The statistics issued June 26 showed that a record number of Catholics formally left the Church in Germany in 2019.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, after seeing the number of people who left the Church (272,771), expressed his disappointments and said he did not wish to “gloss over” the figures.
He attributed this to a lack of motivation on the part of the Church. He said, “I find the very high number of people leaving the Church particularly burdensome. We regret every departure from the Church and we invite everyone who has left or wants to leave to talk to us.
The number of people leaving the Church shows that the alienation between Church members and a life of faith in the Church community has become even stronger.”
According to the new figures, the number of Catholics in the country fell from 23 million in 2018 to 22.6 million in 2019. Catholics now account for 27.2% of Germany’s population of almost 84 million, down from 27.7% in 2018.
Formal departures from the Catholic Church in Germany as reported by the Catholic news agency are sometimes motivated by a desire to avoid the country’s church tax. If an individual is registered as a Catholic then 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.
However, the bishop in response to this said that the Church should respond not by “chasing after a spirit of the times,” but by recognizing the “signs of the times,” as called for by the Second Vatican Council; and this sometimes requires courageous changes in our own ranks.