It is a dramatic negative record: more than half a million people left the Catholic Church in Germany in 2022. The number of exits in the year was 522,821, as announced by the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK) in Bonn. That is more than ever before and significantly more than in the previous record year 2021. At that time 359,338 Catholics had turned their backs on their church.

“The Catholic Church is dying an agonizing death before the eyes of the public,” canon lawyer Thomas Schüller told the German Press Agency.

In Germany, the remaining 20,937,590 Catholics made up 24.8 percent of the total population according to the 2022 figures.

“blatant crisis”

The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Irme Stetter-Karp, sees the high number of resignations as a sign of a “blatant crisis” in the Catholic Church. She was “sad but not surprised”. The number speaks a clear language, she said. “The church has gambled away trust, especially as a result of the abuse scandal. However, it is currently not determined enough to implement visions for a future of Christianity in the church.”

At the beginning of 2022, it became apparent that the already dramatic development for the Catholic Church would accelerate again. Especially after the presentation of a report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising in January and the discussion about the complicity of Pope Benedict XVI, who has died in the meantime. the exit numbers had literally exploded.

In the first half of January, i.e. before the report, about 80 people had left the church every working day in Munich; after January 20, the day the report was presented, there were sometimes up to 160 people leaving the church per working day – about twice as many.

Many causes

Allegations of lying against the controversial Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, who had only been raided this Tuesday, and legal disputes over compensation for victims of abuse in Cologne and in Traunstein in Upper Bavaria also made headlines last year.

“Many causes play a role here, but also current fire accelerators such as the cardinal tragedy in Cologne, in the whirlpool of which all dioceses and even the regional evangelical churches are drawn in,” said Schüller. “These exit numbers do not only affect the church itself. Very soon, those who might be gleefully gleefully gleefully ogling the erosion of the Catholic Church will realize that many of the church activities they have come to love will disappear: schools, day-care centers, academies, social institutions .”

An “exit tsunami”

The exit wave is not only rolling faster and faster in the Catholic Church. The Protestant church also lost more members in 2022 than in the previous year. According to the EKD, the number of church members fell by 2.9 percent to 19.15 million people. In 2021, the decline was still 2.6 percent. In particular, the number of people leaving the church had increased significantly, it said. They were therefore 380,000 last year.

“The death of the church not only affects them themselves, but the state and society are losing a cornerstone of the social and educational system that they cannot replace,” said Schüller. “That is probably the dramatic effect of these exit numbers. The exit tsunami is therefore not only a problem within the church, it will change Germany substantially in the long term.”