The main pioneer of planned changes in the Catholic Church are German bishops today. Let’s look at the religioN state in their country, in order to see whether it is worth using the solutions suggested by them.

At the moment of uniting Germany in 1990, the number of the Catholics in this country amounted to over 28 million. Now it is dropping to the level of 24 million. The Holy Mass is attended by only 10.6 per cent of them (in 1950 all over Germany, the Sunday Holy Mass was attended by about 12 million Catholics and in 1990 – 6.2 million). It means that every week in Germany, more Muslims go to their mosques than the Catholics to their churches. Besides that, every year from 150 to 220 citizens of RFN decide to depart from the Catholic Church and stop paying the so-called church tax. During the recent 50 years, the number of baptism has dropped from half a million to 170 thousand.

In relation to it, churches are being closed down in a mass. According to the special instruction of the Episcopate edited in 2003, churches in such cases should be changed into libraries, concert halls or galleries in the first place, and finally, they should be pulled down, and parcels on which they used to stand – should be sold. During the last decade there were a few hundred such cases. The reason for it is not only the decline of believers or lack of money, but, first of all, lack of priestly vocations or very priests. In Germany of 80 million population, in 2011 only 79 candidates went to seminaries. In the whole country, there are about 15 thousand priests, that is, by 23 per cent less than 20 years ago. Without the flow of fresh blood, clergy is quickly getting older: at present about 30 per cent of priests are at the age of 70.

Studies of the Allensbach Institute show that only 20 percent of German Catholics feel related to the Church and its teaching, 35 per cent consider themselves as ‘critical Catholics’ (they admit their belonging to the Church, but do not accept its teaching), whereas for the rest of them, that is, other 45 per cent – are completely indifferent to the Church as an institution: they are related to it only through the fact of baptism and church tax. Moreover, what is not optimistic, is the age characteristics of people who identify with the Church the most – nearly 70 per cent of them have reached the age of 60.

In the German society the authority of the Church, as the carrier of spiritual values, is diminishing. In the ranking of institutions acknowledged as reliable, the Church has been in the 17th place, and has been preceded by, among the others: police, political parties, Greenpeace, Bundeswehr or ADAC (an organization helping car drivers). Three-quarters of the Catholics surveyed by the Allensbach Institute stated that the significance of the Church in the life of the German society will be systematically decreasing.

The deceased archbishop Fuldy Johannes Dyba thought that the reason for the crisis in of the German Church was its secularization, connected with the institutional overgrowth which kills its spirit. For, the Church in Germany is the second biggest (after the state) employer. It employs lay officials, from whom faith in God is not demanded. No wonder that they treat the Church as the same employer as an office, shop or factory. Religion at schools is often taught by catechists not believing in what they teach. Atheists are also in inner-school institutions having an influence on functioning of the Church.

The German Church is more and more missionary but also more bureaucratic. It had already been noted in the 70s of the last century by a known philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, who was surprised by reforms done in the German Church after the Second Vatican Council. He noted that although authors of these changes still spoke about ‘aggiornamento’, that is, opening up to the world, they made the Church an institution more secluded; for example, the postulate of opening up of the Church to laymen fruited with creating new bureaucratic structures often paralyzing a suitable activity of the Church.

Today German promoters of changes in the Universal Church repeat that the main reason for depopulation of churches is keeping to the orthodox morality, especially in the issues of sexual ethics. Do not make a problem out of abortion, allow for contraception , accept homosexuality and pre-marital intercourse, and then there will be the increase of believers. However, it turns out that in protestant Churches, where all these reforms were realized, there was no increase of believers and the crisis is much bigger than among the Catholics. So, is Germany really a suitable country to be a spiritual leader for other Catholics?


„Niedziela” 2/2016

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: