La Crosse priest who ignored COVID limits is asked to resign

(WCAX)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 5:46 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (Associated Press, WEAU) - A priest in Wisconsin who has been ignoring COVID-19 gathering restrictions at his masses and has criticized Democrats for their stance on the virus and vaccines says the leader of the Diocese of La Crosse has asked him to resign.

The Rev. James Altman announced the development during his sermon at St. James the Less Catholic Church in La Crosse on Sunday, which was recorded and posted to YouTube. The La Crosse Tribune reports that audible “no” sounds can be heard during the video when Altman talks about the request from Bishop William Callahan.

Altman came under fire last fall for calling Democrats godless and warning they would go to hell if they don’t repent. Altman says his lawyer is challenging the bishop’s request.

The Diocese of La Crosse made a statement Monday about the incident:

Fr. James Altman has recently made public the request from Bishop William Patrick Callahan that he resign his office of pastor of Saint James the Less Parish in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, as well as his intent to decline the request. As a result, the Diocese of La Crosse will respond in accordance to the canonical process as needed for the removal of a priest from his office as pastor.

During the past year, concerns have been expressed related to the ministry of Fr. James Altman, a priest in the Diocese of La Crosse. Bishop Callahan of the Diocese of La Crosse, and canonical representatives have worked to fraternally and privately address those concerns. The process has been pastoral and administrative with a desire toward a just resolution among all parties.

The ministry of pastor was instituted in the Church not for the benefit of the one to whom it is entrusted, but for the pastoral and sacramental care of those for whom it is conferred. The salvation of souls takes precedence over the stability of the pastor in office when these two values come into direct conflict. Although attempts were made to allow Fr. Altman the opportunity to respond to fraternal correction, a resolution of this situation has been unsuccessful.

It is important to note that this is not a penal remedy but a pastoral remedy. Bishop Callahan asks for your prayers for Fr. Altman, for the congregation of St. James, and the faithful of the Diocese of La Crosse and beyond. While any change made to the ministry of a pastor is difficult, it is done with the hope that God’s work of justice, reconciliation and healing may be realized in the Body of Christ for a positive outcome.

The Diocese of La Crosse asks for the consideration of respect, safety and prayers at this time for all involved.”

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