A survey released Thursday found that 30% of German Catholics are considering leaving the Church.
The poll, conducted by the research institute INSA Consulere for the Catholic weekly newspaper Die Tagespost, reported that almost a third of respondents agreed with the statement “I am a member of the Church and can imagine leaving the Church soon.”
Researchers said July 9 that 54% of Catholics disagreed with the statement, 9% said they did not know, and 7% did not offer a response, CNA Deutsch, CNA's German-language news partner, reported.
The survey follows the release of official figures last month which showed that a record number of Catholics formally left the Church in Germany in 2019.
According to the statistics, 272,771 people exited the Catholic Church last year, a significant increase on the 2018 figure of 216,078.
Some of those formally departing the Catholic Church in Germany are seeking to avoid paying 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 then no longer allowed to receive the sacraments or a Catholic burial.
Researchers also interviewed members of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), a body representing 20 Protestant groups including Lutherans. They found that 26% of those polled were considering leaving.
The EKD also published official statistics last month, showing that its membership fell significantly in 2019, from 21.14 million in 2018 to 20.7 million in 2019, a drop of 440,000.
The Catholic Church in Germany has embarked on a “Synodal Way” bringing together lay people and bishops to discuss four major topics: the way power is exercised in the Church; sexual morality; the priesthood; and the role of women.
The German bishops initially said that the process would end with a series of “binding” votes -- raising concerns at the Vatican that the resolutions might challenge the Church’s teaching and discipline.
In June 2018, Pope Francis sent a 28-page letter to German Catholics urging them to focus on evangelization in the face of a “growing erosion and deterioration of faith.”
After a back and forth between the bishops’ conference and Vatican officials, the first synodal assembly took place in Frankfurt at the end of January.
The second meeting, scheduled for September, has been postponed until February 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis. Organizers have decided that the “Synodal Way” will now likely conclude in February 2022, rather than October 2021, as originally planned.
Researchers at INSA Consulere interviewed 2,040 adults for the Tagespost survey on July 3-6.