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La Crosse bishop responds to priest video

Brad Williams

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The bishop of the La Crosse Diocese is conflicted about how to handle an outspoken priest in La Crosse. 

Bishop William Callahan has issued a statement about a viral video featuring Father James Altman of St. James the Less Catholic Church. 

In the video, Altman declares that Catholics cannot be true to their faith and still vote for Democrats. 

The Bishop says people are expecting him to make a ‘decisive move’…either to embrace Altman’s remarks, or to ‘silence him,’ but he has not taken specific action yet.

Callahan calls the tone of Altman’s message ‘angry and judgmental.’

Here is the text of the bishop’s statement:

D i o c e s e   o f   L a  C r o s s e

Office for communications / public relations

September 9, 2020

STATEMENT REGARDING FATHER JAMES ALTMAN

Fr. James Altman has become a social media phenomenon and is now a main stream media story. The amount of calls and emails we are receiving at the Diocesan offices show how divisive he is. I am being pressured by both sides for a comment; one side holds him up as a hero or a prophet, the other side condemns him and vilifies him and demands I silence him.

As I review Fr. Altman’s latest video statement of 30 August 2020, I understand the undeniable truth that motivates his message. When we approach issues that are contradictory to the Faith and teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, particularly on abortion and other life issues, we should invite dialogue and heart-felt conversion to the truth. Our approach must never seek to divide, isolate and condemn.

That being said it is not only the underlying truth that needs to be evaluated but also the manner of delivery and the tone of his message. Unfortunately, the tone Fr. Altman offers comes off as angry and judgmental, lacking any charity and in a way that causes scandal both in the Church and in society. His generalization and condemnation of entire groups of people is completely inappropriate and not in keeping with our values or the life of virtue.

I am applying Gospel principles to the correction of Fr. Altman. “If your brother does something wrong to you, go to him. Talk alone to him and tell him what he has done. If he listens to you, you have kept your brother as a friend. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two others with you to talk to him.” (Mt 18:15-16). I have begun this process, not in the bright light of the public arena, but as the Gospel dictates, in private. Canon law indicates that before penalties are imposed, we need to ensure that fraternal correction, rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude will not be sufficient to repair the scandal (can. 1341).

Most people expect a decisive move from me, one way or another. Many suggest immediate penalties that will utterly silence him; others call for complete and unwavering support of his views. Canonical penalties are not far away if my attempts at fraternal correction do not work. I pray that Fr. Altman’s heart and eyes might be open to the error of his ways and that he might take steps to correct his behavior and heal the wound he has inflicted on the Body of Christ.

Pray for me as I address this issue, and pray for Fr. Altman that he might hear and respond to my fraternal correction. Finally, please pray for the Church that we might seek the truth in charity and apply it in our daily actions. …

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jeff Blakeley

    September 10, 2020 at 10:55 pm

    Not all clergy are “social justice” warriors, there are those who adhere to the Holy Scriptures as written and faithfully preach them. I am not Catholic, but I am well versed in the writings of the Bible. I find nowhere where it says the ways of King Herod in the murdering of the innocents was acceptable in the eyes of the Lord.

  2. Avatar

    Lisa Meyer

    September 11, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Shameful for this Bishop not to support Fr. Altman. Instead of wasting his ttime trying to undo the Truths Fr. Altman so eloquently expressed he should rather make similar statements against predator priests and against abortion and the evils of violence and destruction going on in our country. Shameful that he cannot be a voice for Truth. This Bishop wants us to pray for him as he corrects Fr. Altman. This is laughable. He should rather pray that Fr. Altman can correct him. God save us! There is certainly charity in truth and Bishop Callahan should know this! How dare he say that Fr. Altman did not express any charity in the video Bishop take out the beam in your own eye before you take out the speck in Fr. Altman’s eye.

  3. Avatar

    Linda G

    September 11, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    In regards to Fr. Altman, holy boldness is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Who was bothered by this message? Fr. James Martin who is leading many souls to darkness?
    Fr. Altman is a gift. If people are offended then they shouldn’t watch his videos on you tube. Apparently what he says is hitting a nerve in their conscience. He is a holy man of God. And like St. John the Baptist, many will be offended by TRUTH. God bless you Fr. Altman and thank you.

  4. Avatar

    Francis Forcione

    September 12, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    I am sure the calls the Bishop got were from james martin and his followers

  5. Avatar

    Basia

    September 19, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    Why don’t you interview the flock and hear them out? Why is it that the media can only draw the negative of a topic and not draw the good? Fr. Altman has done nothing wrong but tell the truth and expose the evil that is out in this world. It’s a dark time in the world and even the media want to extinguish what light the people of faith have left just to bring total darkness everywhere. Shame on you.

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