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October 27, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Some time ago, a friend asked me what I think about Catholic clergy who “went rogue” during the COVID lockdown and continued offering clandestine Masses and so forth, even when “forbidden” to do so by “legitimate authority.” She asked me what I thought of laity who encouraged them, assisted them, and benefited from their ministrations. Is this defensible behavior? Is it even, perhaps, required behavior?

The topic continues to be relevant because the mightily exaggerated threat of COVID-19 is being used in European countries to impose a new wave of restrictions of all kinds, including on religious activities and gatherings. We can expect the new world-managers of panic and fear to milk this crisis for all it’s worth, and to extend it for as long as they possibly can — particularly in populations whose native irascibility has been extracted by decades of socialist conditioning.

I was and continue to be sympathetic with every effort by clergy and laity to circumvent and ignore episcopal diktats that severely limit the sacramental life of the Church when readily available evidence demonstrates that we are living through a situation not unlike other severe flus that have come and gone many times in the past. My thinking on the question stems from a few basic principles.

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PETITION: Stand with the priest who rebuked the Democratic Party and admonished the bishops
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PETITION UPDATE (7/9/2021)

Father James Altman was informed late last week that he has been removed as pastor of St. James the Less parish, and that his priestly faculties have been suspended indefinitely.

Please Click Here to WATCH LifeSite's exclusive interview with Fr. Altman, and Click Here to READ more about this turn of events.

As Bishop William J. Callahan’s decree explains, this means he is forbidden from celebrating “The Holy Eucharist” with any members of the faithful present, except for his elderly parents. He is also “no longer allowed to preach,” administer baptism, or assist at marriages.

Altman said that he wasn’t issued restrictions from hearing Confessions or Anointing of the Sick.

The decree also states that he is to continue to live within the Diocese of LaCrosse, where he has been instructed to meet with the Vicar for Clergy at least once a month, and has been “invited to begin” a month-long “spiritual retreat” to help him to “spiritually heal” and “address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.”

The order states it is in effect as long as “cause” is present, but it does not specify what the cause is. Callahan said he asked Altman to resign on May 23 for being “divisive and ineffective.”

Altman first triggered backlash from his bishop when his video “You cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat. Period” went viral last year. Altman shared that in response to this, his office “got the most vile, despicable phone calls, letters” and “some terrible, really foul messages.”

Callahan criticized Altman at the time for his “manner and tone,” to which Altman countered, “what about the manner and tone of the 10,000 babies that are chopped up last Saturday?”

“What I would hope would always come through no matter what people think about my manner and tone, is that they would recognize that what’s coming through there is God’s love,” Altman told LifeSiteNews. “A love that I recognize because He’s loved me, and I didn’t deserve that.”

“If I seem angry at times, it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with the people. And I asked the question recently, how can they love? If you love, how can you not feed your children?”

In late April, Altman chided the U.S. bishops for needlessly shutting churches and denying the faithful sacraments during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the hierarchy showed “an abundance of cowardice.”

In his interview with LifeSite, Altman alluded to the fact that some don’t like seeing him “upset.”

“I’m thinking well, if you’re denying my child food, the Bread of Life – [Bishop Fulton J. Sheen] said, if you can’t get angry about stuff like that then you can’t love either. Because greater love has greater anger towards those things that are contrary to the salvation of eternal souls, which is the only thing that matters in the end,” said Altman.

"I don’t care what they do to me, honestly, in the end… what troubles me is the interference with the feeding of God’s children, which is through word and through the sacrament. Both of which were denied to people over the past 15 months."

Please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition, and to continue to contact the Diocese of LaCrosse's Chancery Office, to politely voice your opposition to the removal of Fr. Altman from his parish. The Chancery's phone number is: 608-788-7700.

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PETITION UPDATE (5/24/2021) -

Father James Altman, the Wisconsin priest whose video message last fall "You can’t be a Catholic and a Democrat" went viral and who has fearlessly admonished the U.S. bishops for shutting churches and denying the faithful Sacraments during the COVID-19 crisis, announced on Pentecost Sunday that his bishop has asked him to resign for being "divisive and ineffective."

Please CLICK HERE to READ LifeSiteNews' latest article related to Fr. Altman's ongoing persecution, just to continue shepherding his flock.

Bishop William P. Callahan began threatening the outspoken priest with "canonical penalties" in September, even as public support for the priest surged among rank-and-file Catholics around the country and the world.

