Following the child abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church across Germany, a record 180,000 German Catholics are said to have left their church for good in 2010.
50,000 more Catholics cancelled their church membership last year than in 2009 representing an increase of 40 percent, according to published data 24 of Germany's 27 Catholic dioceses as reported by Deutsche Welle.
Germany's largest diocese of Cologne, was hard hit, experiencing the biggest drop in membership ever last year while a number of dioceses in deeply Catholic Bavaria saw up to 70 percent more people leaving the church than the previous year.
Cologne's vicar-general, Dominik Schwaderlapp, described the exodus of members as "their personal form of protest and of expressing their disgust at the scandal."
Last year, the release of 2009 defections reportedly signaled a growing wave of departures even before the scandal fully erupted as several officials at schools run by the church were accused of abusing children.
Press spokesman for the German Catholic Bishops' Conference, Matthias Kopp, said the church suffered a human loss for every single person who left. "The German bishops won't ignore that, they want to win back lost credibility," he added.
The bishops have reportedly offered compensation of up to $6,900 to the sexual abuse victims. Some of the sexual abuse cases occurred in the 1950s, but many of them took place in the 1970s and 1980s.