People in the pews at Cologne Cathedral, Germany

Germans’ trust in Church, Pope dips as impatience for reform grows

Germans’ trust in the Catholic Church in the country and in the Pope is dipping as impatience for reform in the institution grows.

Driving the news

An “Institutional Ranking” published by the Forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis January 6 in Cologne revealed that confidence in both the German Catholic Church and Pope Francis slipped last year.

Just 14% of Germans said they trusted the German Catholic Church, down from 18% the previous year.

29% of respondents said they trusted the Pope, compared to 34% a year before.

It was a mixed bag for the other religions in Germany in the poll, with 40% of Germans expressing trust in the Jewish community, 36% of respondents giving a favourable vote to the Evangelical Church, but just 9% affirming confidence in the Islamic community.

The institutions Germans said they most trusted included the police (80%), doctors (80%) and universities (77%).

Go deeper

It’s precisely that contrast between the Church and the forces of law and order and practitioners of medicine and higher learning that Church authorities can learn from, Dr. Peter Matuschek of the Forsa Institute told Domradio.

Trust in the Catholic Church has never risen above 30% among Germans, Matuschek recalled, even more so after the explosion of the clerical sex abuse crisis ten years ago this very week.

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Confidence in the Catholic institution is even less than in banks (19%) and insurance brokers (18%), and far off that in the Evangelical Church, because “Germans are… sensitive to what is happening in society” and the Catholic Church broke the “continuity of trust” with the abuse scandal, Matuschek explained.

Why it matters

“I believe that you can… draw a fundamental conclusion. It’s the institutions at the top of the list that people feel are very close to them, that they do something for people and society”, the Forsa pollster said.

“This is the case with the police. This is also the case for doctors who are on par with the police.

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“Research institutions and universities always have a high reputation per se because they give the impression that they advance society and keep up with the latest developments. That’s a common denominator that can be identified here”, Matuschek continued.

It’s also a lesson for the Catholic Church and the Pope: to regain trust, get close to the people, do something for society, and keep up to date.

Precisely what the German Church is trying to do with its two-year ‘synodal path’ reform process, and what a growing number of German bishops have been making positive noises on in recent days.

That’s what Matuschek also suggested in terms of why Pope Francis’ confidence rating among Germans has gone down from 55% in 2014, soon after his election, to 29% this last year.

Although clerical abuse was a factor, one also “has the impression that he [Francis] is not making progress on all points with his reform plans”, Matuschek concluded.

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