First, a couple of things to consider.
The Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin – William Patrick Callahan – has issued a statement regarding Fr. James Altman. Here’s the (long) link: https://diolc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Statement-Father-James-Altman-090920.pdf?fbclid=IwAR28dccl0g_7PruyCKOkXcYBQuAaCBVzvm7M2cyAEz0TeIoA3fw8jpkBN5U
More and more people know who Fr. Altman is. Sigh. The pastor at St. James the Less in La Crosse, Wisconsin, he has said repeatedly, loudly and quite wrongly that Catholics may not vote for Democratic candidates without risking eternal damnation. You could, if you were looking to be unsettled and dismayed, look Fr. Altman up on the internet and watch one of his video messages. Or you could skip it and have a nap instead.
At any rate, here’s the good Bishop’s statement, in its entirety.
STATEMENT REGARDING FATHER JAMES ALTMAN FROM BISHOP WILLIAM PATRICK CALLAHAN
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.
As I review Fr. Altman’s latest video statement of 30 August 2020, I understand the undeniable truth that motivates his message. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
In other news, you may have heard that Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said recently – without endorsing Joe Biden – that he thought “a person in good conscience could vote for Mr. Biden,” adding,”I, frankly, in my own way of thinking have a more difficult time with the other option.” The remarks were made during a panel discussion at Boston College regarding the Church and Catholic voters. Here’s a link to a the story: https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/cardinal-tobin-person-good-conscience-could-vote-biden
So an adult Catholic could assess the situation and make a reasoned decision in good conscience and consistent with Catholic teaching.
And here’s a By The Way: BTW, “the Less” as in “St. James the Less” refers to age or stature and not to character. Exactly who James the Less was isn’t clear. Scripture tells us that there were two Apostles named James. James the Greater was the one of the sons of Zebedee. He was martyred in Acts 12:2. Matthew 10:3 lists James the son of Alphaeus as one of the Twelve. Tradition has long identified James the son of Alphaeus with James the Less. Still other traditions identify James the Less with James the brother of Jesus or with James the brother of the Apostle Matthew. So, maybe one guy, maybe two, maybe three, maybe four, all of ‘em James. Lots of Jameses. Es. More mysterious still is whether James the Less was called, variously, “Jimbo” or “Little Jimmy.”
And, finally, about our BLM sign. No, we haven’t taken it down. Last evening’s windstorm took it down and blew it away. It was not an act of God. There was no foul play. Just the wind. We’re having another sign made. When it gets here, we’ll put it up.
More final still: You are loved, now and always.