BONN, Germany (ChurchMilitant.com) - In Germany, the Catholic Church is suffering its greatest catastrophe since the Protestant Revolt.
Though accruing billions of euros annually, the Church in Germany is bleeding Catholics at an unprecedented rate.
Controversially, the German government taxes all registered church members (anyone who has been baptized) — whether or not they attend services — at a rate of eight to nine percent, with the revenue funneled to the nation's churches.
Owing to the church tax system, the country's 27 dioceses raked in a record €6 billion (more than $7 billion) in 2016.
The Catholic Church in Germany has amassed a fortune of at least €26 billion (more than $31 billion); it is thought to be Europe's richest Catholic institution, other than the Vatican itself.
Though materially wealthy, the incredible bounty is not contributing to the spiritual health of the Church.
In 2013, the country was scandalized when it emerged that Bp. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg (aka, "the bishop of bling"), lavished €31 million ($43 million in 2013 dollars) on his rectory.
An itemized account of his spending revealed €15,000 ($18,000) spent on a designer bathtub, €350,000 ($420,000) on walk-in closets, €19,000 ($23,000) on a heated-stone outdoor path and €213,000 ($256,000) on a koi aquarium. Pope Francis removed the bishop from office.
According to an investigation by German business newspaper Handelsblatt:
The contrast between the wealth of the Church and shortages in church-run hospitals is enraging to some. Recently, hospital staff in the state of Saarland went on strike to protest their working conditions. Tim Umhofer, a nurse at a clinic overseen by the Catholic church, cares for 15 patients throughout the day by himself and is responsible for 30 patients on night shifts. He complains of little time to tend to the interpersonal needs of his seriously ill patients on the ward.
"We're told to act like Christians but that isn't possible because we don't have enough staff in the hospital," the nurse told Handelsblatt. He earns €3,000 per month before taxes.
Over the same period, it hemorrhaged more than 160,000 parishioners. This is on top of the 400,000 who drained away during 2014–2015. During the same period, just 9,000 converted or reverted to the Faith.
Meanwhile, the German priesthood is in collapse. In 2015, just 58 men were ordained to the priesthood. That same year, 329 priests died or abandoned their vocation.
Among those priests who remain, fidelity to Catholic teaching is withering.
In 2015, it was reported that fewer than half of German priests pray outside of Mass or the Divine Office or go to confession.
Hordes hail arch-heretic Martin Luther, crowning him a "Gospel witness and teacher of the Faith." They promote homosexual behavior. They push globalism, cheering German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy, whereby hundreds of thousands of anti-Catholic Muslims are invited into the country.
Many German bishops promote the same heterodoxy.
Bishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, for example, has blessed gay civil unions, while Cdl. Karl Lehmann of Mainz — former head of the German Bishops' Conference — criticizes Vatican oversight in selecting bishops, saying, "Much greater attention should be given to an episcopal candidate's theological competence than his formal orthodoxy."
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising and chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, champions allowing Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. He calls openly for the Church to reconsider its position on artificial contraception for married couples.
In a 2017 press conference, he hinted at the possibility of schism, suggesting that if Rome bars German bishops from pursuing their own agendas, then they might go their own way.
"We are not a subsidiary of Rome. The synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany," he claimed. "Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel as their very own office. ... We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have here to undertake, in this place, marriage and family ministry."
Things are so bad that Cdl. Walter Brandmüller, one of the four signatories of the dubia seeking clarification from Pope Francis regarding his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, has called out unfaithful brother bishops as "heretics."
Blasting calls for changes in Church teaching as "unthinkable," he notes, "Who nevertheless consciously does it or insistently demands it, is a heretic — even if he wears the Roman purple."
As heresy filters down from the top ranks of the German Church, swamping the country's churches and seminaries, the number of priestless parishes are mushrooming, prompting novel suggestions for solutions.
In Munich, noting his diocese registered just one candidate for the priesthood in 2017, Cdl. Marx has conceded, "We are experiencing a great upheaval in the Church at the moment."
In response, he has announced a pilot program for the laity to lead priestless parishes.
"Thousands have let me know that they are sure it is worth their while to join in and do pastoral work in their parishes," the cardinal said.
"The local church is most significant. We would waste a great many opportunities if we were to withdraw from our territorial roots," he said. "It is a case of remaining visible locally."