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Katrina 'divine retribution' pastor promoted

An Austrian pastor who has been quoted as calling Hurricane Katrina God's punishment for sin in New Orleans is being promoted to the rank of bishop.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An Austrian pastor who has been quoted as calling Hurricane Katrina God's punishment for sin in New Orleans is being promoted to the rank of bishop.

The Vatican announced Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI has tapped the Rev. Gerhard Wagner, 54, to be auxiliary bishop in Linz, Austria. It made no mention of the reported remarks about Hurricane Katrina.

Wagner has served since 1988 as pastor of a church in the Austrian town of Windischgarsten and received a doctorate in theology from the prestigious Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, the Vatican said.

In 2005, Wagner was quoted in a parish newsletter as saying that he was convinced that the death and destruction of Hurricane Katrina earlier that year was "divine retribution" for New Orleans' tolerance of homosexuals and laid-back sexual attitudes.

Kath.Net, a Catholic news agency in Austria, released in 2005 excerpts of what it said were comments Wagner made in a parish newsletter in Linz about Katrina.

It said the newsletter quoted Wagner as saying that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also abortion clinics.

"The conditions of immorality in this city are indescribable," Wagner was quoted as saying.