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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin, July 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – In an exclusive interview with LifeSite, Father James Altman said that in the face of suspension of his priestly faculties by his bishop, he is at peace.
“I’ve had incredible peace, regardless of what happens to me. Just peace. I said it this way, if this door closes, another one will open. And I’ve had that experience in my life. Smaller doors opening to bigger doors and then [those] closing and opening up to even bigger doors,” Altman said in an interview yesterday with LifeSiteNews.
“I’m not expecting God to give me some blinking neon sign saying, ‘this is where you’re going to go next.’ That’s not the way He works, because then we wouldn’t be exercising our free will,” he added.
Altman was informed yesterday that he has been removed as pastor of St. James the Less parish, and that his priestly faculties have been suspended indefinitely.
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” he continued.
Altman believes that the current documented numbers of fully practicing Catholics are “proof” that the bishops aren’t doing their job.
“Here [are] the condemning statistics. 80 percent of Catholics now don’t go to Mass. 80 percent of Catholics pretty much don’t believe in the Real Presence. At what point are they gonna say ‘Hey, we’re not doing our job.’ Those are objective criteria that show you you’re not doing your job. There’s the proof,” said Altman.
He pointed out that recently, in his own parish, the number of families who joined was three times the number of those who left: “We’ve had close to 50 families join the parish in the last 15 months.”
Father Dave Nix pointed out, regarding the decree against Altman, that “No canon of crime or even ‘disobedience’ is quoted.”
The decree against Fr. Altman appears to be a *practical* suspension of his sacraments but not an *actual* suspension. No canon of crime or even “disobedience” is quoted. It reads as a last attempt to cajole him into *behaving* like other priests so as to not be fully suspended pic.twitter.com/DP2nBDYmHR
— FrDave Nix �� (@FrDaveNix) July 9, 2021
Crisis magazine editor-in-chief Eric Sammons had this to say about Altman’s situation:
“If, upon hearing the news that Fr. Altman's faculties have been suspended, your only concern is the need for Fr. Altman to obey, while ignoring the injustice of the command given by his bishop, then you've succumbed to the distorted one-sided modern Catholic view of obedience.”
The Diocese of La Crosse did not respond to a request for comment.
Contact information for respectful communication:
Catholic Diocese of La Crosse
Bishop William Callahan
3710 East Avenue South
P.O. Box 4004
La Crosse, WI 54602-4004
+1 (608) 788-7700
Very Rev. William Dhein, Msgr. Michael J. Gorman, and Msgr. Joseph Diermeier, Vicars General
+1 (608) 791-2655
Rev. Woodrow Pace, Vicar for Clergy
+1 (608) 791-2652