Laun adamant over ‘sinful’ Love Parade

A controversial Catholic bishop has claimed he was “misinterpreted” after branding the Love Parade stampede “God’s punishment” – but stressed he would still regard the event a “sin”.Salzburg Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun today (Mon) accused media of misinterpreting his statements made in a blog on a Catholic website last week.Laun said: “Love Parade equals sin equals misfortune equals punishment by God” on Friday – to the fury of relatives of the 21 people killed and more than 500 wounded in the mass event held in Duisburg, Germany, last month.Now the infamously conservative cleric explained: “I also do think that we must not judge other people’s destiny in the way only God is allowed to.”Laun however stressed he would not withdraw describing the Love Parade – a world famous series of music festivals – a “revolt against God’s Creation” and a “sin”.In his text published last Friday, Laun also said the Love Parade’s “display” was “sickening”.The auxiliary bishop recently had his column in a Catholic newspaper scrapped over various controversial statements.Meanwhile, organisers of an upcoming Vienna techno music event have come under fire for trying to avoid strict security standards by declaring the gathering a “demonstration”.Reports have it that the 14 August “Streetparade” was registered with local police and political decision-makers as a “demonstration for peace and an open-minded Vienna” – allegedly in bid to dodge presenting a detailed safety concept including escape routes and hired security personnel.Police, who gave the go-ahead last week, said they expected between 5,000 and 200,000 people to turn up depending on the weather.Laun’s controversial comments about the July 2010 edition of the Love Parade come on the heels of an Upper Austrian priest labelling last January’s earthquake in Haiti as “God’s punishment of human sin”.Gerhard Maria Wagner, the ultra-conservative priest of Windischgarsten, claimed natural disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis and were acts of God. Wagner claimed the massive Haiti quake was God’s penalty since “nine in ten people living there believe in voodoo”.He hit the headlines last year for branding the bestselling “Harry Potter” book series by Joanne K. Rowling a “work of Satan” and for calling homosexuality a “curable disease”.Wagner was nominated by Pope Benedict XVI to become auxiliary bishop of Linz Diocese, but eventually announced he had decided to stay at his local parish as thousands of Austrian Catholics expressed their anger over the internet and in various other ways.More Austrians than ever in history are expected to leave the Roman Catholic Church this year after official figures show 30,004 people left the Church in the first three months of this year, up by 42 per cent compared to the same period in 2009 when more people than ever cancelled their “membership”.The domestic Catholic Church suffered a record exodus last year as 53,216 people left the Church.The Church’s image not only suffered under statements by conservative clerics such as Laun and Wagner, but also by revelations that around 1,000 people come forward to report how they were beaten or verbally or sexually abused by clergy and staff at Catholic boarding schools and other institutions ran by the Church over the past few decades.Victims’ commissions are currently engaged in intensive negotiations with Catholic Church representatives over compensation payments.