Latest statistics show German Church faces massive exodus

The Tablet

July 25, 2019

By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt

The German Church is witnessing a massive exodus as a result of clerical sexual abuse.

According to the latest official statistics published by the German bishops’ conference on 19 July, 216,078 Catholics left the Church in 2018. That is 29 per cent more than in 2017 when 167,504 left and amounts to 0.9 per cent of all Catholics in Germany. There are now fewer than 23 million Catholics in Germany, down from 23,310,000 in 2017.

It is the second largest exodus since the Limburg scandal of 2013, caused by the so-called “bishop of bling”, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who spent vast sums of Church money on a luxurious renewal of his residence.

The statistics were “alarming”, the secretary of the bishops’ conference, Fr Hans Langendörfer SJ, said, presenting the report in Bonn. “We understand when, due to alienation processes or to a massive loss of trust, [our] credibility has been gambled away.” There was no whitewashing these figures, Bishop Felix Genn (pictured) of Münster said. “People vote with their feet on whether they consider us credible or trustworthy. There is no doubt that the publication of the [Church’s] 2018 study of clerical sexual abuse, which showed that at least 4.4 per cent of German priests had been guilty of abusing minors between 1946 and 2014, was the trigger for many Catholics to leave the Church.”

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