Gerhard Maria Wagner

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This article is about the Austrian Catholic priest Gerhard Maria Wagner. For other people of the same name, see Gerhard Wagner (disambiguation).

Gerhard Maria Wagner — born 1954 July 17, Wartberg ob der Aist, Austria[1]— is a catholic priest who was appointed auxiliary bishop of Linz, Austria, by Pope Benedict XVI on 2009 January 31. Amidst controversy over his views that sin caused Hurricane Katrina, Wagner resigned on 2009 February 15.[2]

Wagner had already become widely known in the world press for his 2005 comment attributing Hurricane Katrina to God's ire toward the sins of New Orleans.[3] James Gill, columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, satirically called for the Pope next to elevate Wagner as Archbishop of New Orleans after protests from Roman Catholics in three New Orleans congregations over the merging of their churches by aging Archbishop Alfred Clifton Hughes.[4] The churches had been depopulated in part by out-migration resulting from Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, two months after Gill's writing, Hughes was engaged in encouraging the University of Notre Dame to disembark from plans to host President Barack Obama, a supporter of abortion, as commencement speaker,[5] and within days of Hughes' announcement of opposition to Obama's appearance the Times-Picayune published a letter to the editor urging that Hughes should instead have complained to the Pope about the short-lived appointment of Wagner to be auxiliary bishop of Linz.[6]

Wagner's appointment as auxiliary bishop was met with controversy among Austrian Roman Catholics, with Linz Diocese Bishop Ludwig Schwarz supportive, an informal group of priests led by Upper Austria church dean Franz Wild opposed, and Graz-Seckau Diocese Bishop Egon Kapellari optimistic that the "crisis" would be overcome by "good will" from both supporters and opponents.[7]

Two weeks after his appointment Wagner requested its revocation because of the widespread criticism.[8] In those 2 weeks the number of people leaving the Church had quadrupled in his Linz congregation, with similar or even higher numbers in the neighbouring communities, many of the ex-parishioners naming Wagner's appointment as the reason for their departure.[9] The Times-Picayune reported Wagner's announcement in an Associated Press article concluding with a comparison between the Wagner situation and that surrounding the Holy See's decision to lift the excommunication of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, particularly Holocaust-denier Richard Williamson.[10] The Vatican formally accepted the resignation and dispensed Wagner from his appointment on 2 March 2009.[11]


  1. ^ Gerhard Wagner ist neuer Weihbischof für Linz.
  2. ^ Wagner had also made other newsworthy statements, such as alleging that the Harry Potter novels partake of satanism. (Controversial Austrian priest now a bishop.)
  3. ^ Cleric whose Katrina comment caused stir promoted; Veronika Oleksyn, Wagner appointment in Huffington Post.
  4. ^ Gill, "Holy Nutcase!" (Times-Picayune, 2009 February 4, p. B7).
  5. ^ Bruce Nolan, "Hughes raps college over Obama honor" in Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2009 April 3, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. A1, A4 (web version = N.O. Archbishop criticizes Notre Dame for inviting Obama to speak at commencement).
  6. ^ H. Bruce Shreves, Archbishop's outrage needed closer to home, Times-Picayune, 2009 April 10, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B6.
  7. ^ Veronika Oleksyn, "Priests protest pope's bishop choice" in Times-Picayune, 2009 February 12, Saint Tammany Edition, p. A11 (web version = "Austria: Priests criticize pope's bishop pick").
  8. ^ Papst um Rücknahme der Ernennung ersucht.
  9. ^ Hunderte Kirchenaustritte in Oberösterreich.
  10. ^ Eric Willemsen, "Austrian pastor cedes promotion" in Times-Picayune, 2009 February 16, Metro Edition, p. A3 ("Austria: 'Katrina' pastor giving up promotion").
  11. ^ Dispensa del santo padre; Alessandra Rizzo, "Pope rescinds 'Katrina' pastor's promotion" in Times-Picayune, 2009 March 3, Saint Tammany Edition, p. A8 (web version = Pope rescinds promotion of 'Katrina' pastor).