Cologne general-vicar Stefan Hesse presented figures, showing that it had assets of €3.35 billion (£2.45 billion), which compares with Vatican assets of £2 billion. This is but one of many dioceses. It is, of course, due to the fact that registered Catholics must pay a share of their income tax towards their Church (an arrangement dating back to the 19th century). In 2013, the Roman Catholic dioceses in Germany received almost €5.5 billion (£4.6 billion) from this church tax.
Perhaps this entitles to some minds the idea that Germany have more than its proportional share of influence over the theology and practice of Rome. In any case, while the financial picture may be rosy, the membership stats are not so complimentary.
With a total membership of more than 23.7 million, Roman Catholicism in Germany is the largest single religious group there with some 29 percent of the population. Yet the church there is not gaining members. Instead, people are leaving the Church in serious numbers. In 2015, some 181,925 people departed membership and took their incomes off the tax roles for church purposes. By comparison, records show only 2,685 people became Roman Catholic, and 6,474 reverted to their Roman Catholic faith.
When you compare this to the statistics of twenty years ago (only a generation), you find that the number of baptisms has actually declined by more than a third, from 260,000 babies baptized in 1995 to about 167,000 in 2015.
If that were not bad enough, the marriage situation is even worse; twenty-one years ago, 86,456
couples were married in Church while last year, that number was down by
about half, So in a nation of some 80 million people, only 44,298 couples were
married in the Roman Catholic Church in 2015. Added to that is the rather distressing numbers showing a significant decline in church attendance (from 18.6 percent in 1995 to 10.4 percent in 2015).
It is more than a nifty program that is needed for the vitality of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany to improve; they need nothing less a miracle! They need to reintroduce the faith to areas where secularization has gutted the churches and they need to catechize with renewed vigor the basics of the Christian faith. Perhaps the time is ripe for a new Reformation. In any case, it all proves that good finances are not necessarily the most important sign of the health of any church. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany can write checks easily; what they cannot do is retain the faithful. The wealth of the Church that matters is doctrinal integrity, Scriptural unity, and attendance. Where these remain, the finances are will endure. Without them, no amount of money can rescue a lost church.