A Wisconsin priest spoke truth. That is a very dangerous act in this world that enjoys obfuscation. He will be punished for it. I knew that. You knew that. But most importantly, I believe he knew that.
Fr. Altman’s video speech sent shockwaves throughout the Catholic world. Why? He defended life. He made it clear that our political system has chosen sides on this crucial issue. But the Church today enjoys obfuscation. You can say anything you want. Just leave a teensy bit of room for nuance.
Fr. Altman did not. He spoke plainly, saying that “You can not be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period.”
“There will be 60 million aborted babies standing at the gates of heaven barring your Democrat entrance,” Altman added, criticizing the Democratic platform’s commitment to legal abortion.
In the days following the video Bishop Strickland of Texas endorsed the video. “As the Bishop of Tyler I endorse Fr Altman’s statement in this video. My shame is that it has taken me so long. Thank you Fr Altman for your COURAGE. If you love Jesus & His Church & this nation…pleases HEED THIS MESSAGE,” Strickland tweeted Sept. 5.
That actually made it more incumbent on Bishop William Callahan of LaCrosse to act. He could no longer pretend to ignore it.
So the bishop will attempt fraternal correction, and said the priest has inflicted a “wound” upon the Church.
“I have begun this process, not in the bright light of the public arena, but as the Gospel dictates, in private,” Bishop William Callahan of La Crosse said in a Sept. 9 statement.
“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,” the bishop added, in reference to canon 1341 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law.
Here’s the thing. Bishop Callahan knows that he can’t say that Fr. Altman is wrong. So what to do? What to do? Ah, yes. Just say it’s not so much what he said but how he said it. His tone.
Callahan emphasized that he understands “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,” the bishop insisted.
Hmmmm. I seem to remember Jesus saying something about division. Don’t you? He specifically said, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”
The world is already divided on these issues. All Bishop Callahan is doing is dividing the Church on this issue. And this is an issue that the Church’s teaching isn’t nuance-able.
I don’t have a problem with his tone. I just want truth. Isn’t that why we all show up at the doors of the Church? We crave truth. Tone be damned. Give me truth.
Fr. Altman has been courageous. The arrows he receives are sadly coming at his back. Pray for him. Pray for courage. By the time this is all over we shall all need it.