Around 150 Catholics gathered peacefully Sunday evening at St. James the Less in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a rosary rally in support of Fr. James Altman.
The gathering was made up of local parishioners, supporters from out of state, and a group of Polish Catholics from Chicago who planned the stop on their way back from Yellowstone.
Flyers passed out at the gathering described the event as a means of “preserving our Catholic traditions” and offering “prayers for Bishop [William] Callahan,” who removed Altman from his parish July 8 and suspended his priestly faculties.
Just a week later, Catholics were faced with another attack when Pope Francis issued sweeping restrictions on the Latin Mass, the preferred liturgy of traditionalists.
After the prayers concluded, the rosary rally-goers spent time writing postcards pre-addressed to Callahan as well as Church leaders in Washington, D.C. and Rome, requesting that silenced priests such as Altman be reinstated. All postcards were labeled with, “NOT ONE MORE PENNY! UNTIL YOU REINSTATE OUR PRIESTS,” which was wrapped around photos of priests, including Altman, who have been reprimanded and silenced by their bishops.
Catholics from around the world on social media and in Facebook support groups for Altman have been writing thousands of letters on behalf of the embattled priest. The expression “Not one more penny!” has become a rallying cry among supporters who insist they will no longer donate to their local dioceses out of protest.
Most recently, Bishop Callahan reportedly “doubled down” on his punishment of Altman after the wildly popular priest spoke at last week’s CPAC in Dallas and gave a blessing on stage to attendees. The details of the “harsher sanctions” are unclear and have not yet been fully revealed.
Notably, Bishop Callahan himself was implicated in a recent lawsuit involving the alleged cover-up of sexual misconduct at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Rather than facing the parishioners of St. James himself, Callahan had a letter read on his behalf at Mass following Altman’s removal. The priest who read the letter then encouraged the parishioners to practice “silence” in order to hear God.
Altman and his 90-year-old parents have reportedly been given 30 days to vacate the St. James rectory. Bishop Callahan issued the priest a removal decree via FedEx. The bishop has since been unreachable and allegedly took off on vacation after the news of Altman’s removal spread.
The ongoing rift between Bishop Callahan and Fr. Altman began last September after the priest’s livestreamed homilies started going viral. The bishop then ordered Altman to stop streaming his masses, but that didn’t stop others in the parish congregation from recording the homilies.
Hundreds of supporters gathered for a similar rally at the time after Altman was publicly rebuked by Callahan.
Altman then shot to mass popularity after appearing in several videos produced by Alpha News, such as his viral sermon on why “you cannot be Catholic and a Democrat.”
When asking for Altman’s resignation in May, Callahan called Altman “divisive” and “ineffective” despite the priest’s parish recruiting more than 40 new families and raising upwards of $400,000 in funds since last year.