More German Catholics quit Church over sex abuse

Thu Apr 7, 2011 11:00am EDT
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By Eric Kelsey

BERLIN (Reuters) - Some 180,000 Germans left the Catholic Church in 2010, a 40 percent jump over the previous year, as allegations that priests sexually abused children for decades shook the faith, a study said on Thursday.

The number of parishioners quitting the Church surpassed the total of those leaving main Protestant churches for the first time in postwar Germany, the study by the magazine Christ & Welt said. Departures from Protestant churches were stable.

"The rising number of people who left the Church in 2010 represents a lack of trust suffered by the Church because of abuse cases," Rev. Dominik Schwaderlapp, vicar general of the large Cologne archdiocese, told the magazine.

"It is very painful for us because many people obviously have chosen to leave the Church in protest and disgust over the scandal," he added.

Sex abuse scandals have rocked the Church in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, the United States and other countries over the past year as long-hidden cases came to light and law suits highlighted Church cover-ups.

Official membership has been falling in German Catholic and Protestant churches for years. Figures are readily available because members pay a church tax collected by the state and must declare their departure to local tax authorities.

In predominately Catholic Bavaria, Pope Benedict's home state, departures rose by 70 percent in some dioceses. Those included Eichstaett and Augsburg, where Bishop Walter Mixa served from 1996 until resigning last year in disgrace.

Mixa has been accused of physically abusing minors over several decades, making homosexual advances to seminarians and misusing Church funds. Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation bishop of Augsburg in May last year.   Continued...

<p>German bishops fold their hands in prayers during a service to open the annual bishop's conference in Fulda, September 25, 2007. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>