According to Austrian news sources, the Vatican on Monday accepted Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner’s request to rescind his nomination as Auxiliary Bishop of Linz, Austria, "in the interest of and for the benefit of the diocese" and to "avoid further division in the Church."
Fr. Wagner became the center of a controversy when he suggested that God punished New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina because of the city’s sins. But many analysts believe his faux pas was used to block him from becoming a bishop because his traditional views on doctrinal and liturgical matters run contrary to the Austrian Church establishment.
The 54-year-old Wagner told the Austrian press that "regarding the fierce criticism, I am praying and after consulting the diocesan bishop I have decided to ask the Holy Father in Rome to take back my promotion as auxiliary bishop."
He also said that the reaction among Austrian Catholics to his appointment would have made his ministry almost impossible.
The announcement of Wagner as Auxiliary Bishop-elect of Austria's third largest city on January 31 sparked a wave of protests. The outcry was not limited to the laity, with 30 out of the 39 pastors of Linz promising to boycott his Episcopal ordination. Consequently, the Austrian Bishops' Conference called for an urgent meeting on Monday to discuss the situation created by Wagner's appointment.
On Monday, the official Austrian Catholic Agency Kathpress confirmed, quoting unnamed sources from the Vatican, that Wagner's request had been "accepted."