And now, a group called 'Faithful America' is proudly boasting responsibility for taking down Fr. Altman, but Faithful America are not even a Catholic organization!

Thankfully, Fr. Altman says he is working with a canon lawyer to resolve this matter.

WATCH Fr. Altman's Sunday sermon in which he announces the bishop's decision to ask for his resignation.

"In response my canon lawyer asked for clarification – asked for the justification and a chance to review what was in my file that suggested I was so divisive and ineffective,” explained Altman. “And I say all this only because, I'm no expert on canon law, but understand only that while we are contesting bishop's request — and we are — he could in theory appoint a parish administrator whilst I remain a pastor without duties until the appeal goes through Rome, which could take up to a year or more."

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, offered his support for Altman via Twitter.

Please continue to SIGN and SHARE this petition with your like-minded family and friends.

And, after signing and sharing, please take a minute to contact the LaCrosse Diocese to politely voice your support for Fr. Altman, and against leftist pressure groups like 'Faithful America.' Please ask Bishop Callahan to prayerfully reconsider his decision and allow Fr. Altman to remain as pastor of St. James the Less parish.

The phone number for the diocese office is: 608.788.7700

Thank you!

PETITION UPDATE (9/15/2020) -

Just this past weekend a prayer vigil was held outside the Cathedral in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on behalf of Fr. James Altman, the priest facing Church penalties for saying that you cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat in 2020.

Hundreds of faithful Catholics turn out to pray for Fr. Altman. Though Fr. Altman did use strong language to warn his flock against spiritual perils, what he said about the Democratic Party's platform is true!

Motivated by a deep sense of justice, supporters gathered at the Cathedral to pray for the priest, and for Bishop Callahan to stand by his priest rather than punish him.

"Fr. Altman is a rare breed. He’s a modern-day St. John the Baptist," declared one woman who attended the prayer vigil. "He’s really changed my life and so many others he’s had that impact on. We need more priests who are true shepherds."

Fr. Richard Heilman, who is the founder of the U.S. Grace Force and who was also present to help lead people in prayer during the vigil, had this to say about Fr. Altman: "Bottom line: he loves, loves, loves his flock. And so, like a good shepherd, if he sees the wolves invading, he sounds the warning alarm."

Please consider SIGNING this petition if you have not already signed. And, please SHARE this petition and video with your family, friends and colleagues. Thank you!

If after signing and sharing you wish to make an even greater impact, we encourage you to contact the Diocese of LaCrosse's Chancery Offices to politely let them know that you support Fr. Altman and want to see him continue in his essential ministry.

Diocese of LaCrosse's Chancery Office phone number: 608-788-7700.

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ORIGINAL PETITION TEXT:

Father James Altman, pastor of St. James the Less parish in the Wisconsin Diocese of LaCrosse, has been threatened with canonical punishment by his Bishop, Most Rev. William Patrick Callahan.

Fr. Altman's alleged "offense"?

Stating what every faithful Catholic knows to be true in 2020: "You cannot be a Catholic and a Democrat."

Please SIGN this petition which will go to Bishop Callahan and ask him to stop any canonical proceedings against Fr. Altman.

In a strongly-worded YouTube video, designed to shepherd the faithful out of harm's way (supporting the Democratic Party's evil platform), Fr. Altman states the following:

"Here's a memo to clueless, baptized Catholics out there: You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period. Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches. So, just quit pretending that you're Catholic and vote Democrat. Repent of your support of that party and its platform, or face the fires of Hell..."

Strong stuff to be sure, but Fr. Altman was taking his cue from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (whom he quotes) – the Church has a "duty and obligation" to speak up when politicians act in an immoral way.

In other words, a pastor must give strong warnings, at times, to guide souls away from grave danger, even when the dangers come from politicians or a political party.

When your house is burning down...or, more appropriately, when someone is attempting to burn your house down, it's time to dispense with the niceties of politically correct language.

And, as Fr. Altman suggests, the Democratic Party's evil platform which promotes the desecration of God's plan for humanity is, in effect, trying to burn down our house (i.e., the Church).

Not only do the Democrats openly advocate for abortion (i.e., killing innocent human beings), but they also promote the destruction of the natural family and the desecration of human nature in support of the homosexual and transgender agendas.

Remember the following:

  • The Obama-Biden Administration attempted to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to participate in the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and contraception and threatened schools with the loss of federal funding if they wouldn’t let boys in girls’ bathrooms and vice versa.
  • Democratic Senators Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono grilled a judge, who is a Knight of Columbus, on his membership in the Knights, absurdly suggesting that membership in the Catholic mens' fraternal organization should disqualify someone from sitting on the bench.
  • And, in 2017, the DNC Chairman said that pro-lifers were not welcome in the party.

