By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

VATICAN, February 2, 2009 ( – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner as the new auxiliary bishop of the ultra-liberal Diocese of Linz in Upper Austria.

Fr. Wagner, who is currently parish priest at Windischgarsten in Austria, is well known for his doctrinal orthodoxy and faithfulness to the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church). After his installation on March 22 he is expected by some to deal with issues in the diocese that Deacon Keith A. Fournier of Catholic Online described as “a center of almost every heretical and heterodox tendency within the European Catholic Church.”

Fr. Wagner gained both notoriety and praise from conservative quarters, for his controversial statements in defense of the Church and his warnings about cultural phenomena like the Harry Potter book series, and even natural phenomena like hurricane Katrina. In a parish newsletter he posed the question of whether the “noticeable” increase of natural disasters such as Katrina was a result of pollution caused by humans or the result of “spiritual pollution.”

The mainstream media reported this as an indictment of New Orleans’ moral permissiveness by Fr. Wagner and misreported his essay as a suggestion of divine retribution.

Fr. Wagner told the Associated Press he had “never talked about divine retribution” as such and described his parish newsletter essay as an effort to elicit thought and discussion about the connections between events.

The Bishop-elect is in good company in his condemnation of Harry Potter, joining not only critics like Michael D. O’Brien and Gabriele Kuby, who have written extensively about the dangers presented by the books to young minds, but also the Vatican’s chief exorcist, Rev. Gabriele Amorth, who said of the books, “You start off with Harry Potter, who comes across as a likeable wizard, but you end up with the Devil. There is no doubt that the signature of the Prince of Darkness is clearly within these books.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to his elevation to the Pontificate, denounced the Harry Potter series in a letter to German Potter critic Gabriele Kuby, where he praised her effort to expose the spiritual dangers of the series in her book, “Harry Potter – gut oder böse” (Harry Potter- good or evil?).

In the letter, then-Cardinal Ratzinger specifically pointed to the fact that the danger in the Potter books is hidden, and this was of great concern to him. “It is good that you shed light and inform us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle seductions that are barely noticeable and precisely because of that deeply affect (children) and corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it (the Faith) could properly grow,” said Cardinal Ratzinger.

See Related Links:

Watch a German language interview with Bishop-Elect Wagner discussing his appointment:

See previous coverage:

Read Michael O’Brien’s essay analyzing the Potter series:

See the Harry Potter controversy page:


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