Pope Benedict's anti-gay choice to auxiliary bishop in Linz, Austria has reportedly declined the appointment.

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 parish newsletter.

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 major damage.

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.