Pope Benedict's anti-gay choice to
auxiliary bishop in Linz, Austria has reportedly declined the
The BBC is reporting that Rev. Gerhard
Maria Wagner was persuaded to decline after “fierce criticism.”
Wagner, 54, said in 2005 that Hurricane
Katrina was God's punishment for the sins of New Orleans. He
specifically called attention to the city's annual gay pride
parade, Southern Decadence, scheduled to take
place several days after the storm.
Kath.net, the Austrian Catholic news
agency, released passages it says are comments Wagner made in a
Wagner said the “gate's of the city
were wide open to celebrate sin” in reference to the annual gay
event. He said he was glad that the hurricane destroyed not only the
nightclubs and brothels in the city, but also five abortion clinics.
Ironically, the French Quarter, where
the gay parade was scheduled to take place, was spared
He called Katrina “divine
retribution” for New Orleans' tolerance of gays and lesbians.
“The conditions of immorality in this
city are indescribable,” the news agency quoted him saying.
The debate over Wagner has come on the
heels of a controversy over the Pope's rehabilitation of Richard
Williams, who has said he does not believe there had been Nazi gas
chambers in Germany. Williamson, along with three other members of
the Society of Pius X, a group of
ultra-conservative Catholics, had his 20-year excommunication
lifted by the Pope. Williams has yet to recant his views, despite
coming under pressure to do so by the Vatican.
Wagner has also been under pressure;
last week, 31 of the 39 deans of the Linz diocese backed a
declaration of no confidence.
“Regarding the fierce criticism, I am
in prayer,” Wagner said in a statement on Sunday, “and after
consulting the diocesan bishop, I have decided to ask the Holy Father
in Rome to take back my promotion as auxiliary bishop.”
Wagner, who received a doctorate in
theology from the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, has tended
to the spiritual needs of parishioners in the Austrian town of
Windischgarsten since 1988.
The Pope's campaign against the
acceptance of gays and lesbians has steadily grown louder. Recently,
he spoke via broadcast at an anti-gay marriage rally in Spain. Spain
granted gays and lesbians the right to marry in 2005.