Sydney, Australia - Lay Catholics have claimed the Pope is "ruining" a Church which is now a corrupt "sect".
Herbert Kohlmaier, the head of the Catholic lay initiative, today (Tues) launched a stinging attack on the Church following controversial comments by ultra-conservative Pastor Gerhard Maria Wagner over the Haiti earthquake which have caused public outrage.
In an interview in Oberösterreichische Nachrichten he said that the Wagner affair was only the tip of the iceberg and that Pope Benedict XVI was "ruining" the Church by trying to lead it back into the past.
Kohlmaier claimed Wagner’s behaviour only symbolised the "unbearable situation" of the Church.
The Pope’s attempt to make Wagner auxiliary bishop of Linz last year had only shown that "the Roman Catholic system is corrupt and completely off-key", he said.
He added: "The Catholic Church is an absolutist system run by people out of contact with the world." And he also claimed it had gone from being a people’s church to a "big sect".
Wagner had sparked outrage with comments when asked by the newspaper Kurier if the Haitian earthquake had been God’s punishment of human sin.
He told the paper in its edition on Sunday: "I do not know, but it is interesting that 90 per cent of Haitians belong to the cult of voodoo."
Wagner, a pastor in Windischgarsten, Upper Austria, had previously claimed that Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the tsunami in Southeast Asia had been God’s punishment of human sin.
Erich Leitenberger, the Vienna archdiocese’s press spokesman, today called Wagner’s comments "colossal nonsense."
Linz General Vicar Severin Lederhilger reacted quickly following Wagner’s comments and said on Sunday that contemporary Catholic theological teaching held that it was "completely inappropriate and unacceptable" to call natural catastrophes "God’s punishment" of the immoral behaviour of victims, according to Catholic press agency Kathpress.
The vicar said it was a "cynical and fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible" to claim such catastrophes were "a punishment by God the creator".
Wagner made headlines last year when he was nominated as Linz’s auxiliary bishop by Pope Benedict XVI. The news was greeted with public outcry because of the pastor’s conservative views and controversial comments and the nomination was later withdrawn.
The ultra-conservative priest has in the past labelled the Harry Potter books "the work of Satan" and claimed homosexuality was "curable."
Meanwhile, the Red Cross, Caritas, CARE charity, Licht für die Welt and the Agriculture Chamber have set up accounts for donations to help Haiti earthquake victims.