A conservative Catholic priest who railed about lockdowns and denounced Catholic Democrats for supporting abortion has been removed from his duties as pastor.
Bishop William Callahan, head of the Diocese of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, announced last week that Fr. James Altman would no longer perform his priestly duties as pastor of St. James the Less Catholic Church in LaCrosse because he is overly divisive.
As The Free Press reported in May, Callahan had asked Altman to resign, and Altman had refused, saying more liberal forces in the church wanted to scapegoat him for speaking the truth about what he called the “feardemic,” as well as his criticism of the Catholic Church for facilitating lockdowns, and denying parishioners the sacraments.
At Sunday’s Mass, Monsignor Robert Hundt read a letter from Callahan to Altman’s former parishioners. It began by quoting Proverbs 3: 5, 6, which references trusting in God and “lean not on your own understanding.”
Callahan said in the letter that his “obligation” was to ensure that priests who serve the faithful do so while “unifying and building the Body of Christ.”
“Instead of working for all souls, the actions and words of Fr. Altman have caused great division within the parish, the diocese, and the universal church,” said Callahan, explaining the decree he handed down on Wednesday to remove Altman.
Callahan added that he acknowledged that many of Altman’s flock may have difficulty understanding why he took this step. “But it is important for each of us, as individual parishioners and as an entire diocese, to come together in an effort not to cause further division and scandal,” Callahan said.
Callahan said that “unity” would be the work of the Holy Spirit and that unity and hope would be found in celebrating the Eucharist.
Callahan added that he would support the parish in this time of “healing and renewal.”
Altman, in his own statement, said he would continue to appeal. A crowdfunded legal defense fund set up on his behalf had raised more than $722,000 as of last week, local media reported.
In a brief message read to the parish on his behalf, Altman noted that during the past 15 months his church had lost 14 families, but had added 50. He called that “an amazing show of effectiveness.”
Throughout the pandemic, Altman had been intensely critical of church leaders for ceding authority to government officials and closing parishes and denying their parishioners sacraments such as baptisms, confession, and last rites – even as abortion clinics, liquor stores, and Walmarts remained open.
In his last message to his parish, read by one of his supporters, he again noted that bishops had “totally abandoned” their “flocks” during the pandemic – and not once had any other bishop, except for Bishop Joseph Strickland in Texas, spoken out.
In that message, Altman also continued bash bishops who had stayed silent during the sex scandals that have cost the Catholic Church $4 billion in settlements over the past two decades, and he noted that during a more recent debate over whether to give communion to Democratic pols who are Catholic, a quarter of them still seem fine with giving communion to “pro-abort, fake Catholics.”
He also lamented that “hundreds” of “faithful priests” have been silenced.
“Enough is enough,” Altman said. “The reign of terror is coming to an end.”
Altman last fall posted a 10-minute video in which he said Catholics cannot be Democrats primarily because of the party’s support for abortion. That video has garnered 1.3 million views as of Sunday.
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