For anyone who has been bored to death listening to Sunday sermons from pastors who seemingly have no imagination when it comes to preaching to their congregants each week, pay attention to the name James Altman – “Father” James Altman, that is, the priest from St. James the Less parish in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
This is a man who has had, and continues to have, the courage to speak what he believes is important for the salvation of his parishioners, despite the waves it may cause.
He has not only made waves, he’s caused a tsunami of reaction that is reverberating through the Catholic Church.
What did he do?
Everything hit the fan after the sermon he presented to his parish last fall. He stated his beliefs, and the parishioners gave him a standing ovation! His reaction to that, as he explained to John-Henry Westen of LifeSite News: “The faithful know one thing above all: that I love my people, and I will feed my people in word and in sacrament.”
What caused the uproar can been seen and heard in his 10-minute video, “You can’t be a Catholic and a Democrat.” He calls that a “no-brainer” and asserts that the church bishops and leaders must recognize that for their own personal integrity and that “any shepherd who doesn’t say that [should] get out of the Catholic Church.”
Father Altman wasted no words in his criticism of the Democratic platform concerning abortion: “There will be 60 million aborted babies standing at the gates of Heaven barring your entrance.”
“Here’s a memo for clueless, baptized Catholics out there: you cannot be a Catholic and be a Democrat, period. Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches, especially its teaching that abortion is a ‘moral evil.'”
Hello, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and so many others.
As a result of that sermon, Father Altman is castigated as a “right-wing priest” – and he has given his critics more ammunition with his criticisms of the COVID vaccines, the shutting down of churches and denying the sacraments during the pandemic, plus his other opinions concerning the DACA program giving citizenship to illegal aliens.
Clearly, he is not afraid of controversy, and he is a man who stands by his opinions.
And, clearly, his views have garnered worldwide interest. It’s estimated that the videos of his sermons have been seen by at least 1.5 million viewers.
Not surprisingly, his words have gotten him into trouble with his bishop, William P. Callahan, who first threatened canonical penalties and now has responded by dismissing him from his parish and asked for his official resignation for being “divisive and ineffective.”
Unsurprisingly, Father Altman is refusing and will fight the accusations.
As he told his parishioners, “I regret to inform you, they want my head on a platter. They want my head now for speaking the truth. I apparently have created enemies in the hierarchy.”
That’s got to be the understatement of the year.
Altman is not giving in to the demand to resign. He is working with a canon lawyer who will be pursuing the charges and asking for evidence of them. Father Altman could be removed from regular parish duties until it is settled, but since it would have to go through Rome to be decided, estimates are that it could take more than a year to be resolved.
Not every cleric is against him. The first to speak in his favor when the first sermon got publicity was Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas. His Twitter comment about the current demands:
“Fr. James Altman is in trouble for speaking the truth. 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.”
LifeSite quoted Michael Hichborn, president of the Lepanto Institute: “Fr. Altman is showing priests EVRYWHERE what it means to be a MAN of God! It means putting everything on the line and being willing to suffer whatever comes in the face of witnessing to the Truth.
“These godless, gutless bishops … say nothing about the filth infesting the Church or those pushing it … but they hamstring, hang, draw and quarter good Priests who dare to give spiritual and moral truth to feed their flocks!”
Donations are being made to a fund to help him Altman with his legal expenses – canon lawyers are not inexpensive. The priest says any monies beyond those needs will be donated to organizations that support life.
It’s not often that we hear of a person who has strong beliefs that go against the common tide. When that person is a man of the cloth, especially in the Catholic Church, and he has the courage to speak out regardless of the toes he steps on, I admit, I’m filled with admiration for him and a bit envious of his parishioners.
Looking back on the numbing effect Vatican II has had on Catholic worship over the years, Father James Altman has brought fresh air into the church, and for that, I thank him.
This article was originally published by the WND News Center.