Just two days after being removed from his parish by his bishop for controversial political rhetoric, a Catholic priest prayed and spoke at the influential Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, on Sunday (July 11). Father James Altman prayed for God’s blessing on the CPAC meeting just hours ahead of former President Donald Trump’s speech at the event rehashing baseless claims about the 2020 election. The theme for the gathering was “America UnCanceled”
“Send your Spirit,” Altman prayed, “down upon us like the dewfall that fed the Israelites wandering in the desert in their time and place. Nourish us and strengthen us with such grace that we may be such witnesses of faith, family, and country that the whole world will come to know we will not be canceled.”
Two days before Altman appeared at CPAC, La Crosse Bishop William Callahan removed Altman as pastor at St. James the Less Parish in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Callahan’s move bars Altman from preaching and only allows the priest to celebrate Mass in private. Callahan also instructed Altman to begin a 30-day spiritual retreat to “give him the possibility to spiritually heal and recharge and address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.”
“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 La Crosse diocese said in a statement Thursday. “The decree is effective immediately and for an indeterminate period of time. During this time Fr. Altman, must refrain from exercising the function of pastor.”
The move came after a year of efforts by Callahan and others to get Altman to stop his partisan rhetoric. Altman sparked headlines last year with a viral video in which he declared, “You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat.” Altman added in that video, “Repent of your support of that party or face the fires of hell.”
Altman also sparked controversy in 2020 for breaking coronavirus rules and calling COVID-19 a “hoax.” Earlier this year, he criticized COVID vaccination efforts. In May, Callahan requested Altman resign, but the priest refused and started raising funds to fight efforts to remove him.
Altman’s appearance at CPAC not only appears to violate the order to start a 30-day spiritual retreat but also included more attacks on science amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.
“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who actually did make heaven and earth, and that’s all the science we need to know,” Altman told CPAC attendees who applauded others speakers attacking vaccination efforts.
And after his prayer, Altman returned to the stage for another segment as he answered questions about faith and society.
Later on Sunday, Trump won the CPAC straw poll vote for which candidate the conservative activists prefer for the 2024 presidential race. Trump took 70%, followed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 21%.