No faithful Catholic should even think about voting for such a platform. And, the bishops should be on the frontlines, speaking this truth to power.

Thankfully, the Bishop of Tyler, Texas, Most Rev. Joseph Strickland, has come out in support of Fr. Altman's statement, tweeting:

"As the Bishop of Tyler I endorse Fr. Altman’s statement in this video. My shame is that it has taken me so long. Thank you Fr Altman for your COURAGE. If you love Jesus & His Church & this nation...please HEED THIS MESSAGE.”

With this petition, we now ask that Fr. Altman's own bishop, Most. Rev. Callahan, likewise support his priest and stop any canonical proceedings against him.

Devoid of united leadership from the Hierarchy, individual priests must do their best to inform the laity of the mortal dangers on full view in the Democrats' platform.

And, threatening to silence priests for strongly speaking the truth only plays into the hand of those who actually hate what the Church stands for...and who will, if elected, most likely seek to injure, or even eradicate, the Church.

The bishops should know that the legacy of the Democratic Party being the party of the small man and of the Catholic immigrant is now over.

The Democratic Party of today is the party of radical individualism, not the common good. And, rabid support for abortion and the homosexual agenda are practically obligatory.

As such, the Democratic Party is not a friend of the Church and any priest or bishop who thinks otherwise is being deceived, or allowing himself to be deceived or bullied.

This is not just an abstraction! This is a serious threat to Christianity and their party's platform needs to be met with strong opposition.

Thank you for SIGNING this petition to the bishop of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, Bishop Callahan, asking him to support Fr. Altman rather than bringing any canonical proceedings against him.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

'Bishop threatens ‘canonical penalties’ for priest whose viral video warned Catholics can’t be Democrats': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/bishop-threatens-canonical-penalties-for-fr-altman

YouTube Video - 'Fr. James Altman: You cannot be Catholic & a Democrat. Period.': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-7eoTN2vNM

Statement regarding Fr. James Altman from Bishop Callahan: https://diolc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Statement-Father-James-Altman-090920.pdf

'Bishop Strickland echoes priest: ‘You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat’': https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/bishop-strickland-echoes-priest-you-cannot-be-catholic-and-be-a-democrat

**Photo Credit: Screen capture from Fr. James Altman's YouTube video on Alpha News MN

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The sacraments are not a privilege for the deserving, or a symbolic “window dressing” for the “real” Catholic life that goes on purely interiorly or domestically, as one of the new cardinals of the Church seems to think, but rather a necessity, a reality integral to the Christian spiritual life, as well as a genuine right of the faithful, understood in reference to our membership in the Body of Christ. The Eucharist is our elementary food for soul and body. Confession is our (blood)bath. Extreme unction is our lifeline, our immediate preparation for death, judgment, and eternity. Fasting from spiritual goods of this magnitude should be a last resort, of brief duration; therefore, limitations on them must also be a last resort and of brief duration, manifestly prompted by an undeniable emergency (think: bodies dropping dead all around us in the streets). A total lack of access at any point is indefensible.

It is one thing when a totalitarian regime hostile to the Church hauls priests away to a concentration camp in an effort to take the sacraments away from the people; then there is little choice on anyone’s part. It is quite another thing for the Church’s own shepherds to order priests to stop giving the sacraments to the faithful. In doing so, they literally short-circuit their own authority, function, and mission; they cancel themselves out. It is the equivalent of a bishop preaching that Christ has not come in the flesh (cf. 1 Jn. 4), or denying the homoousios of the Creed: that Christ is consubstantial with the Father and thus has authority and power to impart the divine life, His divine life, to the poor and needy of the Church on Earth. Regulations there must be; strangulations there must never be. The dam may regulate the flow of waters, but the waters must indeed flow.

The same holds true of the public offering of the sacred liturgy and our participation in it. There are currently millions of Catholics who are persuaded that their obligation to worship God on Sunday has been dispensed. But this is not true. God commanded that He be worshiped in a formal, public cultus, for which He instituted a weekly Sabbath among the Chosen People. With the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week, Sunday was sanctified as the firstfruits and the symbol of the new creation in which righteousness dwells (cf. 2 Pet. 3:13); therefore, Sunday, the Dies Domini, the “little Easter,” is a solemn day of formal, public cultus that must be offered to God. This is how Christians fulfill the Third Commandment, from which there can be no dispensation, as noted by Cardinal Burke. The obligation to join personally in the perfect sacrifice of Christ on Sunday remains in place for all of the baptized, and no bishop can alter that one bit, nor can virtual attendance substitute for it.

