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Miter over mind

February 3, 2009 | 12:00 pm

Pope_benedict_xvi Pope Benedict XVI’s rehabilitation of four extreme traditionalist bishops –- including a Holocaust denier -– is tarnishing the pontiff's image even, or perhaps especially, in his native Germany. But Bishop Richard Williamson isn’t the only beneficiary of the pope’s favor to cause a PR firestorm.

The pope has named as an auxiliary bishop in Austria the conservative Rev. Gerhard Maria Wagner, who has speculated that Hurricane Katrina was related to the Big Easy’s licentiousness. “This was not the sinking of just any city but that of a people's dream city with the 'best brothels and prettiest prostitutes,'" the new bishop said, claiming later that he wasn’t speaking of “divine retribution.”

Shades of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who blamed 9/11 on abortionists, gays, feminists, federal judges and the ACLU. Catholics used to pride themselves on the sophistication of their clergy compared to wacky televangelists and bigoted Bible-thumpers. That will change if the pope keeps blessing bishops like Williamson and Wagner.

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