Via EWTN. This is nothing but grim:
German bishops release new figures: fewer churchgoers, parishes, and priests
Figures released Friday by the German bishops’ conference draw a bleak picture of the ongoing decline of Catholicism in Germany.
However, the head of the conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, described the Church July 15 as a continuing “strong force, whose message is heard and accepted”. [Meanwhile… Archdiocese of Munich has 6 billion in assets, Paderborn 4 billion Cologne 3.4 billion – HERE and HERE In 2013 the German Church took in from the “Church Tax”. HERE In effect, the German could pretty much buy the Vatican.]
With more than 23.7 million members in Germany, Catholicism is the largest single religious group in country, comprising 29 percent of the population. Yet people are leaving the Church in droves: in 2015, a total of 181,925 people departed.
By comparison, 2,685 people became Catholic, and 6,474 reverted to Catholicism. [181,925 v. 9159]
Whilst the German bishops’ conference emphasized that baptisms and marriages showed a slight increase as compared to the year before, the actual long-term figures describe a steep downward trend.
When compared to the official statistics of twenty years ago, the number of baptisms has declined by more than a third, from almost 260,000 babies baptized in 1995 to just over 167,000 in 2015. The situation is even worse for marriages. Twenty-one years ago, 86,456 couples tied the knot in Church. Last year, the number was down by almost half: In a nation of 80 million people, only 44,298 couples were married in the Church last year.
Further official numbers confirm this precipitous decline: average church attendance is down from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015.
The number of people departing the Church has increased within the same timeframe, having peaked in recent years at more than 200,000 annually.
No numbers are provided by the German episcopate about how many Catholics went to confession last year. However, a recent academic study of the priesthood in Germany showed that even amongst the clergy, more than half – 54 percent – go to confession only “once a year or less”. [That’s damning.] Amongst pastoral assistants, a staggering 91 percent responded that they receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation once a year or less. [!]
Despite these alarming numbers, the head of the bishops’ conference issued an upbeat appraisal of the situation: “The statistics show that the Church in Germany continues to be a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted. There obviously not only is an interest in, but also an active desire for the sacraments of the Church, as the slight increase of baptisms and marriages proves”, Cardinal Marx said in a statement issued by the German bishops’ conference.
Acknowledging the high numbers of people leaving the Church, the head of the German bishops’ conference said: “We need a ‘sophisticated pastoral practice‘ that does justice to the diverse lifeworlds of people and convincingly passes on the hope of the Faith. The conclusion of last year’s synod of bishops and the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis are important signposts.” [What they need is a return to the basics: say Mass correctly and preach rudimentary catechism, revive devotions and put clerical clothing on, schedule confessions and get into the box. How is this hard?]
“Pope Francis gives us courage”, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising continued, “when he tells us that the way of the future Church is the way of a ‘synodal church’. That means: All faithful are called upon, laypeople and priests! Together we will continue to give convincingly witness to our Faith and the Gospel.” [“walking together”!]
In fact, Pope Francis issued a scathing analysis of the decline of the Catholic faith in Germany since the 1960s on the occasion of the German bishops’ ad limina visit in 2015, calling on the bishops to re-introduce people to the Eucharist and Confession during the Year of Mercy, to take on the new evangelization, to strengthen the role of priests, and to protect unborn life.
Pope Francis is unimpressed with Germany, too.
I think I have a bead now on why the German bishops are so concerned about the numbers.
And yet… I am struck by an irony.
Apart from the legal difficulties of de-registering from the Church, defectors also face significant religious consequences. In 2012, the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference decreed that those who opt out of the church tax are not eligible to receive any of the sacraments, to serve as a godparent or communion sponsor, or to hold any office in the Church. Those de-registrants who did not show significant remorse about their decision can also be denied a religious burial.
The Teutonic world is leaping about with its hair on fire defending the right of just about anyone to receive just about any sacrament you can imagine!
And yet… if you don’t pay your Church Tax… you are shut out in the cold and the dark where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.