DIE ZEIT: You were one of the initiators of the church revolt in the middle of the nineties. They demanded a voice, equal rights, and a new approach to sexuality. Hundreds of thousands signed, and similar initiatives have emerged around the world, but none of your concerns have been put into practice. Have you failed?
Martha Heizer: No, we have not. Our demands have become common property.
ZEIT: In your association "We are church" and in other liberal wings of the church.
Heizer: I met a professor of Opus Dei in Rome. He said that they pursued the same goals. That was approval from a completely unexpected side (laughs). But that is confirmation that these concerns have penetrated into the conservative circles. I often compare this with the Soviet Union. If the people are fed up and the elite does not see this, then something crumbles. It takes a long time, perhaps too long.
ZEIT: People had to live in the Soviet Union, from the church one can leave.
Heizer: Of course, and that leads to a problem. Because our lobby is large, but not very active. Many say it is right what we do, but very laborious, so they go.
ZEIT: And who's left? Young people who are engaged in the church want to deal with their own spirituality and do not collect signatures.
Heizer: Right. And the church is digging its grave. That makes me insane.
ZEIT: Do you see the reactionaries on the rise?
Heizer: That remains, yes. This is why the church is self-defeating. For if it does not address urgent socio-political questions, it is eventually finished. You can no longer discriminate against women; you can no longer prescribe the form of life to people; you can not make decisions without involving those affected. But of course, I also know Catholic women who say that if the priests were to marry, they would have to leave the church. But these people are not accessible to any arguments. It is shocking who is going and who remains in this system.
ZEIT: You should not be there either. You got excommunicated because you a organized private celebration of the eucharist and were filmed by the ORF.
(Laughs) Yeah, I'm punished with this punishment, which is not useful. I remain part of the church, pay the contribution and go to mass.
ZEIT: With Francis a reformer presides in the Vatican, who needs you there?
Heizer: We still have to get used to the fact that we are now the ones who are loyal to the pope. This is a strange situation. Exactly those who insulted us before that we do not follow the pope are now those who are fighting against Francis.
Heizer: Oh, these ultra-conservative concrete heads of cardinals in the Curia. But Francis has made us less interesting as a reform group.
ZEIT: Do you notice this with new interested parties?
Heizer: There are almost none joining. Many of those who share our ideas are already in "We are Church" or are no longer a member of the Church.
ZEIT: You could go too. In other confessions you will find much of what you ask for.
Heizer: After our Eucharistic celebration in the living room, someone said that this could be the birth of a sect. There were people who called and wanted to join. But we do not want that. I am a convinced catholic, I am deeply attached to Catholicism. And I am terribly annoyed that the clerics can destroy my church so much. As a layperson, there is no chance at all of preventing this. It would be the highest time to democratize the church. It is not a question of faith, we do not want to vote on the resurrection. We are concerned with structures that have grown over two thousand years and are no longer contemporary. They are finally to be abolished. It's completely ridiculous that that does not happen.
ZEIT: Is there a basis for discussion with the clergy?
Heizer: It never really happened. Cardinal Schönborn had a coffee with us at home. This is nice, because these people can lead conversations in an amiable way. You have the feeling, actually we understand each other. And then nothing happens, just nothing.
ZEIT: In the past 22 years, have you damaged the Catholic Church more than you were useful?
Heizer: No, the clergy has damaged it. They do not care if people are leaving in droves, otherwise they would have changed something.
ZEIT: The number of members worldwide is rising.
Heizer: Because the world population is growing and not because more people are convinced of Catholicism. Independent churches in South America make the number of Catholics members decline, which says something, the alarm bells should ring. Independent Churches have different structures and more participation.
ZEIT: More basic work instead of world revolution?
Heizer: Yes. And I would like to strengthen that in the future. I have noticed that we left the local pastors in peace. But if they get a bit of what we want, then something will happen. I would like to see what is possible. The great things hopefully Francis is going to handle.
Interview with Martha Heizer; Florian Gasser; Die ZEIT; 17 April 2017