The Mercury newspaper reported on Saturday that Pope Benedict has elevated an Austrian hard-line conservative cleric, Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, to the position of auxiliary bishop of Linz, in spite of shocking claims he made that Hurricane Katrina was “divine retribution” for New Orleans being tolerant and accepting of its LGBT community and for the city’s sexual permissiveness as a whole.
In a 2005 newsletter that Wagner wrote for the parish of Windischgarsten, where he has served since 1988, Wagner wrote of the city of New Orleans, “The conditions of immorality in this city are indescribable,” and that Katrina, which decimated the area, was God’s way of condemning the sinful. (Associated Press; January 31, 2009).
He went on to say that, “It is surely not an accident that all five of New Orleans’ abortion clinics, as well as nightclubs were destroyed,” which is in spite of the fact that, geographically, the French Quarter of New Orleans where the gay bars and strip clubs resided was left largely undamaged whilst the heavily populated urban areas which were home, predominately, to families and elderly people, were destroyed, as, incidentally, were both seminaries in the region. Wagner adds: “This was not the sinking of just any city but that of a people’s dream city with the ‘best brothels and prettiest prostitutes’.”
Wagner has, in the past, been vocal on subjects such as the Satanic nature of the Harry Potter series, and said of the 2004 Tsunami that it was punishment of rich tourists. Needless to say, his promotion has not been entirely welcomed by the full consensus of the Catholic church.
On Sunday, Wagner refuted claims that his newsletter essay detailed God’s divine retribution, saying to the Associated Press that he was misinterpreted. However, he admitted that he had attempted to draw a correlation between recent natural disasters and what he termed the “spiritual pollution” man was creating.
The revelation of this promotion comes just days after the Pope’s decision to revoke the excommunication of one ‘rehabilitated’ priest Richard Williamson, a British member of the Society of Pius X and a man who has denied that the true extent of the Holocaust, an action which has caused the chief Rabbinate of Israel to temporarily break off connections with the Vatican in protest, and also for many Catholics to call for Pope Benedict to “clarify” his thoughts on the pardon. This promotion of the ultra-conservative, homophobic priest Wagner also occurs barely a month after the Pope’s own remarks that the threat of homosexuality was just as grave as that of climate change.
Liberal Catholics around the world have voiced their concern at what they see as the Pope’s clear intent to steer toward an extremely strict interpretation of the faith.
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