My Critique of Fr. James Altman

NOTE: Comments are now closed on this post. There’s just too much malice and too little regard for the teaching of Jesus coming from Altman’s supporters.

I happened upon the video in this manner. First, I saw a news story, that mentioned this tweet:

Bishop J. Strickland
@Bishopoftyler
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

And the video is here: Altman on YouTube. The title of the video is: “Fr. James Altman: You cannot be Catholic & a Democrat. Period.” Since this is not a teaching of the Catholic Church, not a teaching of any Roman Pontiff or Ecumenical Council, not a teaching of the Bishops Conference of the United States, it is clearly not a teaching of the Magisterium. This is Fr. Altman’s opinion. However, that does not excuse him. For it is not an opinion merely on politics, but also on the Faith. And the opinion is incorrectly presented as if it were incontrovertible truth of the Faith.

During the Divine Ministry of Jesus Christ, from His baptism in the Jordan to his Ascension into Heaven, Jesus criticized the politicized Jewish Faith of His day. The Jewish leaders had become divided into the liberal Sadducees and the conservative Pharisees. And our Lord criticized them both, but most especially and most sharply, He criticized the conservatives Pharisees. {Matthew 5:20} “For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

And yet Fr. Altman makes this same mistake of politicizing the Faith. He first of all tells Catholics that they cannot be a Democrat. Why not? He mentions abortion, but many Democrats, not just in Congress but across the nation in other political offices, are Prolife. Then he makes the baseless claim that “Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches.” Well, most of what the Church teaches is not mentioned at all in the platform of any party. So that can’t be true. And Democrats are generally in favor of helping the poor, orphans, widows, foreigners sojourning in a… I mean immigrants, health care for everyone, that minimum wage be enough to live on in human decency. That doesn’t sound like a platform that is against everything the Church teaches.

So Fr. Altman’s claims are false. He is conservative, and so he wants Catholics to vote conservative. But it’s not a question of following the teachings of the Church. A faithful Catholic can be Democrat or Republican. The three fonts of morality determine whether an act, such as voting, is good or evil, permissible or sinful. It is not intrinsically evil to vote Democrat, so it depends on intention and circumstances. That is Catholic teaching.

Then Fr. Altman takes his false claim, that you cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat, and he exaggerates it further, to the point of heresy. For he claims the following: “Repent of your support for that party and its platform or face the fires of Hell….” The Church does not teach that supporting the Democratic party and its platform is an actual mortal sin. And as I said, many Democrats are Prolife. Moreover, he does not base these claims solely or mainly on abortion, but on the entire party platform.

But there are other disturbing things about this talk by Fr. Altman. One is that he frames this false teaching — that you must reject the Democratic party and its platform or be punished forever in Hell — within Jesus’ teaching on knowing and loving God. He begins and ends with telling people to know, love, and serve God. that is of course the teaching of Jesus and of the Jewish Faith before Christianity. But the middle of the talk is sinful pride, false accusations, false claims about Church teaching, and false claims on matters of grave moral weight. Then he ends as he began, talking about knowing, loving, and serving God. But one certainly would not be loving or serving God by imitating Fr. Altman’s gravely immoral behavior in the middle of the talk:

* He speaks with extreme pride, as if he cannot possibly be wrong, and as if he has the role to judge and condemn others. He does so far as to threaten all Catholics who support the Democratic party and its platform with eternal punishment. That is for God to judge, not Fr. Altman.
* He rebels against the authority of the Magisterium, which God has given into the hands and the judgment of the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops. He calls them “the hierarchy”, and he speaks as if he has the role to oversee, judge, and condemn them.
* He speaks with hatred toward those who do not share his conservative views.
* He does not speak or act like the Lamb, but like a dragon. He is not imitating Christ.
* He lacks humility, faith in the Roman Pontiff and the body of Bishops, and obedience.

In addition, this tweet by Brian Fraga (@brianfraga) points out some additional problems with the video statement:

Statements in this Bishop Strickland-endorsed video include:
– Fr James Martin is a “heretic” who “prances”
– DACA is for “criminal illegal aliens”
– Climate change is a “hoax”
– BLM protesters are all Marxists
– +Gregory is called out 3X for criticizing @POTUS
#CatholicTwitter

Now here are some excerpts from the video:

Fr. Altman: “there are way too many people who don’t know the first thing about almighty God — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — so truth be told, they do not love Him. And so we can see in the many godless politicians out there, and the godless educational system, and the godlessness of so many sheeples, they most definitely are not serving Him, they are not fulfilling their purpose in life, to know, to love, and to serve God.”

