In 2019, a total of 272,771 German Catholics formalized their decision to abandon the Church, which is a record number. As for the figures for 2020, they will not be known until next summer.
The trend emerging in the survey published on behalf of Die Tagepost worries more than one across the Rhine. The reasons alleged for the departures mainly center on the perception of poor management of sexual abuse by the Church in Germany: 33% of Catholics are considering leaving the Church for this reason. But this cause often hides another reason, which younger Catholics do not seek to conceal: the payment of the obligatory ecclesiastical tax.
When a German declares himself a Catholic – or a Protestant – he pays an ecclesiastical tax which is equivalent to 8 or 9% of his income tax. This is donated to the Catholic Church – or to the Protestant denomination it designates.
The only way to escape this tax is to make a written declaration stating that you have no religion.
In this case, the renouncer is no longer authorized to receive the sacraments and is deprived of the right to an ecclesiastical burial: consequences which now weigh little in the choice of young Germans with a largely secularized way of life.
Some German bishops, without much success, have raised the question of maintaining an ecclesiastical tax when it pushes many young working people to apostatize. It should be noted that on the eve of the Covid-19 crisis, the growth of the German economy had allowed the Church in Germany to collect 6.76 billion euros, which was unprecedented.
This path is a dead end for two reasons. On the one hand, the downward trend is expected to continue in the years to come. According to a study by the University of Fribourg published in 2019, the number of Christians paying church tax in Germany is expected to drop by half by 2060. This takes into account a decrease in the number of baptisms, the current trend towards leaving the Church, and the decline in the population of Germany.
On the other hand, because the synodal path is a dead end, the damage will be considerable because either the process will be taken in hand to remain within the limits of the Catholic Faith, which will be an immense disappointment for many protagonists who will then leave the Church, or the German schism will formalize and cause the break-up of the Church in Germany.
The figures are stubborn: according to the results of the survey conducted by the INSA Consulere polling institute, published on March 11, 2021, a third of German Catholics are thinking about leaving the Catholic Church altogether. These results confirm a previous investigation.