ROME — The German bishops’ conference reported this week that 221,390 people left the Catholic Church in Germany during 2020, continuing a mass exodus of disgruntled believers that shows no signs of abating.
As Breitbart News has reported, the liberal German Catholic Church has been in freefall for years, hemorrhaging more than 5 million members over the past 25 years.
Since 1996, the number of Catholics in Germany has shrunk from 27,533,000 to 22,193,347 — a drop of nearly 20 percent (19.4). During that same period, the overall German population rose from 81,323,664 to its current level of 83,900,473, an increase of 3.2 percent.
This means that Catholics make up an ever-smaller percentage of the German population, from 33.9 percent in 1996 to just 26.5 percent today.
In a 2015 article titled “The Bleeding German Church,” Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti examined the underlying causes of mass defections from the Catholic Church in Germany, underscoring two primary factors.
The first was the close alliance between church and state, with believers paying the special church tax, which has led to a very wealthy Church unwilling to challenge its members.
The Church in Germany is the second largest employer in the country, with only the government employing more people. Many Church employees are non-believers, and the Church’s considerable institutional presence conditions people’s rapport with it, tending to create a more formal, and sometimes utilitarian, relationship.
The second cause of the exodus of German Catholics has been a progressive trend away from traditional Christian belief toward a liberal position often associated with mainline Protestantism, Tosatti reported.
As a body, the German Church has become known as one of the most progressive in the world, a trend that has made the Church ever more irrelevant for many.
A 2016 academic study found that churches that embrace conservative theology tend to draw more adherents than those that have fallen into liberalism.
The Canadian study, published in the Review of Religious Research, found that successful churches “held more firmly to the traditional beliefs of Christianity and were more diligent in things like prayer and Bible reading”.
The leadership of the German Catholic Church has been in quasi open rebellion for years, thumbing its nose at the Vatican, unilaterally relaxing sacramental discipline and diluting the Church’s moral teachings.
In 2019, the German Catholic bishops’ conference issued a statement declaring homosexuality to be just as “normal” as heterosexuality while adding that adultery can no longer be considered a “serious sin.”
Both the homosexual and heterosexual orientation “belong to the normal forms of a sexual predisposition that cannot and should not be changed by any specific socialization,” the bishops’ communiqué stated.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published a provocative essay titled “Is Pope Francis Leading the Church to a Schism?” in which writer Francis Rocca examines the role of the German Catholic Church in pushing forward progressive “reforms” that fly in the face of Catholic belief.
“German Catholics have been meeting since last year to consider major changes to church life, including the blessing of same-sex relationships and the ordination of women,” Rocca notes.
He cites Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, one of Germany’s few conservative bishops, who cautions that Germany’s quiet revolt could lead to a schism and even “a German national church.”
Already in September 2019, the editors of the U.S.-based National Catholic Register warned that the Catholic Church in Germany seemed to be moving toward a schism with Rome under the banner of “synodality,” or a more democratic, independent approach to local Church governance.
Under the leadership of Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich-Freising, “the Church in Germany is poised to pursue a radical ‘binding synodal path’ that seeks to dislodge settled Church teaching in the name of ‘synodality,’” the editors wrote.
In open opposition to the Vatican, the German Church has partnered with the Central Committee of German Catholics, “a lay group that has demanded the ordination of women, an end to clerical celibacy, the blessing of same-sex unions by the Church and rethinking of all Catholic teachings on sexuality,” they stated.
Raymond Arroyo, host of EWTN’s The World Over, denounced what he called the German Church’s “usurpation of papal power and authority.”
“They are becoming their own magisterium, and nobody is saying a word about this, even here in America,” Arroyo said.
In a July 14 statement, Bishop Georg Bätzing, current president of the German bishops’ conference, said that the continuing loss of Church membership is “painful for our community.”
“Many have lost confidence and want to send a signal by leaving the Church,” Bätzing said.
The bishops’ report revealed that baptisms in 2020 plummeted to 104,610, compared to 159,043 in 2019. First Communions, confirmations, and Catholic weddings have followed a similar steep downward trajectory.