Another disturbing thing about the video is that Fr. Altman’s talk suggests that people who do not accept almighty God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit cannot possibly have the true theological virtue of love. And this would imply — if it were true, which it is not — that they cannot be saved unless they convert to Christianity (apparently, this must also be a conservative version of Christianity). Such a narrow view of salvation is the type of neo-Feeneyism which has crept into the Catholic far right since the reign of Pope Francis began.

“Well, here’s a memo to clueless baptized Catholics out there: you cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat, period. Their party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches….Repent of your support for that party and its platform or face the fires of Hell….”

Fr. Altman is speaking with arrogance and condescension; he is being judgmental and issues a sweeping condemnation merely for voting Democrat. The beginning and end of his talk are the sheep’s clothing. It seems like he is going to talk about knowing, loving, and serving God. But instead, most of the talk is sinful, arrogant, condemnatory, and full of false teachings. As the talk continues, he says this:

“I crunched the numbers and finally came up with a pretty close approximate total of how many Catholics voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Zero….There were a lot of pretenders, a lot imposters, a lot of people masquerading as Catholics, laity and clergy alike; there were zero faithful Catholics who voted for that godless politician who had the audacity to blaspheme and say “God bless Planned Parenthood” — the most racist organization on the face of this planet, founded to wipe out black babies.”

He condemns all Catholics who voted for Obama in two elections. Regardless of what their lives might be like, even if they are priests or Bishops, he condemns them as being not real Catholics or not faithful Catholics for their vote. This is contrary to Catholic teaching. You do not lose your identity as Catholic, even if you commit a mortal sin, and voting for a president is typically a matter of judging the circumstances. So a person might vote for either party in good conscience. But Altman disregards Catholic moral teaching, and substitutes this new extremism, where you become non-Catholic for one or two choices, when voting for president. Nothing in Catholic teaching supports this type of claim. It is not Catholic doctrine, nor a sound Catholic opinion. The idea is non-Catholic.

Fr. Altman is not imitating Christ when he utterly condemns Barack Obama for one statement that he made. He may have made that statement with a sincere but mistaken conscience. It does not make him godless. This type of extreme condemnation of another human person for a single act is not the way that Christ behaved. Consider the way that our Lord treated the Roman Centurion, who probably believed in the Roman gods and goddesses; the way He treated the woman of Canaan, who was neither a disciple of Christ nor a Jew; the example He gave of the good Samaritan, who had incorrect religious doctrines (as a Samaritan) but is the example Christ placed before every generation to imitate. The type of condemnation Fr. Altman proposes, for a single act of voting or a single public statement is contrary to the examples given in the Gospel from the Ministry of Christ.

Fr. Altman also references, in passing: “the climate change hoax”. Certain points are debatable, especially what will happen when in the future with Climate Change. But the science on this is not only so well-established that it can’t be entirely wrong, but also certainly not a “hoax”. The term “hoax” implies a deliberate deception. Science is continually revising its understanding, but usually with a progressions of small to large improvements, along with some corrected errors. Revisions of various degrees and even outright errors — speaking about science in general — are not hoaxes. A hoax is “something intended to deceive or defraud” [dictionary.com]

What Fr. Altman and many others on the far right are doing is much the same technique, applied to a different purpose, as the liberal media (at its worst) often does: exaggerating, distorting, and even repeating known falsehoods of others, in order to obtain notoriety, a larger audience, and favor with those who believe these errors. To the same intended end, many leaders on the far right are using harsh condemnatory language toward their philosophical or theological opponents, so as to gain a larger audience and so as to cause that audience to adhere to them more firmly.

Next, Fr. Altman attacks the Bishops. “Shame on the hierarchy who covers up truth through a conspiracy of fear. Listen, if there wasn’t truth spoken, nobody, but nobody would be listening to me for two seconds.” Read again the paragraph I wrote just before this one. It is well-known that if you tell people what they wish to hear, they will be attracted to that speaker. It is well-known that speaking falsehoods that are in favor in a particular group or subculture gains them as attentive listeners. So Fr. Altman’s claim that, if he were not speaking truth no one would be listening to him for even a brief time is contrary to a well-known truth about listeners and speakers.

