The controversial priest made the announcement during his homily yesterday:
The leader of the Diocese of La Crosse has asked Catholic priest Father James Altman to resign amid continued controversial rhetoric over politics and the pandemic, Altman says.
Altman announced the news during his sermon Sunday, which was recorded and posted to YouTube later in the day, stating that his lawyer is challenging Bishop William Callahan’s request.
“As the Bishop has stated to me: I am ineffective. 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,” Altman said.
Audible “no” sounds from the crowd can be heard during the video.
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“In response my canon lawyer asked for clarification,” Altman continued, “asked for the justification and a chance to review what was in my file that suggested I was so divisive and ineffective. And I say all this only because, I’m no expert on canon law, but understand only that while we are contesting Bishop’s request — and we are — he could in theory appoint a parish administrator whilst I remain a pastor without duties until the appeal goes through Rome, which could take up to a year or more.”
The Tribune reached out to the Diocese spokesperson for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Altman, who currently serves at St. James the Less parish on La Crosse’s North Side, has come under fire in the last year for controversial comments he has made, including anti-Black and LGBTQ+ rhetoric, stating that all Democrats are “Godless” hypocrites going to hell, spreading misinformation on vaccines and COVID-19, frequently appearing on far-right media platforms and more.
The Diocese has chosen to handle the matter internally for the most part, stating it was working with Altman privately.
UPDATE: The good folks at The Pillar, with their knowledge of canon law, have more context on the Altman case.
Since a bishop’s “request” for resignation can not be formally appealed, it seems likely that Callahan has actually initiated or even completed the formal canonical process required to remove a pastor from office, which Altman now seems intent on appealing.
Indeed, Altman said that his bishop had called him “ineffective,” suggesting Callahan may be pursuing removal under the aegis of canon 1740, which says that “when the ministry of any pastor becomes harmful or at least ineffective for any cause…the diocesan bishop can remove him from the parish” using a formally delineated canonical process.
Appeals against such removals are usually procedural, aiming to argue that the diocesan bishop omitted some necessary step in the process; the substance of the bishop’s decision is not usually second-guessed at the Vatican.
The Diocese of La Crosse has not responded to several requests for clarity from The Pillar.
There’s more detail here.
You can hear Fr. Atlman’s homily from Sunday, announcing the bishop’s request for his resignation, below.