The number of Germans leaving the Catholic church as much as tripled in October. Trust among followers has plummeted after a major financial scandal, experts said on Thursday.
There has been a significant increase in people filling out paperwork at town halls to leave both the Catholic and Evangelical churches between September and October, new research suggested on Thursday.
The trend is, experts said, linked to the “bling Bishop” scandal, in which Catholic Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst was found to have spent millions of euros of church money on his own private house – including hundreds of thousands on cupboards alone.
Church officials are calling it the “Tebartz-effect”, with dioceses across the country reporting receiving letters from congregation members saying that they had lost faith in the church's handling of its finances. When a person leaves the church, they become exempt from church tax which is levied by the government.
A full, 65 percent of German Catholics consider their church less, or not at all, trustworthy, according to pollsters Forsa who recently conducted a survey.
In Cologne, 571 people officially left the Catholic church in October – twice the number who left in September. This was, city council spokesman Marcus Strunk said, the highest number in years.
Cologne's Evangelical church also saw an 80 percent rise in people leaving its pews in the same time frame – with 228 people unregistering. “People are queueing morning and evening,” at the council offices, said Strunk.
In Paderborn, also in North Rhine-Westphalia, the number of Catholics unregistering tripled on the month before. Osnabrück and Bremen also reported rising figures. As did councils across Bavaria, a largely Catholic state.
Bavariacapital Munich saw 1,250 people leave the Catholic church in October, more than twice the 602 who left in September. In Regensburg, Nuremberg and Passau the number tripled.
Religion sociologist Detlef Pollack from Münster University said this sudden jump was part of a trend that had been developing slowly for some time.
“The quality of living and level of education is so high [in Germany] that fewer people are turning to the spiritual support and social services of the church,” he said.