Also, how does Fr. Altman explain that his liberal opponents, whom he thinks are not speaking truth, have obtained so many listeners? No one would listen to him, if he weren’t speaking truth? Does he think he is in Heaven, where that is true? His assertion is a ridiculous plainly-false claim.

“And if all that is accomplished by speaking up, is to let the proud and the arrogant in the hierarchy realize that the faithful are suspicious and they have good reason. And that they need to straighten up, and straighten out this mess that they created….”

Fr. Altman attacks the hierarchy because he knows that many conservative Catholics are angry at the Bishops. He is telling his audience what they wish to hear. He is playing on their biases and misguided emotions. He is using the worst traits of his audience, to gain their support.

Then Fr. Altman ends with this assertion: “our purpose in life is to know, love, and serve God.” His talk was not about knowing God, loving God, loving neighbor, or serving God. His talk itself is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Speaking In General

The faithful should learn to distinguish wolves from sheep. To do so, you must set aside your political biases and your preferences for certain theological points of view, political or social views, and disciplines. Be able to recognize a good person and a good teacher in someone who does not share your views. Then, look to see if the words of the person show a love for other human persons and a respect for those who are different in ideas, behavior, background, etc. Love of enemies is found only in those who either have the infused theological virtue of love, or who are cooperating with actual graces so well as to be not far from obtaining or returning to the state of grace in love, faith, and hope.

So many leaders on the right, so many of the papal critics, are angry at all who disagree with them, and they seem to think they have the right to treat their philosophical opponents with contempt and denigration. They also like to use exaggerated rhetoric, so as to play on the emotions of those whose support they seek. They make shocking, exaggerated, false, even malicious remarks, so as to obtain notoriety and to develop a group of listeners who will follow them closely.

We are about to enter a difficult time. Be very careful whom you accept as a shepherd or teacher.

Edited (9/11) to add: Catholicism has become politicized today, to the point where many Catholics will support Fr. Altman regardless of his sinful behavior and his open disobedience and contempt towards the Bishops. They support him because they view him as a leader of their religious party, just as a Pharisee would support another Pharisee over a Sadducee. It was a problem in Judaism during the time of Jesus’ ministry, and it’s a problem now. I can’t imagine that I would ever support someone who behaved so sinfully, regardless of their views on any issue.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

Note added 9/12: Please do not waste your time posting comments which show a lack of Christian charity. They will be deleted. I let one such comment be posted below, to show an example of the type of error. Catholicism is not a political party. Love of neighbor should be our guide above all else. You are not justified in treating anyone with contempt merely because they disagree or you have labeled them a liberal or they criticized a person of the same perceived “party” as you.

Note 9/13: My main criticism of Fr. James Altman’s words: the lack of Christian charity. And those who are defending him in the comments here show the same lack of charity. The lack of the theological infused virtue of charity. Are you Christians? So many malicious nasty remarks (most of which have not been put through the moderation process, so I’ve seen them and you haven’t). In this way, you implicitly condemn Fr. Altman. For when you attack his critics with malice, you behave like him, and you show the error of his ways in your behavior. But those who love Jesus, love others, including “enemies”. Who taught you to hate those with the “wrong” views? It wasn’t Jesus.

NOTE: Comments are now closed on this post. You had your chance.

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40 Responses to My Critique of Fr. James Altman

  1. RJ says:

    Ron your an idiot, and your arguments have very little merit. And for you to equate abortion with the pandemic that is being used for political purposes, which cannot be denied is ridiculous. And my be sinful, YES ABIRTION IS THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE FOR CATHOLICS, and all others are secondary.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I’m not equating anything. The pandemic can be solved in less than a year. Abortion is not going to go away until people repent of their grave sexual sins. And the politicization of religion is a grave error, as shown by 1 Cor 1:11ff. The unwillingness to criticize persons of one’s own party; the utter rejection of the opposing party, their views and their leaders, the division of Christ into liberal and conservative — whereby one rejects Popes and Councils perceived to be of the other party — is gravely immoral. And it is not Christianity. This is not Christian behavior.