If it is impossible, physically or morally, for an individual to attend — his car breaks down on the way to church, or he is sick or vulnerable, or the church has been locked shut and he has no choice — the obligation ceases to bind, and no sin is committed (at least, not by the layman!), but in no way is it waved aside. It stands. The only question is whether or not we have legitimate grounds to leave it unfulfilled. The actions of our bishops and some of our priests have given quite a different impression: attending Sunday Mass ends up looking more like a human custom, a mere precept of the Church, rather than the observance of a divine precept as determined by Christ and His Church in her unbroken tradition. As mentioned, the only way one does not sin by not attending Mass on Sunday or any other holy day of obligation is if it is impossible (see Code of Canon Law 1247–1248), which is how the matter has been seen for all of Catholic history, and that strong view explains the odd absence of precedent for general, standing Sunday Mass “dispensations” — even in the midst of much worse famines, wars, plagues, and disasters than anything we have experienced in recent times.

Beyond these more precise points about sacraments and liturgy, we should look at the big picture in the Church. We are dealing with a situation, built up over several decades, in which the bishops have lost credibility and trustworthiness. With a few exceptions, they do not teach sound doctrine; they do not celebrate reverent liturgy; they do not rid their dioceses of homosexuality and abuse; they are mammon-hungry. In all these ways, they have lost the “moral high ground” required for us to “just trust them” in their judgment calls. As Newman argued was the case during the Arian crisis, much of the present-day hierarchy is, for all intents and purposes, in a “suspended condition,” a state of dysfunctionality, disengagement, and inefficacy. In jungle circumstances of this kind, priests and laity must shift for themselves as well as they can. Where there is every reason to think that the salvation of souls is not respected as the highest law (salus animarum, suprema lex), a Christian’s obligations to His Lord and Master take precedence over his obligations to members of the hierarchy, no matter how exalted.

In a May 20 letter published at LifeSiteNews, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama stated: “If any priest cannot follow archdiocesan regulations [which, inter alia, forbade Communion on the tongue], it will be necessary for him to refrain from the celebration of public Masses. This matter is too serious for us to take any other approach than one of extreme caution for the safety of others.” Similar attitudes are at work in dioceses across the globe.

I could somehow imagine a different and more authoritative statement issued from the chancery of the court of heaven:

“If any bishop cannot follow natural law and divine law in regard to the adoration, reverence, and care to be shown to the Son of God in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and if, moreover, he does not fight to keep churches open, liturgical worship accessible, and sacraments available to the faithful, it will be necessary for him to refrain from the hope of reaching eternal glory. This matter is too serious for us to take any other approach than one of extreme sacredness and total commitment for the salvation of souls.”

The same is true for all the clergy and laity. In a time of pandemic, we must make more, not less, use of prayer, processions, penances, liturgy, and sacraments. In a time of spurious pandemic, we must make war against exaggerated restrictions and unjust cancellations, supporting those who creatively and courageously work around them and behind them.

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Peter Kwasniewski, Thomistic theologian, liturgical scholar, and choral composer, is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in California (B.A. Liberal Arts) and The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC (M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy). He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria and the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, then helped establish Wyoming Catholic College in 2006. There he taught theology, philosophy, music, and art history and directed the choirs until leaving in 2018 to devote himself full-time to writing and lecturing.

Today he contributes regularly to many websites and publications, including New Liturgical Movement, OnePeterFive, LifeSiteNews, Rorate Caeli, The Remnant, and Catholic Family News, and has published thirteen books, including four on traditional Catholicism: Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Angelico, 2014, also available in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Belarusian), Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017), Tradition and Sanity (Angelico, 2018), and Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass (Angelico, 2020). His work has been translated into at least eighteen languages.

Kwasniewski is a scholar of The Aquinas Institute in Green Bay, which is publishing the Opera Omnia of the Angelic Doctor, a Fellow of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, and a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center. He has published over a thousand articles on Thomistic thought, sacramental and liturgical theology, the history and aesthetics of music, and the social doctrine of the Church.

For news, information, article links, sacred music, and the home of Os Justi Press, visit his personal website, www.peterkwasniewski.com.

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