VIENNA, Austria -- Pope Benedict XVI, who has come under fire for lifting the excommunication of a Holocaust denier, has named a controversial ultra-conservative priest as auxiliary bishop in Linz, the Austrian Church announced Saturday.
Gerhard Maria Wagner, 54, the rector of Windischgarsten parish, first gained notice in 2001 when he described J. K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter novels -- which take place in a witchcraft and wizardry school -- as "satanism" and warned against the magical spells and formulas used in the novels.
After the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, he again commented: "It's no coincidence that in New Orleans all five abortion clinics as well as night clubs were destroyed."
And he asked: "Is the noticeable rise in natural disasters a consequence of environmental pollution or rather of spiritual pollution?"
Wagner's nomination, which was welcomed by the bishop of Linz, comes a week after Pope Benedict cancelled the excommunication of four bishops ordained in 1998 by the controversial French bishop Marcel Lefebvre.
The decision, which included Richard Williamson, an English bishop who is on record as denying the existence of gas chambers during the Nazi Holocaust, drew widespread criticism from Jews and Catholics alike.
The official announcement of Wagner's nomination will be made at the Vatican on Wednesday, ahead of his consecration in Linz on March 22.