“We are Church” Leader Martha Holzer is Excommunicated – UPDATED

The Herald UK was fast on the story:

Martha Holzer and her husband, Gert, were excommunicated for “simulating the Mass”, according to the website Kath.net.

Mrs Holzer is a leading personality in We are Church, which was founded in 1995 in Austria, German and South Tyrol and seeks liberal reforms within the Catholic Church.

According to reports, the 67-year-old regularly took part in “private Eucharistic celebrations” at her home with no priest present. The Church considers the simulation of the Mass a delictum gravius, or “grave delict”.

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 Holzer said they were “immensely shocked” by the excommunications.

Original report, untranslated, here.

More as it comes, in English. I mean, I’m pretty sure performing your own mass is Latae sententiae — the means of self-excommunication — but is there something more formal being pronounced? I can’t tell. If not, are these folks just seeking out a headline b/c a bishop acknowledged it? And why is she shocked? Has she been living in a bubble? Anyone who believes herself to be on top of things enough to say her own mass should be aware of latae sententiae, yes? Meanwhile I’ve changed the title because although the German bit mentions Francis, that’s not clear to me.

UPDATE: Thanks to Inge Loots’ translation in the combox, it does seem like something official may have come down the pike, although not fully clear, yet whether any of this extended to Francis. It was the diocese that made the announcement and, as Inge says, perhaps reported badly by a secular newspaper unversed in these issues (not unusual). Check Inge’s twitter feed (@inge_loots) for her further thoughts.

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  • Inge Loots

    I can read German, so I will translate the first paragraph to English


    “Papst Franziskus hat die Vorsitzende der antirömischen Plattform „Wir sind Kirche“, Martha Heizer (67), und ihren Ehemann Gert exkommuniziert. Dies berichtet die “Tiroler Tageszeitung” am Donnerstag. Weil die beiden Tiroler regelmäßig Eucharistiefeiern simulierten, wurden sie wegen eines schweren Vergehens („delictum gravius“) mit der Exkommunikation belegt, d.h. sie wurden von den kirchlichen Sakramenten ausgeschlossen. Bischof Scheuer wollte gestern Abend das Dekret Roms übergeben, dies wurde von beiden aber zurückgewiesen.”


    “Pope Francis has excommunicated chairwoman Martha Heizer (67) and her husband Gert of the anti-roman (I think they mean ‘anti-hierarchy’ platform, IL) ‘We Are Church” according to the “Tiroler Tageszeitung” newspaper.

    They have been excommunicated because of a grave matter (“delictum gravius”) because of simulating celebrations of the Eucharist on a regular basis. This means they are excluded from church Sacraments. Bishop Scheuer wanted to hand the decree from Rome to the couple yesterday evening, but this was rejected by both.”

    So it’s kath.net reporting on something claimed by an Austrian newspaper. In my understanding, simulating Mass on a regular basis will get you excommunicated ‘latae sententiae’. So they have excommunicated themselves. But I can also see that the Pope or the local bishop made an official statement about this, because they are chairpeople of this controversial liberal club.

    In reaction to this news, I also saw some people react to it in glee. When people get excommunicated either automatically or by a bishop or pope, it’s never something to be gleeful about. There are only losers here, nobody is winning anything with it. Please pray for everyone involved, that’s more constructive than dancing on someone else’s grave.

  • KyPerson

    I’m not going to be gleeful at all. I hope she will return. But I must say the phrase “we are church” gets on my last nerve and I thank God I haven’t heard it in many years now.

  • FW Ken

    As I have always been told, sharing bread and wine at home “in remembrance of me” is an ancient expression of the domestic church. The key, of course, is that no one believes it’s the Mass.

  • TerryC

    As I understand it the excommunication is latae sententiae, that is the couple excommunicated themselves, by their actions. The reason that the diocese chose to announce the excommunication is because the actions of simulating Masses was public, in that they went on broadcast media and announced that they were doing it. Because that action was a public scandal the local bishop appears to have decided that it would be proper to officially and publicly inform the couple that they had excommunicated themselves by their actions.
    The estimable Fr. Z postulates that though the decision to make the public announcement was probably done by the local bishop the Holy Father was no doubt notified as a matter of course.
    I don’t know what other official action could be made, other than declaring association with the whole group an excommunicable action. I believe Cardinal Burke did that with Call to Action when he was an archbishop. The couple themselves have already separated themselves from the Church by their actions, there is really nothing else the Church can do to them. As I’m sure you know the Sacrament of Reconciliation remains open to them. They can repent of their actions, do their penance, and return to the Church at any time they are willing to cease their obstinate disobedience.

  • DaTechGuy on DaRadio

    The whole point of excommunication is to make clear the spiritual danger one is in and provide an incentive to return. We should pray for this.

    The danger to them is the sin of pride which caused this problem for them to keep them from repentance, the danger to US is the sin of pride causing us to either gloat or to elevate ourselves based on other failures rather than offering prayers and supplications for them and us.

    The sin of pride it’s always the one that gets you in the end

  • Mike

    Maybe this we are church women and her husband wanted to get herself excomm? Still it’s sad and i hope she returns.

  • johnnysc

    We are church? Shouldn’t it be ‘we are protestant’?

  • Dagnabbit_42

    Right. The opłatki at Christmas, or a “benedicamus domino!” with a lifted glass of red wine over a family dinner, is one thing. The Mass is another. Claiming they’re the same thing is the heresy to avoid.