It has been observed that a large number of Christians in Western countries are leaving Christianity. Several reports have claimed that there has been a sharp decrease in Church goers since the last decade. Moreover, the number of people leaving the Church has increased post Coronavirus Pandemic. Although there are several reasons like compulsory Church taxes, massive past and current sexual abuse cases and convictions of Church priests were observed as the primary reason for leaving the Church.
Recently a report published on 13 June 2022 claimed that 196 German Catholic priests were accused of committing more than 5,700 acts of sexual abuse. In the Westphalian Wilhelms University, Germany, the research team presents the study results from the abuse from 1945 to 2020 in the diocese of Muenster. The study was carried out over 2½ years by a team from the University of Muenster, Germany.
• While talking to the media, historian Natalie Powroznik, who was involved in the study, said the actual number of victims could be much higher, with "about 5,000 to 6,000 affected girls and boys" in the diocese.
• The report claimed that at least 5,700 individual acts of sexual abuse had been committed by a total of 196 clergymen, including 183 priests.
• Five per cent of the clergymen involved were found to be serial offenders with more than ten victims, and less than 10 per cent had faced any legal consequences.
• At the peak of the abuse during the 1960s and 1970s, there were, on average, two cases per week in the diocese.
• During the tenures of the diocese's bishops between 1947 and 2008, officials covered up scandals or made only superficial interventions.
• Three in four victims were boys, the majority between 10 and 14 years old, with many of the acts committed against altar boys or at children's and youth camps.
• Considerable psychological consequences have been observed for the victims reaching adulthood, including depression and suicidal thoughts, with indications of attempted suicide in 27 cases.
• The bishop of Muenster, Felix Genn, since 2009, has failed to take action against abusers.
• The bishops and other officials in the diocesan leadership were, in some cases, extensively in the know about the abuse.
In January 2022, a report into the diocese of Munich and Freising found indications of sexually abusive behavior in 235 people it investigated, including 173 priests, while there were at least 497 victims. The report also found former Pope Benedict XVI had knowingly failed to take action to stop four priests accused of child sex abuse in the 1980s when he was the Archbishop of Munich. Another report published in 2021 exposed the scope of abuse committed by priests in Germany's top diocese of Cologne.
Significant decrease in Church goers
Coincidently, along with these reports, other reports were also published claiming that many Germans left Christianity. According to DW's report, more than half a million people officially left Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches in 2019. A record 272,771 people left the country's Catholic Church in 2019, and the number of baptisms and weddings in churches dropped sharply, the report claimed. The number compares with some 216,000 people cancelling their membership in 2018, beating the previous record of around 218,000 in 2014 by a large margin.
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. Altogether only 52.1% of people in Germany still officially belong to one of the two main Christian denominations.
Alarm for Churches
Churches in Germany also suffer financially when they lose members, as a church tax is deducted from followers' incomes if they are registered as being either Catholic or Protestant. However, no reason for leaving a church has to be given in these studies. Instead, Germany's statistical experts said that the reasons for the increase in departures would be examined in a special study. In 2021, both churches published a study predicting that membership numbers would be halved by 2060.
The 2019 Sexual Misconduct and Churchgoers Study was conducted by Lifeway Research and sponsored by Lifeway Christian Resources in the USA. According to this report, ten per cent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously. The report also claimed that nine per cent of the younger demographic said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they did not feel safe in Church.
People may have lost their faith in churches after suffering from the forced taxes, abuse and many unanswered questions about the existence and doctrine of Christianity. One can definitely conclude that one strong reason behind the sudden drop is the victims of sexual abuse stopped attending the Church; they have not sent their children to the Church. Additionally, in the future, the current victims will behave the same.