PROPOSED STATEMENT ON THE RECENT DECREE OF EXCOMMUNICATION OF MARTHA AND GERT HEIZER OF WE ARE CHURCH AUSTRIA
Martha and Gert Heizer have received a decree from the Vatican informing them that they are excommunicated because they have been celebrating the Eucharist at home without the presence of a priest, which, according to the Roman Catholic Church's Canon Law, is not allowed.
There are tens of thousands of faithful all over the world who are coming together as formal and informal Intentional Eucharistic Communities (IEC) without priests - often with the support of their local bishop, because he knows that he would not be able to reach these faithful with the "official" services. There are many more who are attending "officially" scheduled services in their local churches that include communion and that are led by non-priests because very simply no priests are available.
Why has the local bishop and the Vatican decided to issue a decree of excommunication to Martha and Gert Heizer? No doubt, it has to do with their involvement with the "We Are Church" movement. It was only the two of them and not all five people who make up the group that regulary meets at the Heizer's residence, who received the decree. The Heizers started the initial petition drive in 1995 out of which the movement emerged. Presently Martha Heizer is president of We Are Church Austria and chairperson of the the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC).
As an action against this reform movement it is an action against all church reform movements. All of us who are spending endless hours to help our Church overcome its problems and make it a healthy, vibrant and a productive force in our daily lives again, are struck in the face by this action.
The official church is trying to harshly suppress any dissent from the official line proclaimed by Rome and it has rejected any groups that do not commit themselves to blind obedience to that official line. But less and less is this official line accepted by the faithful. What Rome says has become in many areas very distant from the realities of everyday life of the faithful. The laws that Rome has given itself are serving to punish and exclude prophetic voices speaking the truth. They are serving to squelch challenges to Roman authority and power. They are not serving to help build our Church. They are not effective in punishing real criminals and those who assist their crimes by keeping silent about them. They are not serving us anymore.
The Church is still protecting and promoting senior officials, like Ludwig Müller, one of the highest ranking officials in the Vatikan, who have done their best to belittle, to hide and to sidestep the issue of sexual abuse of minors at the hands of priests and have allowed perpertrators to continue the abuse by a policy of transfering them to different parishes where they were able to continue their crimes.
Vatican II has made clear that all baptized are called to a unviversal priesthood. Cardinal Kasper, in a recent speech to all Cardinals, has praised the spread of Home Churches as a little churches within the Church. Jesus said that whenever two or three come together in his name then he will be there, right there among them. If Rome is telling us that Jesus wanted to make his presence conditional on the presence of a priest, if Rome is trying to limit in any way the access of the faithful to God's grace, if Rome is trying to police the workings of God's graces and the working of the Spirit then Rome is putting itself on the wrong side of history, it is abandonning the faithful, and it is opposing the message of Jesus.