A co-founder of the dissenting ‘We are Church’ movement has been excommunicated, Austrian media has reported.
Martha Heizer, 67, and her husband, Gert, were excommunicated for “simulating the Mass”, according to the website Kath.net.
The Heizers reportedly often took part in “private Eucharistic celebrations” at their home with no priest present. The Church considers the simulation of the Mass a delictum gravius, or a grave delict, on a par with sexual abuse and violation of the confessional.
Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Innsbruck described the development as a “self-excommunication”, which he said was “not a victory, but always a defeat for the Church”.
In a statement Martha and Gert Heizer said they were “immensely shocked” that they be classed alongside sex abusers.
They do not accept the verdict and have vowed to “continue to work with great force for reform in the Catholic Church”, adding that this decision “shows how much renewal she needs.”
Kath.net also reports that as recently as 2011, Martha Heizer was listed as a theologian, but Jozef Neviadomski, dean of the theological faculty of the University of Innsbruck, pointed out that she had never earned such an appellation as she has no expertise in either theology or religious education.