Just a week after Pope Benedict made the decision to bring holocaust-denier Bishop Richard Williamson and his ultra-conservative bishop friends back into the fold, Pope Benedict elevated Father Gerhard Maria Wagner to auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Linz, Austria.
Now, if you thought Williamson’s assertions on the Holocaust sounded crazy, just wait until you hear what Wagner has to say on everything from Hurricane Katrina to Harry Potter.
Wagner has stated that Hurrican Katrina was “divine retribution” for tolerance of homosexuality and alternative sexuality. Wagner stated, “”The conditions of immorality in this city are indescribable” and went on to suggest that it was a good thing for the hurricane to wipe out brothels, nightclubs, and abortion clinics.
Not only has Wagner condemned the rich culture of New Orleans, he also has condemned the world-famous Harry Potter series, which he has characterized as satanic.
Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn—a conservative himself—has called a crisis session for the Austrian Catholic Church to be convened on Monday. Austrian Press Agency reported that four times as many Catholics have quit the Church in Linz this year as compared to early 2008. And, on Tuesday, 31 of 39 senior priests of Linz passed a declaration of “no confidence” in Wagner.
Schoenborn’s spokesperson Erich Leitenberger pointed to the bad timing of this appointment and the un-excommunication of the Bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X. He stated:
“The proximity of those two events has for some people created the impression there was a masterplan, that the Church wanted to roll back the Second Vatican Council…This is of course nonsense.”
Is it nonsense? The pope is not unintelligent—and decisions to elevate a priest to bishop or un-excommunicate a group of bishops are (or, at least, should be) well thought out, planned and timed.
Nonetheless, for many in Linz and around the world, the elevation of Bishop Wagner is strike two for Pope Benedict.