Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is struggling not only with scandals involving its own personnel. According to Friedel Taube, a journalist at Deutsche Welle, it is also facing a Europe-wide loss of members – especially in the Catholic strongholds. By researching hard and soft factors, this claim can be evaluated as “mostly true”.
A Christian baptism cannot be annulled. A ruling by the VGH in Munich justifies this with the fact that the bond thus established between the baptized person and God is inseparable. But what happens if one no longer feels that one belongs to one’s own church? In an article published on 22.02.2021, Friedel Taube examined the decline in membership of the Catholic Church. The article suggests that, according to Taube, a wave of church departures is taking place “[…]and this throughout Europe, especially in Catholic strongholds.”
Germany and the trend toward atheism
In Germany, baptized but non-believing Christians have the chance to officially leave the church. On the basis of the church tax levied, it is thus possible to record exact numbers of people leaving the Catholic and Protestant churches. According to the statements of both church federations, a clear trend of leaving the church is emerging in Germany. Thus, more than a quarter of a million Christians of both denominations left the church in 2019. On the Catholic side, 272,771 members declared their resignation, according to a report by the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK). On the Protestant side, around 270,000 resignations are assumed. This was confirmed by Annika Lukas from the press office of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD). The region around Cologne stood out as particularly willing to leave in 2021. Here the trend reached such a height that the district court increased the dates starting from March by further 500 dates. Taube’s statements can thus be confirmed with regard to Germany.
The cradle of Catholicism becomes atheistic
Likewise, according to the article, Catholicism is also on the decline in Italy. This statement is based on the so-called mandate tax. As part of the income tax, this makes it possible to choose whether the personal share is paid out to the church or to publicly visible cultural projects. The article claims that the percentage of taxpayers benefiting the Catholic Church is declining at 30%. This publication is regular, with a four-year delay. In comparison with previous publications, a declining trend can be observed. Current figures show that only 33% of taxpayers favor the Catholic Church. With regard to Taube’s reference to the Italian sociologist of religion Franco Garelli, the statement can also be confirmed. Thus, only one fifth of Italians regularly attend Catholic masses. This could not only be explained by the investigation of the mentioned Turin religion sociologist as applicable. In addition, the religion sociologist Detlef Pollack, confirmed such a downward trend: “Catholicism in Italy today is so fragmented that it can exert relatively little influence on the public.” Whether a third of Italians today really profess atheism is questionable. Nevertheless, a study by the Pew Research Center shows that the trend toward atheism is also increasing in Italy. Thus, Taube’s statements can be assessed as “mostly true” in the case of Italy.
Catholic Spain – Leaving excluded
Furthermore, the article under review states that it is not possible to leave the church in Catholic Spain. It refers that leaving the Catholic Church, as is at least theoretically possible in Germany, is impossible in Spain. By research no facts can be found from official sides. Also the press office of the Catholic church did not comment on it. Only the Spanish correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Javier Cáceres, confirmed by asking that Friedel’s statement is true. An official resignation from the church is factually not possible. However, there are various loopholes. For example, the official church affiliation can be deleted from the church’s data. Instructions for this unofficial exit from the church can be found in the online newspaper “El Espanol“. Thus, it can be stated that there are inofficial ways for Spaniards to leave the church.
Generation break in poland
According to Taube, Catholic Poland is also suffering from the decline in the number of believers. For this, he refers to a study by the Warsaw-based opinion institute CBOS. The study from the summer of 2019 shows that within 25 years, the percentage of Christian teenagers decreased by 20%. To confirm these statements, however, the study lacks insight. No such publicly available study is available in the CBOS databases. Thus, it is difficult to understand how the population percentage of students has a major impact on the general turning away from the church. The study “Situation of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland“, published in the summer of 2019, contains concrete figures. The survey assessed the situation of the Church in Poland between 2014 and 2019. Here it could be determined that the number of people in Poland who evaluate the situation of the Church as “very bad” doubled from 2014 to 2019. The number of citizens who rate the situation as “very good” halved.
St. Patrick and his lost sheep
In 2016, the Irish Censorship report confirmed that many residents of strictly Catholic communities no longer feel a sense of belonging in the Church. These figures are corroborated by a 2012 global survey conducted by the WIN-Gallup International Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism. This survey randomly sampled 1,001 Irish citizens. The results revealed that 47% of Irish respondents considered themselves religious. 44 percent said they were not religious, while ten percent even admitted to being atheists. In a global comparison, Ireland is one of the more atheistic countries. Also within 30 years, the percentage of Irish Catholics declined by 13 percent. The Irish census proves this. While 91.6 percent professed Catholicism in 1991, only 78.3 percent did so in 2016. But who is responsible? For one thing, the rapid downward trend of Catholicism in Ireland is attributed to the Murphy Report of 2009. It remains to be seen what the 2021 census will reveal. But due to canon law, citizens of Ireland are currently legally prohibited from officially leaving the church. However, the website of notme.ie offers interested parties the opportunity to symbolically leave the church.
Taubes’ statement “Catholic Church loses members – Europe-wide” can be partially agreed with. On the one hand, an actual downturn in membership in the Catholic Church can be observed. Even in strictly Catholic countries such as Ireland or Poland, surveys show that the number of believers is falling. Clear figures issued by the state are available only in Germany and Italy. The factual situation proves the complete correctness of the article on these points. On the other hand, it should be noted that in strictly Catholic countries such as Poland, Ireland and Spain, only soft factors such as surveys serve as a factual basis. One reason for this is that members in these countries are not allowed to officially leave the denomination. Due to this circumstance, the accuracy of Taubes’ statement cannot be clearly determined. Official figures do not exist. Taubes’ statement “[…] especially in Catholic strongholds” is therefore to be viewed critically.
In summary, the statement can therefore only be classified as “mostly true.” This rating is based on the fact that, according to Taube’s statement, Catholic strongholds in particular are strongly affected by the loss of members. This is confirmed in surveys. However, no clear figures are available.
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