A Wisconsin priest who attracted national controversy for telling Catholics to reject the Democratic Party because of its radical pro-abortion stance has been removed from ministry.
On Friday, the Diocese of La Crosse announced a decree from Bishop William Callahan for the removal of Father James Altman, the Catholic News Agency reports.
“The obligation of a bishop is to ensure that all who serve the faithful are able to do so while unifying and building the Body of Christ,” the diocese said in a statement. “Bishop William Patrick Callahan, in accordance with the norms of canon law, has issued a decree for the removal of Fr. James Altman as pastor of St. James the Less Parish.”
In May, Altman told his parishioners that Callahan accused him of being “divisive and ineffective” and asked him to resign. At the time, Altman said he obtained a canon lawyer to challenge the request.
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In its statement Friday, the diocese said Callahan and other leaders “spent over a year, prayerfully and fraternally, working toward a resolution related to ongoing public and ecclesial concerns.”
Callahan’s decree is effective immediately, and the diocese said the decision will continue until Altman decides to resolve the problems. It encouraged him to seek out a 30-day retreat to “spiritually heal and recharge and to address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.”
Under the decree, Altman is prohibited from preaching, baptizing, celebrating Mass publicly and performing marriages. It also requires him to meet with a clergy member once a month and continue to live in the diocese.
“The bishop and all the leadership of the diocese asks for the consideration of respect, safety and prayers at this time for all involved,” the diocese said.
In May, Altman pushed back against claims about being divisive in a message to his congregation.
“Why is anyone accusing me of being divisive as if that’s a bad thing?” he asked parishioners. “If we know that the truth divides exactly as Jesus says, why is any good Catholic complaining about me being divisive? … As a matter of fact good Catholics from around the world have been very supportive. Unfortunately in our cancel culture, if the left whines enough, they want to cancel me.”
Ahead of the presidential election last year, Altman made some strong, controversial statements about Catholics’ role in politics in America.
In a video that drew national attention, the priest insisted that Catholics cannot vote for Democrats because of the party’s radical pro-abortion stance. He faulted “gutless cowards in the clergy” for failing to teach Catholics the truth about God and the value of every human life.
“There will be 60 million and counting aborted babies standing at the gates of heaven barring your Democrat entrance, and nothing you can say will ever excuse you for your direct or indirect support of that diabolical agenda here in the end,” Altman said.
The video has more than 1.2 million views on YouTube.
He also faced criticism for recent comments about the COVID-19 vaccines, racism, women, President Joe Biden and Catholic bishops, according to CNA.
Here’s more from the report:
[In an April interview] Fr. Altman called President Joe Biden “kind of demented.”
In a radio interview that aired March 24 on The Station of the Cross program “The Simple Truth,” Fr. Altman referred to supporters of abortion as “vermin baby-killers.” …
The parish bulletin at St. James the Less has also called COVID-19 vaccines “experimental” and warned parishioners not to be a “guinea pig.”
A message to parishioners, published in the parish bulletin on April 18 and reported by Madison.com on April 26, called each of the three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States “experimental” and “NOT a vaccine.”
Last year, Altman said “Baloney!” to the people who accuse him of being too political. He said politics fundamentally should be a moral enterprise, and Catholics have a “duty and obligation to speak up” when politicians act immorally.
“The problem in the world today, as it was in Noah’s day … is that there are way too many people who don’t know the first thing about Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” he said at the time. “So truth be told, they do not love Him. And so we can see in the many godless politicians out there … they most definitely are not serving Him. They are not fulfilling their purpose in life to know, to love and to serve God.”
In May, Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas defended Altman in a post on Twitter.
“Fr. James Altman is in trouble for speaking the truth,” Strickland wrote. “I originally supported him when he spoke bold truth during the election. I continue to support him for speaking the truth in Jesus Christ. He inspires many to keep the faith during these dark days. Let us pray for him.”