Latest Statistics Show German Church Faces Massive Exodus

By Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
The Tablet
July 25, 2019

Bishop Felix Genn: 'There was no whitewashing these figures'

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 Langendorfer 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 Munster 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.”

The Church had lost credibility because of the crimes committed by priests but also because of its traditional arguments “on the hot button issues of women’s ordination, homosexuality or celibacy, which many Catholics no longer find convincing”, Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz said.

Church leaders in Bavaria expressed consternation at the dramatic exodus from “Catholic Bavaria”, where the numbers leaving were higher than average.

Forty-nine per cent more Catholics left the Diocese of Eichstatt after a recent financial scandal, 44 per cent in Wurzburg, 39 per cent in Augsburg and 37 per cent in Passau. “The figures for Bavaria are unfortunately very much higher than in recent years and every single one hurts. Of course the abuse crisis played an important role,” observed Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau.

“I am for Church reform but I don’t think that any amount of reform will bring the faithful back in masses,” Heiner Koch, the Archbishop of Berlin, told the Cologne church website,








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