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A Catholic Pat Robertson? Fr Wagner and Haiti

Where American Evangelicals have Pat Robertson who blames earthquakes, hurricanes et al on Divine displeasure, European Catholics have Fr Gerhard Wagner, (the-man-who-was-almost-auxiliary-bishop-of-Linz).

After last month’s terrifying earthquake devastated Haiti and killed over 150000 people, Mr Robertson said the country was cursed for having entered into a pact with the Devil. Fr Wagner first caught the international media’s attention in January last year when he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Linz, for suggesting that it was no coincidence that Hurricane Katrina destroyed five abortion clinics and countless nightclubs. This Sunday he told the Austrian weekly Der Kurier that while he couldn’t judge whether the Haitian earthquake was an act of a vengeful God, but that it was interesting to note that 90 per cent of Haitians practice voodo.

Here is what was said on the matter (my translation):

Der Kurier: You have said that the noticable accumulation of natural catastrophes could be the consequence of a spiritual pollution…
Fr Wagner: …No, let’s leave that out. You’re surely alluding to Haiti aren’t you?
Der Kurier:Exactly.
Fr Wagner: I firmly believe: That it is a very great tragedy that must give one pain.
Der Kurier:Was there no vengeful God working there?
Fr Wagner: That I do not know. God does not let us look at his cards. But it is interesting that in Haiti 90 per cent [of the population] are adherents to Voodoo cults.

The diocese of Linz, which has been, in recent times, rapid to repudiate Fr Wagner’s remarks to the press, released a statement by the Vicar General. Fr Severin Lederhilger argued against Fr Wagner’s interpretation of events saying that natural events and morality operate on two different planes.

Fr Severin Lederhilger: “Today’s theology regards it as totally inappropriate and irresponsible to interpret natural disasters as God’s punishment for the immoral behavior of the victims”.

On an interesting side-note, the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) predicted in 2005 that Fr Lederhilger would become the bishop of Linz, Ludwig Schwarz’s new auxiliary. Instead, in 2009, Fr Wagner was chosen, but having accepted the post, resigned it before he was ordained bishop in the wake of a media storm.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn’s Archdiocese of Vienna was also quick to distance itself from Fr Wagner’s remarks.

Hat tip to Christopher Gillibrand over at Cathcon whose translation I used for Fr Lederhilger’s comments, and who got there first.

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