Father Richard Heilman gave a homily in defense of suspended priest James Altman. Heilman said:
“I’m talking about John the Baptist, Jesus Christ. People who stood up to the hierarchy of their time, and said ‘No, you can’t do this.’ That isn’t disobedience. That’s shining a light in our times.”
John the Baptist was the herald of the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the Son of God; He is one Person with two natures: the Divine Nature and his own human nature. So it is not right to portray John and Jesus as just two examples of “people who stood up to the hierarchy of their time”.
Then portraying the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ as “No, you can’t do this.” is absurdly shallow. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the Sadducees for particular serious theological errors, and moral errors as well. Jesus taught divine revelation, because He is God. And He was not merely shining a light in his time, but in all times.
Now for the main point. Fr. Heilman is saying that suspended priest James Altman was acting like John and like Jesus by standing up to the hierarchy of the one only Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Christ, with Christ as Her Head and with the Holy Spirit as Her soul. Heilman is comparing the Church which is the sole Ark of salvation to the hierarchy of the Pharisees, which not only rejected Jesus but had him put to death by means of false accusations and false witnesses. That is not only a patently ridiculous comparison, it is heretical and schismatic.
A priest who stands up against the hierarchy of the Church is at the least sinning against his vow of obedience, and at the most committing schism. Altman in particular has joined with a group called the Coalition for Cancelled Priests, which has as its stated purpose to bring laypersons to the Sacraments dispensed by priests who have lost their faculties from the Church to administer those Sacraments. That is schismatic. By joining with that group, Fr. Altman commits schism. He is formally cooperating with the administration of the Sacraments by priests without faculties.
The Church is Apostolic. The Roman Pontiff is the successor of Peter the prince of the Apostles, and the Bishops are the successors to the other Apostles. The Bishops together, with the Pope as their Head, form the Apostolic college. This is the hierarchy chosen and established by Christ Himself, and which has the charisms from the Holy Spirit to never lead the Church astray, a charism called indefectibility.
The document Unam Sanctam was confirmed by the Fifth Lateran Council, making its teaching dogma. Here is the full text of Unam Sanctam. It speaks of the hierarchy in the Church as willed by God and as specifically established by Christ in Peter. The authority of the Church is divine.
Unam Sanctam: “But this authority, even though it may be given to a man, and may be exercised by a man, is not human, but rather divine power, having been given by the divine mouth of Christ to Peter, and to him as well as to his successors, by Christ Himself, that is, to him whom He had disclosed to be the firm rock, just as the Lord said to Peter himself: “Whatever you shall bind,” [Matthew 16:19] etc. Therefore, whoever resists this authority, such as it has been ordained by God, resists the ordination of God.”
Fr. Heilman errs gravely by likening the rebellion by James Altman against the authority of the Church as similar to the rebuke of the Pharisees. Clergy and laity need to understand that we are all under the obedience of faith in the Church founded by Christ.