives.

    The so-called synodal way addresses the concerns of none of these groups, but attempts to conform Church teachings to worldly standards. It is self-defeating, as it reinforces the very reasons people are leaving. Simply because dissenters are often louder than the orthodox and the lukewarm doesn’t mean they are more numerous or important, simply that they are louder. Catering to them is driving others away..

  10. One might ask how many of those who left did so out of a rejection of Catholic belief and how many left because they perceive the Roman Catholic Church as rejecting its own perennial Magisterium. How many are saying “I didn’t leave the Church, the Church left me?” That would be a very difficult question to avoid in Germany where the episcopate is demonstrating a perverse behavior which exceeds the imagination. Indeed, we might begin to analyze the defections from the priesthood and religious life, the abandonment of the practice of the faith by the laity in the wake of the mid-century council in the same light.
    Rose colored glasses serve no purpose but to buttress self-deceit.

  11. “If an individual is registered as a Catholic in Germany, 8-9% of their income tax goes to the Church. The only way they can stop paying the tax is to make an official declaration renouncing their membership. They are no longer allowed to receive the sacraments or a Catholic burial.”

    Who concocted this tax madness? The Church or the State? Certainly, it’s the Church who decides that you can’t receive the sacraments if you don’t pay the tax. This is an abomination — and I don’t use that word lightly.

  12. I suggest the German Church drop, absolutely and completely this so-called “synodal Way” business and remember that Christ gave the keys of heaven to Peter and it’s he who can bind and loose on earth and in heaven, not “a multi-year process bringing together bishops and lay people to discuss four main topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women”. It’s simple, Bishop Batzing, it’s simple! Germans are saying they don’t want this “synodal way” because they recognize what you are trying to do, and you will fail! Read the scriptures and pray for forgiveness! The Synodal Way is not the Vicar of Christ. Pope Francis is! Got it?

  13. What was going to happen has happened. Bishops around the world have lost their faith or never had it. If they have no faith, how can they transmit what they themselves do not possess? It all happened at Vatican ll when the Modernist heresy became the new false religion in the Church founded by Christ. God does not bless what is not pleasing to Him. Traditionalist groups are growing and that because they are being blessed by God, who is pleased. The laity for over 50 years has been pointing the Modernist heresy to Church authorities, but it has mostly fallen on deaf ears. The Catholic laity must bring back the Reform of the Reforms. We can no longer wait in vain for the Hierarchy to act.

  14. Interesting article on the number of people leaving the Church in Germany. Would like to see similar numbers for the Church in America.

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