Thousands of Germans have left the Roman Catholic Church after the sex and corruption scandals.
In one diocese alone, Rottenburg-Stuttgart, 17,659 had turned their back on the church by mid-December, compared with 4,563 for the whole of 2009, according to new research.
"I have never experienced anything like this since my ordination in 1969," said Bishop Friedhelm Hofmann of Wurzburg.
The exodus poses financial problems for the church -- under German law a recognised member of a church can donate some of their taxes to the institution.
If people renounce their membership the flow of money diminishes.
It also appears that many disenchanted Catholics are turning to the Protestant church -- the diocese of Badan said the number of Catholics converting grew by 20pc in 2010.