More than half a million left Germany’s Catholic Church last year as abuse scandal swirls

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BERLIN — More than half a million people formally left the Catholic Church in Germany last year, significantly higher than the previous record as the church wrestles with a long-running scandal over abuse by clergy and with calls for far-reaching reform.

The German Bishops’ Conference said Wednesday that 522,821 left the church last year, up from 359,338 in 2021, the previous record. That compared with just 1,447 people joining the Catholic Church, around the same as the previous year.

The departures left the number of Catholic Church members in Germany at nearly 20.94 million, just under a quarter of the population.

In Germany, people who are formally members of a church pay a so-called “church tax” that helps finance it in addition to the regular taxes the rest of the population pay. If they register their departure with local authorities, they no longer have to pay that. There are some exemptions for low earners, jobless, retirees, students and others.

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