      Nowadays, this has reached an absurd extent, whereby one’s own party leaders, like Fr. Altman, can behave with open malice, teach falsehoods, refuse obedience to the Church’s hierarchy, and behave like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and receive support from his party members. Catholics on the far right will not criticize any of their own leaders in the least, but they will accuse the Pope of heresy. They can’t accept that any conservative leader could ever fall into heresy, but the Rock on which the Church is founded, they don’t trust him or believe anything he says. He isn’t their leader, implicitly.

  2. Steve says:

    I would like to know what he thinks of the Catholic interpretation of Mark which advises epileptics are loaded demons and need rites of exorcism. Ill be fair, Mr. Altman is caught in an authoritative trap, he’s got to learn a little more about political structure and the dangers that occur when we mix politics and religion. It would be interesting to see his reaction to the argument that for the Biblical Era, the teachings of Jesus were quite radical.

  3. Catholic girl says:

    Thank you writing this, when I was appalled by knowing a priest grandstanded, show boated in this way, I looked to seeing people that were raised in the Catholic faith as I was. Your article was one of few I found unfortunately. My current priest and parish acts humbly and truly lives by Jesus and the gospels. Politics are not mentioned during mass or at other parish gatherings.
    Jesus is love and what would he have done confronted by a priest that acts this way? Maybe this priest has lack of love in his heart? AlI I can do is pray for him. My faith is too important to be degraded by politics with the lies and sins politicians partake in via lobbyist groups and other outside influences to get them elected.
    Spread love not hate.
    Thank you for writing this.

  4. Thomas says:

    Spread love not hate…..Is this a BLM or 60s hippie mantra..you had your chance. Democrats are the party of hate and evil…demonic.

    • Ron Conte says:

      So the above comment is a clear example of the apostasy of the far right in Catholicism. Apostasy. The complete abandonment of the Christian faith. You reject love because you see it as connected to the views of your socio-political opponents? The two greatest commandments of Christ Jesus are love God and love your neighbor. I think many far right Catholics are proclaiming, by their own words and behavior, their own abandonment of Jesus and the true Faith.

  5. Hollis Fowler says:

    I’m stunned that someone would think it is ok to vote democrat. This is the most outrageous political party I’ve ever seen! I’m a lifelong Catholic and I say it would be immoral to vote Democrat. I think this is the communism which Our Lady of Fatima warned about. Our Lady, pray for us!

    • Ron Conte says:

      No, the Communism Mary warned us about at Fatima is spiritual Communism, exactly what is happening with the papal accusers. They have abandoned being led by Church authority. They rail against “the hierarchy”. They decide what is true or false, doctrine or heresy, with each person believing whatever they like. And just as political Communism always turns into totalitarianism, this spiritual Communism likewise ends up with each conservative leader proclaiming what is and is not true with absolutism, as if he were the dictator over the Faith, and as if the Pope were a subordinate.

    • Matt says:

      Know our Church and what it says. The Church has not said it’s “okay” to vote for a Democrat. The Church has also said it’s “not okay” to vote for a Democrat. Same thing with Republicans.Same thing with any other party.

      The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then Cardinal Ratzinger, in 2004, said, “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favour of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

      Similarly, the USCCB’s current guidance for US voters, called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – Part I – The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life”, the bishops state, “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to subhuman living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, or racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases, a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.”

      If you vote for a candidate with the intent to support their pro-abortion or pro-euthanasia or any other gravely evil position, the Church say THAT is not permitted.

      However, if in a faithful pro-life Catholic’s analysis, a candidate who opposes abortion but is otherwise so indifferent to other important issues involving human life and dignity that, in good faith, the Catholic voter feels like they cannot vote for that candidate and must, instead, vote for another candidate who might support abortion but otherwise better represents the message of Christ, then the Church has left that door open.

      Try a thought experiment as a reductio ad absurdum. Let’s say there’s a pro-life candidate who is also intent on wiping out all other nations even at the cost of using nuclear weapons. A campaign promise of his is that on Day One of his presidency he would obliterate with nuclear weapons all other nations so that America could reign supreme. Would you vote for him if the opposing candidate supported abortion but otherwise wanted to live peacefully with other nations and help the poor and needy?

