October 25, 2021

Germany Is Closing 90% of Its Catholic Churches

Attendance figures have fallen below that which makes a local church viable, with a falling income stream to match.

By Bill Hounslow
Rosa Rubicondior

Like the Anglican Church in Britain, the German Catholic Church is facing the problem of empty and redundant churches and not enough priests to hold services in them anyway.

So toxic has the Catholic Christian brand become that young men are not coming forward to be trained for a role that includes being viewed as a potential paedophile child rapist and someone who you wouldn’t dream of allowing to be alone with your children or vulnerable adult relatives, all for a life-long abstention from sex.

And so disgusted are former devout German Catholics by the Catholic Church’s open hostility to full human rights to all, regardless of sexual orientation, its misogyny and its unswerving support for right-wing reactionary forces acting agoinst liberalisation and social change, that attendance figures have fallen below that which makes a local church viable, with a falling income stream to match.

It’s a mark of the change in social attitudes in Germany that, while the Churches’ support for Hitler’s Nazis didn’t drive their parents and grandarents away from the church, younger people are now leaving because of issues such as human rights for homosexuals and the ordination of women.

Now the Archdiocese of Cologne is planning to close all but 50 of its 500 churches within the next 10 years.

According to this report:

More than half a million people officially left the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany in 2019, new figures show. Just over half the population now belongs to one of the two main denominations.

Germany’s top Catholic body said Friday that a record 272,771 people left the country’s Catholic Church in 2019, and that the number of baptisms and weddings taking place in churches also dropped sharply.

The number compares with some 216,000 people cancelling their membership in 2018, and beats the previous record of around 218,000 in 2014 by a large margin.

The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, said the statistics could not be made to look good in any way and that the drop in baptism and wedding ceremonies showed the “erosion of a personal attachment to the church” particularly clearly.

The German Protestant Church (EKD) also had cause to be concerned about its membership numbers, with 270,000 people leaving in 2019, an increase of 22% on the year before. The figure equals that of 2014.


With deaths outnumbering births in recent years, the fall in membership goes beyond the number of people leaving. There are now around 22.6 million Catholics in Germany, a drop of 400,000 in 2019, and 20.7 million Protestants, 427,000 fewer than the year before.

According again to DW:

The end of the people’s church

Restructuring is the church’s new buzzword, given the sinking number of churchgoers and feared decline in church tax revenue. Cologne’s Archdiocese is Germany’s largest and one of the world’s richest but plans to reduce its parishes from about 500 to 50 by 2030. One priest would oversee each enlarged community, such as in Cologne or Mainz. Wolfgang Picken, head of the Bonn Münster, one of Germany’s oldest churches, said:

We can’t act like we are still a people’s church like it used to be. Those nostalgic days are over. [Churches need to be restructured to] ensure they aren’t a burden, but useful.

The change appears to have been forced on the German Church by a truculent Vatican which rejected an earlier proposal to form teams of priests and lay preachers to oversee churches and instead ordered that all churches should be overseen by a priest. Given that there are not nearly enough priests, the German Church is obliged to reduce the number of churches to comply with this directive, despite the fact that having to travel even further to a church will likely increase the number leaving the church, at a time when the Church needs to be encouraging attendance, not discouraging it!

In Germany, churches are supported from taxation by a tax on those registered as belonging to a particular church. Deregistration means the church loses that income. At times of scandal there are often reports of queues forming at German town halls of those wanting to deregister.

Originally published by Rosa Rubicondior, 09.23.2020, under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.



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