Yesterday, Bishop William Callahan issued a statement admonishing Fr. James Altman for his video ‘You Cannot Be a Faithful Catholic and a Democrat.‘ Below is the bishop’s statement with our comments highlighted in red.
Fr. James Altman has become a social media phenomenon and is now a main stream media story. The amount of calls and emails we are receiving at the Diocesan offices show how divisive he is. I am being pressured by both sides for a comment; one side holds him up as a hero or a prophet, the other side condemns him and vilifies him and demands I silence him. [Being ‘divisive’ is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you are speaking the Truth. Is the Bishop placing a higher value on maintaining the peace rather than proclaiming the Truth? Jesus was crucified for speaking Truth that people could not bear to hear.]
As I review Fr. Altman’s latest video statement of 30 August 2020, I understand the undeniable truth that motivates his message. [So are you acknowledging what he said is true?] When we approach issues that are contradictory to the Faith and teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church, particularly on abortion and other life issues, we should invite dialogue and heart-felt conversion to the truth. Our approach must never seek to divide, isolate and condemn. [Really? Was it not Jesus who said “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”]
That being said it is not only the underlying truth that needs to be evaluated but also the manner of delivery and the tone of his message. Unfortunately, the tone Fr. Altman offers comes off as angry and judgmental, lacking any charity and in a way that causes scandal both in the Church and in society. His generalization and condemnation of entire groups of people is completely inappropriate and not in keeping with our values or the life of virtue. [Ahh, yes… the same old tired ‘tone’ excuse; as if ‘tone’ trumps Truth. Did Jesus use the wrong ‘tone’ when he said to the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell??”]
I am applying Gospel principles to the correction of Fr. Altman. “If your brother does something wrong to you, go to him. Talk alone to him and tell him what he has done. If he listens to you, you have kept your brother as a friend. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two others with you to talk to him.” (Mt 18:15-16). I have begun this process, not in the bright light of the public arena, but as the Gospel dictates, in private. [Issuing a public statement instead of privately discussing this with Fr. Altman is hardly following the Gospel’s advice.] Canon law indicates that before penalties are imposed, we need to ensure that fraternal correction, rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude will not be sufficient to repair the scandal (can. 1341).
Most people expect a decisive move from me, one way or another. Many suggest immediate penalties that will utterly silence him; others call for complete and unwavering support of his views. Canonical penalties are not far away if my attempts at fraternal correction do not work. I pray that Fr. Altman’s heart and eyes might be open to the error of his ways and that he might take steps to correct his behavior and heal the wound he has inflicted on the Body of Christ. [And at last, the thinly veiled threat; if Fr. Altman continues to boldly proclaim the Truth, he will end-up like other priests who have been silenced by their bishops.]
Pray for me as I address this issue, and pray for Fr. Altman that he might hear and respond to my fraternal correction. Finally, please pray for the Church that we might seek the truth in charity and apply it in our daily actions. [It is supremely UNCHARITABLE not to warn souls they are on the road to eternal damnation.]
Eric Sammons got it right when he tweeted:
“We should invite dialogue and heart-felt conversion to the truth. Our approach must never seek to divide, isolate and condemn.”
I’m confident Jesus would not last long as a Catholic priest today.https://t.co/mB5dlJ6CQ3
— Eric Sammons (@EricRSammons) September 9, 2020
Bishop Callahan would be well advise to re-read the first reading from last Sunday:
Thus says the LORD:
You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel;
when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.
If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die, ”
and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,
the wicked shall die for his guilt,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
But if you warn the wicked,
trying to turn him from his way,
and he refuses to turn from his way,
he shall die for his guilt,
but you shall save yourself.
If you have not already done so, we strongly encourage you to watch Fr. Altman’s video and share it with your friends and family.
There is reportedly a rosary planned in support of Fr. Altman at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman in La Crosse on Sunday, September 13 at 2:00 p.m. Please RSVP if you can attend or join in from where you are.