Leaving the church has many different reasons

It is not only about money: First results of the study of the diocese of Essen point mainly to "alienation" and "lack of commitment" as reasons for leaving the church, says religious educator Ulrich Riegel in the BENE interview.

When people leave the Catholic Church, there is no single, outstanding reason. Rather, there is a whole bundle of factors when people leave the Catholic Church, often after many years. This is the first result of a large-scale study, which the Diocese of Essen has commissioned. In view of around 4000 church departures per year with just under 800.000 members, the Ruhr bishopric would like to see in its Future image processunderstand why people turn their backs on the church – and what the church can do about it.

Leaving the church has many different reasons

Photo: Peter Weidemann | Pfarbriefservice.de

More than 3000 participants in Internet survey

Between March and May, more than 3,000 men and women from the Essen diocese and beyond participated in a first Internet survey and described why they are church members or have left the church. About 15% of the participants had already left the church. Among the large number of responses, two main motives for leaving the church have crystallized, says the Siegen religious educator Ulrich Riegel in an interview with the Diocese magazine BENE: "First, alienation and second, lack of commitment". People who leave the church experience it as an institution "made up of power interests and intrigues," says Riegel. Another reason for leaving is an "attitude that is no longer in keeping with the times". The "Sentiment survey" by more than 40 detailed interviews with people from the Essen diocese who have left the church. Overall, what earlier studies had already shown was confirmed, Riegel said: leaving the church is usually a Long-term process. Often mentioned topics like the church tax, publicly effective scandals or personal disappointments are rather only triggers for resignations, behind which in each case often deeper reasons lie.

"Church can score with wedding, communion or baptism"

In the BENE interview, Riegel speaks of a "Cost-benefit calculationThe study also looks at the "future image" of church members, for example, when positive experiences at a wedding or baptism are clouded by serious disappointments to such an extent that leaving the church is the consequence. He emphasizes, however, that "celebrations such as weddings, communions or baptisms are the moments when the church still reaches the most people, has a certain monopoly position and can score points.

Further components of the study follow

For the Zukunftsbild project group, which is in charge of the topic in the Essen diocese, the results of the team around Riegel are a first building block of the study on church membership and leaving the church. Until the fall also analyzes the Center for Applied Pastoral Research (ZAP) in Bochum Research on church membership published to date. The goal is to classify and evaluate the various factors that influence church membership. These investigations are supplemented by a theological contribution from the Berlin Institute M.-Dominique Chenu, which gives thought to future forms of membership in the church. (tr)

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