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updated: 5/23/2014 9:25 AM

Austrian couple excommunicated for saying Mass

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Associated Press

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican says an Austrian woman who defied church teaching by celebrating Mass has been excommunicated.

Vatican Radio said Thursday that Martha Heizer, a founder of the progressive We Are Church movement, was notified Wednesday by Innsbruck Bishop Manfred Scheuer that she and her husband, Gert, were excommunicated.

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Celebrating Mass at their apartment defied church teaching that only a priest can celebrate Mass and that only a male can become a priest. Heizer advocates ending mandatory celibacy for priests and allowing women to become priests.

The Vatican quoted Scheuer as describing the couple's refusal to renounce the practice as ''not a victory for the church but rather a defeat." The radio said Martha Heizer went on TV Wednesday to say she rejected the decision.

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