Martha Heizer, the head of the Austrian branch of the We Are Church reform movement, and her husband, Gerd, have been excommunicated for celebrating the Eucharist in their home without a priest.
Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Innsbruck read the excommunication decree out to the Heizers at the diocesan court in Innsbruck in the presence of two diocesan judges on 21 May, but the couple refused to accept it.
The Heizers first made their private celebrations of the Eucharist public in 2011 by allowing one such celebration to be filmed in their home by Austrian state television. The bishop said he had attempted to get the Heizers to reconsider and thus avoid excommunication.
Professor Wilhelm Rees, a canon lawyer from the University of Innsbruck, told Kathpress on 27 May that the local bishop was always bound to involve the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in such serious cases. The CDF had thereupon given Scheuer the final responsibility for the Heizer case. He said he did not think that Pope Francis was involved. Hans Peter Hurka, Heizer’s predecessor, has advised Heizer to step down to avoid splitting the reform movement.
Get Instant Access
Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99