Prior to the apostasy, the 53-year-old was a very active Catholic. In the parish of St. Agnieszka worked in Cologne as a teacher and assistant in a company. Doris Bauer, a social worker and social educator by profession, is still involved in the “Maria 2.0” reform movement, which strives for equal rights for women in the Catholic Church.
It is one of more than 441 thousand. Christians in Germany who turned their backs on their church in 2020. One of more than 221 thousand. People who left the catholic church. In 2020, which saw the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Church in Germany registered nearly 50,000 people. The number of resignations is lower than in 2019. However, this number, especially from the Catholic side, still exceeds similar numbers from many years prior.
In Germany, apostasy is regulated and recorded in detail. Anyone wishing to leave the ecclesiastical fellowship must register the move with the Government Office. The relevant parish is then notified.
There is hardly a close relationship between membership in a church and paying a church tax in almost any other country. Therefore, the numbers in Germany are recorded more accurately than in other countries. This is why root cause analysis is an integral part of the annual publication of statistics. “Many have lost their confidence and want to give a signal to leave the church,” said Archbishop Georg Betzing, head of the German episcopate. He added that the church should face this matter “frankly and honestly”.
The head of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford Ström, emphasized that every time we leave the church, he asks himself the question “What can we do as a church to convince people of a sense of belonging to our church?”.
Doris Bauer is very specific about the reasons for her resignation. What made her think was the behavior of German Catholic bishops after the 2018 report. It was a comprehensive academic work that explored the causes and connections on the topic of sexual violence by clergy. No one bothered to take responsibility or make any changes. Bauer says church leaders don’t want change, nor do they want sexual justice.
She is convinced that the present organization of the Church is outdated with regard to official membership and the power of the Church over its members. – The official church describes itself as a moral authority, but it does not live by its values - she says.
The Diocese of Cologne, out of 27 German dioceses, is by no means a notable figure in the statistics of apostasy. Last year, 17,281 people left the church. As many as 22,595 people died in the Diocese of Munich and Freising. However, the Archdiocese of Cologne, led by Cardinal Rainer Maria Wolke, has come under heavy criticism since the fall of 2020. It is about how to deal with and cover up sexual abuse, as well as to take responsibility.
Andreas Nissen has just resigned from the Catholic Church in Cologne. The 56-year-old professes Catholicism. He baptized his children in the past, who “learned a lot of Christian values.” Now he is leaving the church. With what feelings? Nissen talks about anger, sadness, and courage as well. “The gap between Christian values and the actions of the official church and those in power is widening,” Nessen said in an interview with DW.
For him, dealing with fraud is “just the tip of the iceberg.” Here, too, it concerns institutional power. This is the moral difference between consecrated people and the rest of the world. It is outdated – confirms Nissen. And something else that matters to him: the church underestimates social diversity. This also applies to homosexuality.
Nissen had to wait for the visit to leave the church. In Cologne, offices maintain waiting lists for people who want to take this step. In the neighboring city of Bonn, a court specifically increased the staffing of the apostasy office a few weeks ago.
This is usually a silent management move, but it was important for Doris Bauer to “out loud”. She gave interviews and explained her decision to several of her friends from the parish.
Today, he says he does not want to join any religious community anymore. Because every sect ascribes to itself some truth – and thus separates itself from others. Currently, he attends Cologne once for Catholicism and once for evangelistic services.
Others are officially stepping into a different church. One of the people who also wanted to leave the Catholic Church and had an appointment in September, wrote that he wanted to join the Old Catholics, independently of Rome.
Is this often the case? Does the ancient Catholic Church, which arose from nearly 150 years of controversy over the role of the Pope, record an influx of believers? Matthias Ring, the ancient Catholic bishop of Germany, speaks of a “statistical anomaly”. In his diocese from January to May of this year there were as many admissions as in the whole previous year – 180. It is not really a large number. But for the church it belongs to about 15,000 people across Germany. Christians, this is really important.
According to the bishop, this is not a national phenomenon. Growth was recorded in Cologne and Bonn. He hears from his clergy that the “type of people” who join the ancient Catholic Church has changed. “People who are at the core of the Roman Catholic Church and have been active in it also apply,” Ring says.
Alexandra Garica / Redakcja Polska Deutsche Welle
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