Record numbers leave Catholic Church in Switzerland

Le News [Lausanne, Switzerland]

October 28, 2022

In 2021, 34,182 people left the Catholic Church, a record number, reported RTS. The figure represents 1.1% of worshipers.

Departures in 2021 exceeded the previous annual record of 31,410 in 2019 by 2,772. 31,410 people left in 2020.

Leading reasons cited for leaving the Catholic Church in Switzerland included differences of opinion on public issues such as women in the church, homosexuality, remarrying after divorce, abortion and assisted suicide. A survey run in 2019 showed that 36.8% of those leaving listed one of these reasons for their decision. Investigations and revelations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church are likely to be another factor.

Another reason is cost. Across much of Switzerland there are church taxes. Some cantons apply compulsory church taxes to companies. While others have optional church taxes on individuals. The only canton that effectively levies a compulsory church tax on companies and individuals is the canton of Vaud where the government funds churches out of general taxes.

Unsurprisingly, cantons with optional church taxes on individuals had higher rates of church leavers than those with none or unavoidable funding arrangements such as Vaud. Excluding cantons where there is no financial incentive to leave, pushes the departure rate in 2021 from the national average of 1.1% to 1.5%. Cantons with the highest departure rates were Basel-City (3.6%), Aargau (2.4%) and Solothurn (2.4%) – these three cantons all have optional church tax on individuals.

At the end of 2021, Switzerland’s Catholic Church had 2,96 million remaining members.