We Are Church head excommunicated after Mass simulated

The head of the international pro-reform We Are Church movement has been excommunicated by the Vatican.

Austrian Martha Heizer and her husband Gert suffered this penalty for regularly “simulating the Mass” without a priest present.

According to a statement from Innsbruck diocese, the pair publicised this practice, which forced Bishop Manfred Scheuer to take legal action.

The final decree was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Pope Francis has allowed the sanction to proceed.

Bishop Scheuer took the excommunication decree to the Heizers’ house and read it out to them.

The bishop later described the move as “self-excommunication”, which was “not a victory, but always a defeat for the Church”.

A diocesan statement expressed hope the Heizers would change their ways.

But the Heizers refused to accept the decree and continued to commit themselves to the reform of the Church.

They said the decree does not mean they are not part of the Church anymore.

“By virtue of our Baptism, we remain part of the Church as long as we ourselves do not choose to leave her,” they said, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

“These proceedings illustrate very clearly how urgent the Church needs to be renewed,” they continued.

Innsbruck diocese says the Heizers can apply within 10 days to Bishop Scheuer for a “nullification or for a change in the stipulations of this decree, including a temporary stay”.

The Church considers simulating the Mass to be a grave delict, on a par with sexual abuse and violation of the seal of the confessional.

The Heizers said the excommunication is especially bitter for them as they don’t know of a single priest who has been excommunicated after abusing children.

Martha Heizer was one of the initiators of the grass-roots protest signed by more than 500,000 Austrian Catholics after the Groer Affair of 1995.

This turned into the We Are Church movement and spread to other countries.

Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer resigned as Archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after allegations he had abused seminarians in the 1970s.

We Are Church has campaigned for women priests, an end to mandatory priestly celibacy and greater lay participation in the Church.


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