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Diocese Of La Crosse Removes Local Priest Over Controversial Political, Anti-Vaccine Comments

Father James Altman Told His Congregation In May That He Had Been Asked To Resign, Would Fight Removal

The silhouette of a cross on a Catholic church
Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

The Diocese of La Crosse has officially removed a priest who has been criticized for his anti-vaccine rhetoric and political statements.

The diocese issued a statement Friday announcing that Bishop William Callahan had officially removed Father James Altman from his position as pastor of St. James the Less in La Crosse.

The statement said Callahan and other diocesan officials had spent over a year “working toward a resolution related to ongoing public and ecclesial concerns” of Altman’s ministry.

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“The obligation of a Bishop is to ensure that all who serve the faithful are able to do so while unifying and building the Body of Christ,” the statement said.

The statement said the removal is effective immediately “for an indeterminate period of time.” The diocese also said Altman “must refrain from exercising the function of pastor.”

A spokesperson for the diocese had not responded to request for comment at the time of publication.

Altman has been criticized over the last year for a series of controversial statements, including calling Catholic Democrats “Godless” hypocrites before the 2020 U.S. presidential election. He most recently came under fire for holding large church services without public health precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic and calling the vaccine an “experimental injection.”

Altman told his congregation in May that Callahan had asked him to resign. In a recording of his homily, Altman said he was contesting the bishop’s request, but that he could be removed from duty while the challenge was going through the appeal process.

Altman told conservative online publication LifeSiteNews on Thursday that he was not surprised the diocese had moved forward with his removal and that “the hierarchy boldly continues to try to cancel a voice of Truth.”

“As (the) bishop stated publicly, I speak the undeniable Truth. Unfortunately for the corrupt hierarchy, I will not be silenced by any arbitrary Decree, nor will I be cowed by any action against my priestly faculties,” Altman told LifeSiteNews.