Believe it or not, Catholic Church has become the largest private employer in Germany. Charity organizations controlled by Catholic and Protestant Churches employ about a million people. This trend strongly contrasts with sharply declining numbers of Christians.
Nonetheless, it can be observed in other Western European countries as well. Josef Hien at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies warns that this situation can generate new tensions in Western societies.
It’s obvious that faith in Christianity has continuously decreased in Germany since the fifties. Moreover, church attendance has significantly dropped among remaining believers. „While in 1950, 50.4 percent of all Catholics still attended Sunday mass on a regular basis, according to the generous estimates of the Catholic Church, this figure has now declined to around 11.8 percent,“ German researcher says. Attendance of the Protestant Mass is even smaller.
However, statistics reveal that Church’s influence has dramatically expanded in some areas. One of such areas is charity services. Number of people working in the church controlled organizations, which provide various care services, has gradually risen. „In 1980, Caritas had 283,821 employees, this figure then increased to 347,566 in 1990, and reached a new peak of 484,957 in 2000.
By 2013, Caritas had increased its workforce by another 75,000 people,“ Hien says. This upsurge can be explained by the fact that many women have entered the job market since the middle of the last century. In addition, aging population creates additional jobs for care workers. This trend can be observed in other industrialized countries as well.
Unsurprisingly, such paradoxical situation can easily create tensions within society. For instance, German media attention was recently attracted by the following case: doctors at two different hospitals did not provide raped girl with emergency contraception. It became apparent that both hospitals were Catholic and medics probably were afraid to lose their jobs.
„One could develop this argument further and assert that once faith based organizations manage to completely force out secular providers, welfare services might then only be available to those who comply with the faith-based ideology of these providers,“ author of the study says.
Article: Hien J., 2014, The Return of Religion? The Paradox of Faith-Based Welfare Provision in a Secular Age, MPIfG Discussion Paper 14/9, source link.