Fr. James Altman, pastor of St. James the Less in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has become a national hero to many. He has even been called the modern Elijah. Catholics who have heard his 10-minute homily entitled “You Cannot Be Catholic and a Democrat. Period” are elated with his words of truth, not to mention his courage in uttering them aloud. That is because it is wonderful to hear simple truth in an age when the level of political correctness spewing from many pulpits is unbelievably disturbing.
But not everyone loves Fr. Altman’s words, including his bishop, Diocese of La Crosse shepherd William Callahan. Callahan said he has begun a time of fraternal correction involving Fr. Altman and his homily. And one particularly snippy reporter wrote that Fr. Altman’s homily was “racist.” Yet we see that the writer of this article, Rebecca Hamilton, is a politician; she is a “Catholic” Democrat. Hamilton’s article is colored by her personal politics, which is anything but Catholic.
In today’s cultural climate, speaking truth from the pulpit is a racist activity, according to Hamilton. But she is not alone. Bishop Callahan’s official statement on the matter described Fr. Altman’s words as “divisive.” Callahan wrote that Father Altman’s tone was “angry and judgmental,” “lacking any charity,” and “causing scandal.”
Such words hide the truth, leading others to get on the bandwagon and spout the same sort of anti-Fr. Altman rhetoric. Even a local newspaper described Altman’s words as degrading to practicing Catholics who are Democrats, suggesting to readers that the Catholic Church has become “polarized in recent years,”—a statement designed to suggest that Catholic teaching on abortion is a matter of opinion.
Newsweek magazine sought to confuse Altman’s clear teaching with dissident Jesuit James Martin’s folly at the Democratic convention, opining that tax-exempt organizations should not be getting involved in politics. Yet, as we know, abortion is murder. It is not politics.
So, we are pleased to tell you that the public outpouring of support for Fr. Altman has been amazing.
Mother Miriam’s radio program took time to praise Fr. Altman and thank God for his wise words.
Websites have devoted coverage to those who stand with Fr. Altman and defend Catholic truth, not to mention the Life Petition that has been signed by more than 60,000 people. The petition signers support Fr. Altman and ask Bishop Callahan: “Please do not allow yourself to be deceived or bullied by the Democratic Party or by the mainstream media—neither of which have the best interests of the Church at heart.”
Catholic leaders like Phil Sevilla have written to Bishop Callahan, asking him pointed questions based on the fact that Fr. Altman did nothing wrong. Speaking truth is not a racist action; it is his duty as a priest.
Four years ago, like Fathers Altman and Goring, Fr. John Lankeit delivered a stirring sermon on the same topic, including an insight that is too infrequently ignored. He explained that the devil is a divider, using his wiles to separate us from the love of Christ. And he pointed out that when priests and/or Catholics do not stand up and defend the innocent and most vulnerable, they are exhibiting cowardice. He reminded us of this teaching from Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 1:7-8: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the gospel, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.”
The spirit of courage thwarts the devil’s invitation to be politically correct cowards. Fr. Altman knows this, and so do we. Speaking truth crushes evil. It always will.© Judie Brown
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