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USA News

US bishop takes rare step of removing priest following remarks about politics and the pandemic

by Premier Journalist

A Wisconsin priest who said Catholics can't be Democrats and criticized pandemic-related restrictions on church gatherings as "Nazi-esque controls." has been removed from his post.

The Diocese of La Crosse said in a statement that Bishop William Patrick Callahan had issued a decree immediately removing the Rev. James Altman as pastor of St. James the Less, a parish in the city of La Crosse on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. 

The decree will remain in effect for an undetermined length of time, the statement said.

The statement added that the bishop "and his diocesan representatives have spent over a year, prayerfully and fraternally, working toward a resolution related to ongoing public and ecclesial concerns of the ministry of Fr. James Altman. 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."

Altman rose to prominence ahead of the 2020 presidential election with a fiery YouTube video in which he said Catholics can't be Democrats and that anyone who supports Democrats will burn in hell.

He also has sharply criticized COVID-19 vaccination efforts and pandemic-related restrictions on church gatherings as "Nazi-esque controls." 

Bishop Callahan asked him to resign in May. However, Altman announced Callahan's request to his parishioners during Mass, drawing audible "No's" from the crowd, a YouTube video of the ceremony showed.

Other online videos show him calling U.S bishops "cowards' and a "brood of vipers."

Rev Altman can appeal the decree to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy. He didn't respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment, Friday morning.

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