Growing numbers of Catholics are leaving the Church in protest at the behaviour of the Bishop of Limburg who has spent an estimated $40 million on renovations to his palace, reports The Tablet.
The thousands leaving both locally and nationally has alarmed the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Moreover, the crisis caused by the behaviour of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst has divided the most senior German Catholics.
Besides having spent an estimated $40m on his residence, including $20,000 on his bathtub, Bishop Tebartz has also received two court orders for perjury from a Hamburg court and nine for breach of trust from a court in Limburg.
Under the German system people leave the Church by signing the appropriate documents. They then no longer pay the automatic church tax, but lose church-linked privileges. Dioceses can easily monitor numbers, and register sudden trends.
Mrs Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the situation in Limburg was proving a burden on the Catholic Church. "One may conceivably express the hope that the solution found will be positive for the faithful and will strengthen people's trust in the Church," he said.
Earlier this week Archbishop Robert Zollitsch said: "We have an enormous credibility problem on our hands and it's the German Church that is bearing the damage."