      Obviously, we haven’t encountered a situation that extreme yet. On the other hand, in this election, though Biden isn’t my choice (I’m voting for “none of the above”), I can easily understand how a faithful Catholic could vote for Biden. First. arguably, climate change is poised to kill more people over time than abortion. Trump is on record claiming climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated upon the world by the Chinese. Second, federal capital punishment has resumed under Trump. In the Catechism, the Church calls this “inadmissible” in all cases (far-right Catholics reject this teaching of the Church). Third, Trump unrepentantly and continuously berates our brothers and sisters, calling them “losers” and “failures”. As a veteran, what he has said about John McCain is particularly distasteful. Use whatever theological rationalization you like, but the plain message of Scripture and the Church is that kind of behavior is wrong – and murderously so. Matthew 5:22 says, “But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” About Matthew 5:22, our Holy Father has said, “Jesus tells us: ‘Look, if you harbour contempt, if you insult, if you hate, this is murder’.” How many people has Trump murdered in that way? Then there’s also immigration: separating families and placing children in cages. That doesn’t even begin to address the 200,000 dead Americans so far this year who died in no small part because Trump, though he knew very early that covid is “deadly stuff”, he “wanted to always play it down”. And then, how much did Trump’s insistence on playing it down impact policy decisions in other nations like Brazil, where their leader, Bolsonaro, largely emulates Trump? Their death toll is over 130,000. What of emboldening Xi of China with his sending Uighur minorities to concentration camps, by Trump calling it “exactly the right thing to do”?

  6. Nancy Champion says:

    Below is an explanation of the “sin of scandal” that IS part of the teaching of the Catholic Church for you to ponder and hopefully better understand why so many priests agree that voting for Biden is indeed a sin. The conclusion has little to do with “far right conservatives” and everything to do with Church teaching. God Bless Fr. Altman for having the courage to tell the truth.

    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/top-us-pro-life-priests-no-catholic-can-vote-for-joe-biden

    • Ron Conte says:

      Fr. Altman has committed the sin of scandal by encouraging his viewers to behave like him, with disobedience toward the Magisterium, contempt for the “hierarchy”, disregard for Catholic teaching on morality, and politicizing religion. Instead of the Church’s teaching on morality being used to decide how to vote, he proposes a political decision: don’t ever vote Democrat. It’s a sinful example that scandalizes the faithful — as proven by the subsequent sins of his supporters who lash out with uncharitable malice toward those who disagree.

  7. GodsGadfly says:

    Thanks, Ron. I agree with you completely. Fr. Altman and Fr. Martin both strike me as narcissists. What about Fr. Altman’s homily where he makes light of lynchings? It was horrid. I couldn’t BELIEVE people were repeating his lies there.

  8. H. Rex says:

    Democrats support the killing if the innocent, and homosexuality, which are two sins the bible says cry out to heaven for vengeance.
    The conservatives may have their flaws but not all sins have the same magnitude.

  9. Steven Kirkman says:

    It may not be a teaching of the church that Catholics cannot vote Democrat but it certainly is consistent with church teaching to say the democrat platform is inconsistent with the church. This amounts to practically the same thing

  10. Marta Santillano says:

    Sorry Ron, but I happen to know many people that have left the church because many of the hierarchy have chosen to ignore all the sexual scandals within the Catholic Church. I grew up in a devout Catholic family that sacrificed for their children to attend Catholic schools. The Church has failed to educated their parishioners. Too little time taken to prepare a homily that conveys a message that relates to Christ’s teachings. Priests are more concern about offending their people than stating the truth. People are receiving holy communion under sin because they feel that nothing is a sin. Many people do not believe that Our Lord is present in the Holy Eucharist. Look at the way some people dress to attend Mass, no respect is shown. Fr. Altman also grew up with devout parents and also attended Catholic School. I truly believe that he loves all his parishioners and he spends a lot time working on his homilies, and trying to save souls. Fr. Altman is well educated and was an attorney before becoming a Priest and also has a degree in finance. Jesus Christ was not politically correct. We have to examine our conscience and ask ourselves “what would Jesus do.”
    Right now, we should all be praying the Rosary as Our Blessed Mother has asked us to do. All her prophecies are now coming true and we should be more concerned about going to heaven than dying of the Corona virus. Heaven forbid that we become a socialist county. You know She spoke about division within the Catholic Church.

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