Catholic priest who held masses in defiance of COVID restrictions asked to step down
Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
- A Catholic priest who preached against the Democratic Party’s progressive policies and held Masses in defiance of coronavirus restrictions has been asked to step down by his bishop.
- A fund set up to defend the priest — with a goal of $20,000 — raised $209,025 as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
- “What really is at play here, dear family, is that other shepherds are offended that I simply state the fact that they have abandoned their sheep in a time of need,” Fr. Altman said. “As you’ve heard me say so many times, if this alleged virus was allegedly a fraction as dangerous as they said it was, all the more reason to keep our churches open and get you the sacraments so you stay in a state of grace.”
A Catholic priest who preached against the Democratic Party’s progressive policies and held Masses in defiance of coronavirus restrictions has been asked to step down by his bishop.
Fr. James Altman announced that the bishop had asked him to step down during Mass Sunday, where he said that Bishop William Callahan of the Diocese of La Crosse accused him of being both ineffective and divisive, the Federalist reported. The priest, who said he does not intend to resign, will appeal the bishop’s decision to the Vatican and has retained a canon law attorney, the publication reported.
Callahan spokesman Jack Felsheim did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation, but the Diocese of La Crosse issued a statement Tuesday saying that “attempts” were unsuccessfully made to “allow Fr. Altman the opportunity to respond to fraternal correction.”
“It is important to note that this is not a penal remedy but a pastoral remedy,” the statement, printed in the La Crosse Tribune, said. “Bishop Callahan asks for your prayers for Fr. Altman, for the congregation of St. James, and the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and beyond.”
“While any change made to the ministry of a pastor is difficult, it is done with the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the Body of Christ for a positive outcome,” the statement said.
A fund set up to defend the priest —with a goal of $20,000 — had raised over $209,025 as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Altman, whose viral sermons are often posted online, has repeatedly criticized the Democratic party for its support of abortion, gay marriage and transgender policies, according to the Federalist, warning that “you cannot be Catholic and Democrat.” The priest has also criticized Catholic clergy failing to properly educate the faithful on unchanged Catholic teachings and for shutting down churches throughout the pandemic.
“For the record,” Altman said in his sermon Sunday, “through my efforts at preaching the truth, somehow — very unintended — the truth has gone ‘viral’ over the past 11 months and people all over the globe, as far away as Borneo, [Italy] have written over 4,000 letters and cards — more than that in emails — all saying the same thing: ‘We’re starving out here.’”
The priest said that his parish, St. James the Less Catholic Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has not only already matched their parish giving from last year but has also more than doubled their Mass collections, the Federalist reported. The parish has also almost doubled donations to the diocese’s appeal since Altman took over in 2017, and raised $230,000 from outside contributions since Altman began receiving international attention, according to the publication.
“What really is at play here, dear family, is that other shepherds are offended that I simply state the fact that they have abandoned their sheep in a time of need,” Altman said Sunday.
“As you’ve heard me say so many times, if this alleged virus was allegedly a fraction as dangerous as they said it was, all the more reason to keep our churches open and get you the sacraments so you stay in a state of grace,” he added.
On a Facebook page dedicated to the “Friends of Father James Altman,” the priests’ fans and friends expressed sorrow and fear over news that he may be removed.
“I cannot picture that podium at St. James the Less Church without Fr. Altman,” one Facebook user posted in the group. “Woe to you Bishop William Callahan and all you other wolves in shepherd’s clothing.”
“Let’s raise an obscene amount of money for Father Altman,” another person said. “That’s all the bishops understand.”
Another member asked whether anyone knew if there was an online rosary organized so that supporters could “pray for Fr. Altman worldwide.”
“We need to storm Heaven’s door with prayers for him and all faithful Godly priests,” the Facebook user said.
Altman has sparked a backlash by calling Democrats “Godless hypocrites” and reportedly allowing 300-500 parishioners to attend his Easter Sunday church services. The La Crosse Tribune reported that many Easter Sunday church goers at Altman’s parish received communion on the tongue and did not wear masks.
The publication also reported that the parish included a flier in its bulletin calling vaccines “an experimental use of a genetic altering substance that modifies your body — your temple of the Holy Spirit.”
“I do know this: I am not the divisive one, I am not the ineffective one, I am not the one disrespecting my office,” Altman said Sunday, before criticizing progressive Catholic clergy. “They have done a great job of being divisive. They have done a great job of being ineffective; they have done a great job of disrespecting their office all by themselves without any help from me.
“That is why they despise me — because that is the truth, and the truth hurts,” he said. “So, dear family, if I have any words to give you as a gift, perhaps a parting gift on this Pentecost, those words are ‘thank you.’”
Altman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the DCNF.