GERMANS are ditching the Roman Catholic Church in ever-increasing numbers, according to a new survey.
The number of people leaving the Church jumped by nearly 50 percent in 2010 as the Roman Catholic abuse scandal escalated.
Over the past 20 years, the number of members of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany has fallen from 28.3 million to 24.6 million or 30.2 percent of the country’s population in 2010, the data showed.
The numbers are easily tracked because members pay a church tax unless they formally leave the congregation â€” the same reason the declining membership has led to increasing budget shortfalls for the church.
The new figures come ahead of a planned visit by Pope Ratzinger on Sept 22-25, when he is scheduled to visit the cities of Freiburg, Erfurt and Berlin where he will deliver a speech to German parliament.
Germans are not required to say why they want to strike their church membership, but many have blamed the reports of sexual and physical abuse of hundreds of children by clergy that surfaced last year.
The diocese that recorded the highest member loss last year was Ratzinger’s former diocese, Munich and Freising,Â where 21,600 people alone left the church.
The Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, late last year begged forgiveness for “everything those working for the church have done” as he presented a report that showed more than 250 priests and religion teachers sexually or physically abused children in the diocese over the past decades. He said:
We want to learn from our bad mistakes and misconduct of the past.
In its response to the abuse scandal, Germany’s Bishops Conference has publicly and repeatedly showed remorse, changed the relevant guidelines for the clergy and offered up to â‚¬5,000 ($6,900) compensation to victims of abuse by clergy or church officials while they were minors, but it gave no total number of victims.
Austria, which taxes church members in a way similar to those in Germany also saw a significant hike in the number of departures. Figures published by the Austrian Bishop’s Conference earlier this year said 87,000 Austrian Catholics left in 2010, a 64 percent increase over the 53,000 who formally had their names struck from church registries in 2009.