BONN (ChurchMilitant.com) - A new report by the German Episcopal Conference shows people in Germany are continuing to leave the Catholic Church in staggering numbers.
The report shows that 181,925 Germans left the church in 2015, with only 2,685 joining and 6,474 reverting. In 2014, more than 200,000 left, and before that in 2013, it was 170,000. The number of Germans joining and reverting has remained a fraction of those numbers over the last three years.
In a nation of 80 million people with 29 percent of the population Catholic, there were only 44,000 marriages in 2015 and 167,000 baptisms. The report also shows that only 10.4 percent of Germans attend Mass.
For 20 years the German Church has suffered astounding losses. Germans receiving the sacraments have plummeted, with reports showing that nearly half of German priests go to confession once a year or less.
In spite of the abysmal numbers, head of the German bishops conference Cdl. Reinhard Marx said, "The statistics show that the Church in Germany continues to be a strong force, whose message is heard and accepted. There obviously not only is an interest in, but also an active desire for the sacraments of the Church, as the slight increase of baptisms and marriages proves."
Last year, he commented that he and his fellow bishops "profoundly regret" the losses but "also respect the freedom of choice."
Cardinal Marx is one of several Catholic bishops who openly promote doctrines contrary to Catholic teaching. He recently remarked that Holy Communion should be allowed for the divorced and civilly remarried, and has also called for the Church rethink its position on artificial contraception in marriage.
He also hinted at schism in a press conference, saying that if the Church didn't allow what he and other German bishops wanted, 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."
Bishop Heiner Koch of Berlin has openly approved of gay sex, and Cdl. Karl Lehmann of Mainz — former head of the German bishops conference — criticized Vatican oversight in selecting bishops, saying, "Much greater attention should be given to an episcopal candidate's theological competence than his formal orthodoxy."
Although there is a group of German bishops who seem to be downplaying the catastrophe in the German Church, Pope Francis is not one of them. In 2015 at their annual "ad limina" visit in Rome, the Pope chided the German bishops, saying, "it is indispensable for the bishop to diligently perform his function as a teacher of the faith."
Fellow German Cdl. Walter Brandmüller even called out unfaithful brother bishops as "heretics." "A change of the teaching is unthinkable. Who nevertheless consciously does it, or insistently demands it, is a heretic — even if he wears the Roman Purple."
Six bishops, headed by Bp. Stefan Oster of Passau, authored a letter condemning the stance of other German bishops as being open to homosexual unions and Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried.
Cardinal Marx previously said the rest of the world looks to the German Church for leadership, but fellow German Cdl. Paul Josef Cordes criticized his claims, noting that nobody is looking to the German Church for leadership since Germany has barely any supernatural faith left.