An openly gay Episcopal bishop has caused a stir among Catholics for criticizing Pope Benedict XVI and suggesting that frustrated Catholics could find a new home in the badly divided Episcopal Church.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose election in 2003 now threatens to split the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, denied accusations that he was trying to lure Catholics out of their churches.

"We are seeing so many Roman Catholics joining the [Episcopal] Church, Pope Ratzinger may be the best thing that ever happened to the Episcopal Church," Robinson said Sunday in London, referring to pope's previous name.

In a Monday interview, Robinson said many Catholics joined the Episcopal Church when the conservative new pope was elected last spring.

"They were hanging on until the new pope was elected and when they elected this man, they threw up their hands" and left the Catholic Church, Robinson said from Philadelphia.

Robinson said his remarks were prompted by an audience member who is Catholic and asked for advice about how he could remain a Catholic despite church teaching that describes homosexuality as "objectively disordered."

Sunday's salvo was not the first time the two men had crossed swords. After Robinson's election in 2003, Benedict -- then known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- sent an unusual message of "fraternal regard" to Robinson's opponents who were meeting in Dallas.

Some Catholics, meanwhile, urged Robinson to focus on problems in his own church rather than meddle in Catholic disputes. Bill Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League, called Robinson a "walking embarrassment to Episcopalians everywhere."