A local priest whose public condemnation of Democrats as “Godless hypocrites” sparked both outcry and defense last fall has now drawn new attention for his anti-vaccine rhetoric and largely maskless services.

A community member last week shared with the Tribune a photo from Easter Services at St. James the Less Catholic Church where Father James Altman presides, showing a crowded church, and a page from a church bulletin calling vaccines “an experimental use of a genetic altering substance that modifies your body — your temple of the Holy Spirit.”

The flyer, which was posted to the church’s website as of press time and reviewed by the Tribune, states it is “diabolical for anyone to virtue-signal/shame/compel you to take such an experimental drug, making you nothing other than a guinea pig,” and also says those recommending inoculation are “lying to your face.”

“God is still the best doctor and prayer is still the best medicine,” the missive closes.

According to the community member, Altman during his sermons has declared COVID-19 a “hoax,” and approximately 300-500 parishioners were in attendance at his services Easter weekend…

… The Diocese of La Crosse said it continues to work “privately” on the issues regarding Altman, a similar response the entity gave after his first video.

“It is a matter of concern for Bishop Callahan when Fr. James Altman, or any of his priests, address medical, political or worldly challenges in a manner that misleads or overtly condemns others. It remains a challenge to balance our needs with the need to protect public health in our churches when we are in need of rebuilding a strength of faith and practice of religion. No matter one’s view we should always act out of love for God and love for neighbor.

“At this time Bishop Callahan and his canonical representatives are continuing to privately address the concerns being expressed as they relate to Fr. Altman and his ministry,” it said.

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The article goes on to note: “The Diocese of La Crosse has laid out protocols for its parishes returning to mass. Its latest public notice of protocols allows only 25% occupancy with social distancing within churches, and requires participants to wear masks.”

The pope weighed in on the subject of the COVID vaccine in January and suggested that receiving it is a moral obligation:

“I believe that morally everyone must take the vaccine,” the pontiff said in a Jan. 10 interview for Italy’s TG5 news program. “It is the moral choice because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”

“I do not understand why some say that this could be a dangerous vaccine,” said Francis. “If the doctors are presenting this to you as a thing that will go well and doesn’t have any special dangers, why not take it?”

“There is a suicidal denialism that I would not know how to explain but today people must take the vaccine,” the pontiff continued.

Francis’ remarks are the latest in a series of firm signals to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics that he and the Vatican strongly support the global vaccination effort.