Fr. James Altman revealed during his Sunday homily that his bishop has asked him to resign as pastor of St. James the Less in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for being “divisive and ineffective.”
“I regret to inform you, they want my head on a platter. They want my head now for speaking the truth,” Altman said. “I apparently have created enemies in the hierarchy, but to paraphrase the great, great Cardinal Burke, ‘When I die I will stand in judgment before the Lord, not any bishop of the Church,’ or, as the great Cardinal Burke specifically said, ‘the USCCB.’”
Altman first faced pushback from the Church hierarchy in September after a video he produced with Alpha News (“You cannot be Catholic and a Democrat”) went viral. A few weeks after the video was released, hundreds gathered for a rally in La Crosse in support of the embattled priest, whose bishop threatened to pursue “canonical penalties.”
Now, Bishop William Callahan has asked for Altman’s resignation as pastor of St. James the Less, Altman said at a Pentecost Sunday mass.
“So, for the record, dear family, Bishop Callahan has asked me to resign as pastor as of this past Friday, two days ago, because I am divisive and ineffective,” he said.
While Altman contests the bishop’s request, Callahan could “appoint a parish administrator while I remain a pastor without duties until the appeal goes through Rome, which could take upwards of a year or more.”
“I speak only on my understanding of what could happen, not what will happen, but if what could happen actually happens, then I truly do not know how much longer I will get to serve you,” Altman continued.
He then responded to the allegation that he is an “ineffective” pastor, which most measurable metrics prove to be false, he said.
His parish, for instance, has already matched 2020’s envelope collection of $212,000 in just the first five months of the year. St. James the Less has more than doubled its plate collection — cash donations made during mass — from $24,330 in 2020 to $56,305 this year.
Altman said the parish’s “diocesan annual appeal rebate” went from just $53,000 during his first year at the parish to over $101,000.
He has received more than 4,000 letters from Catholics around the world, his homilies have been viewed by countless millions online, and he has fundraised more than $230,000 in 11 months from non-parishioners for special projects at his parish.
This money has allowed him to repair the stained-glass windows and leaky roofs at St. James the Less. He plans to use the remaining funds to build an access ramp to the main level of the church for the disabled and elderly, as well as a first-floor restroom.
“So, dear family, at a time when most churches have been flailing, specifically due to few or nobody allowed in, during a time when most churches have experienced a great decline in donations, our parish at St. James is flourishing,” said Altman.
“But nothing demonstrates being an effective shepherd like, as I recently told you, we’ve had 42 families and 103 people join our parish in the last 16 months. Our average baptisms in each of the last four years has been double the average of what they were over the three years previous to my arrival,” he added.
Most importantly, Altman said he has distributed communion to 60,000 people in the last 14 months.
“Dear family, I have not failed to feed my sheep the bread of life,” he said. “I don’t know how any ordained priest, or bishop, or cardinal, could fail to feed his children. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for you. But I do know this. I am not the divisive one. I am not the ineffective one. I am not the one disrespecting my office.”
“They have done a great job being divisive. They have done a great job of being ineffective and they have done a great job of disrespecting their office all by themselves, without any help from me, and that is why they despise me, because that is the truth, and the truth hurts.”
Some priests and bishops have offered their support to Altman as he faces the threat of being removed from his parish.
“He inspires many to keep the faith during these dark days. Let us pray for him,” said Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas.
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.
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) May 24, 2021
“With tears in my eyes, I write: I have never met a more humble, kind, holy priest in my life,” said Fr. Richard Heilman, according to LifeSiteNews. “Those who have met him, know.”
A fundraiser to help Altman with his “legal defense and related fees” has already raised $125,000.