Austrians are leaving the Catholic Church in record numbers

Austrians are leaving the Roman Catholic Church in record numbers, according to statistics released Monday.

Church officials attributed the 44,852 dropouts during 2004 to a scandal involving the discovery of child and other pornography on computers at a seminary in the diocese of St. Poelten, the Austria Press Agency reported.

The number is expected to rise further, since the St. Poelten Diocese has yet to report its 2004 statistics. The seminary where the pornography was found was shut down in August and a new bishop was installed in November.

The previous record loss of 44,300 parishioners occurred in 1995 when accusations surfaced that the late Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer molested youths at a monastery in the 1970s. Since then, the Austrian church has lost almost half a million members, APA reported.

The exodus means an income loss, since dropouts escape paying a tax collected by the government for church purposes, which averages more than $325 a year.