Austrian Church In Uproar

Austrian Catholicism is in turmoil because Pope Benedict attempted to name Fr. Gerhard Wagner as auxiliary bishop in Linz.  In 2005, Wagner said Hurricane Katrina was an act of God punishing New Orleans for its sins. Wagner also condemned the Harry Potter books as satanic, said homosexuality was curable, and ruled out lay participation in Church affairs. An unnamed member of the Curia reportedly told Austrian churchmen that Fr. Wagner was Pope Benedict's “personal choice,” overlooking the three names submitted by Austrian leaders as possible candidates.  The appointment came one week after the Pope readmitted arch-traditionalist and Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson.

After a widespread outcry including a vote of no confidence by 31 of the 39 deans (senior priests) of the Linz diocese, Wagner asked the Pope to withdraw his nomination.  The Vatican immediately did so.  The Austrian Press Agency reported that four times as many Catholics have officially quit the Church in Linz so far this year as in early 2008.  Departures have also been running higher than usual in Vienna, Salzburg, Tyrol and Lower Austria.

(The Tablet 2/7/09 and Catholic News Agency 2/16/09)


Focus on FutureChurch

Winter 2009


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