German Synodal Path: “Every Tree Is Known by Its Fruit”

August 03, 2021

During year 2020, 221,000 Catholics officially left the Catholic Church in Germany. Far from calling triumphant progressivism into question, the president of the episcopal conference sees in it a justification for the synodal path.

The latest study on the state of Catholicism in Germany, published on July 16, 2021, would have enough to make more than one Rhineland bishop turn pale: 221,000 Catholics took advantage of the Covid-19 epidemic to discreetly slip away during the year 2020.

Even if the year 2020 marks a drop in the number of departures, the collapse is nonetheless very real: each year, several hundred thousand Catholics decide to turn their backs on the Church.

In 2021, 22.2 million Germans declared themselves as Catholic, which represents 26.7% of the population.

A fall which, added to the pandemic, caused profound upheavals in the life of the Church: the number of Catholic marriages celebrated in 2020 fell to 11,018, as compared to 38,537 the previous year.

And that does not take into account the lower ecclesiastical tax—that manna paid to the Church by every believer who declares himself Catholic—about which the German Bishops' Conference (DBK) has not yet officially communicated.

Are these calamitous figures likely to provoke an electric shock within the German episcopate? Nothing is less certain, when one listens to Msgr. Georg Bätzing, bishop of Limburg and president of the DBK: for him, those who have left the Church have “sent a signal,” of  “power and the sharing of power in the Church.”

An ostrich-like approach that is being openly contradicted by a study published on July 14 by the “evangelical” Protestants of Württemberg and Westphalia, who are experiencing a collapse equivalent in many ways to that of the German Catholic Church.

According to this report, the faithful under the age of 40, who are among the most numerous to have left religious practice, cite as their reason a break in the transmission of the faith, which they do not know.

It is difficult to believe, in this context, that the German synodal path - which strives to align Catholicism across the Rhine with the ending progressivism of a secularized society - can be the basis of any renewal.