Father James Altman of St James the Less Roman Catholic Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin is the clerical darling of the racist, misogynist Catholic radical right.
He regularly puts his homilies on YouTube where he can infect as many people as possible with his anti-Christ ravings. I don’t know if this is true of every homily he gives, but the ones I’ve watched make no effort to teach or explain the Gospels or Catholic teaching. His homilies that I’ve seen were partisan political polemics.
Yesterday, I watched part of a video of a homily by Father Altman that may be the most viciously racist and anti-life sermon I have ever heard by any clergy of any denomination.
Father Altman claimed in his homily that he had done “research” on lynchings. He said that his “research” indicated that lynchings were caused by “homicides and rapes.” He taught from the pulpit that lynchings were “capital punishment,” then added “carried out by a mob, which is never good,” as a sop.
What this priest is trivializing is a reign of terror that was enacted on the black citizens of this nation for 100 years. He is dismissing the cold terror that scars the psyches of black Americans to this day.
Lynching wasn’t a dark secret. It was out front entertainment. Large crowds often came to lynchings. People brought their children. I know. I’ve heard stories from people who were taken to lynchings as children. There were even lynching post cards. I’m putting a photo of one below.
If Father Altman has any real curiosity as to why black Americans are telling us that racism still exists in this country and that it is so systemic that it is invisible to the people who are committing it, he needs to go look the mirror. Father Altman’s racism is so wide and deep that it runs over shame and brags about it.
Fr Altman glossed over the fact that black people lived with the knowledge that a wrong word, look or gesture, that simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, could open the trapdoor to hell. He ignored that terror and death could come down on a black person at any time for any reason and that no one — not their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives or children — could go to the law for justice. He also blithely ignored the fact that it was clergy exactly like him who enforced the indifference that allowed this to happen.
He absolutely ignored the fact that people who opposed racism were threatened, called names and could lose their jobs, just for supporting anti-lynching laws. I know. My grandfather lost a job in the Great Depression, when jobs were life, for speaking against lynching.
After trivializing lynching, Father Altman then proceeded to make more bizarre and illogical claims. He jumped into the usual right wing practice of using apples to oranges comparisons to justify cruelty and immorality.
In this case, he blathered about all the, in his opinion, hyped-up attention that has been given to the relatively paltry number of black people murdered in lynchings compared to the way this country, again, in his opinion, ignores the hundreds of thousands of white soldiers who died in the Civil War “to end slavery.”
The racism in the way he worded this couldn’t be more stark.
This kind of absurd comparison is rife in right wing thinking right now. The illogic of it is obvious if you have a brain, but is totally incomprehensible if you’re blinded by right wing propaganda. The idea that we ignore the soldiers who died in the Civil War is preposterous.
We have cemeteries and battlefields that are national shrines, monuments in many cities and racist Catholic priests who work to re-write history by excusing that war’s Jim Crow aftermath by giving homilies belittling a hundred years of lynchings.
We write poems, novels, biographies and songs about the Civil War’s soldiers. We make movies, plays and re-enactments in their honor. Not only are they not ignored, this country has never taken a pause in its 160 year reverence to them.
Father Altman’s homily was so viciously anti-life that watching it was like taking a beating. It wasn’t the racism that got to me, although that was terrible. It was that this man is a Catholic priest who said these things in the name of Christ.
He finished speaking in support of a hundred years of wanton murder, then walked over to the altar and consecrated the Eucharist. He followed this by giving Communion to the people he had just taught to hate.
It affected me so deeply that I shut down everything I was doing and went to a church near my home and just sat with Jesus in the Sacrament. I couldn’t even pray for a while. I was too stunned.
I felt like this priest dumped the raw sewage of all the human hate that is racism and gang murder directly on Jesus. I felt as if he had crucified Jesus all over again, right in front of me.
Fr Altman excuses his hate-filled homilies with claims that he is defending the sanctity of human life. What he is actually doing is mocking the sanctity of human life. He is mocking the Eucharist. He is mocking Christ.
I spent a long time just sitting with Jesus. Afterwards, I drove around aimlessly, praying. When I first saw the video of that homily, I could have walked away from the Church and never looked back if it hadn’t been for the kind and good pastors and the decent and true bishops that I’ve personally known and interacted with.
We have many good men in the priesthood who try to do a good job.
But these demagogues who are channelling satan get all the attention, and their bishops, who must be no better, back them up.
It is more important than I can say that the Church bring these political priests and bishops under control.
God gave me the grace I needed when I sought Him after watching that video. I realized that my small part in this is simply to say what I’ve just said.
This behavior on the part of Father Altman and others like him is wrong. It needs to stop. When Jesus said Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, he was talking about priests like Father Altman.
I don’t have the power to stop Father Altman from standing in the pulpit and trivializing lynching to a church full of people. I can’t stop him from posting these hate tropes on YouTube and teaching many thousands of people that hatred and lying are Godliness.
But I can say that this is, in fact, racist hate. I can say that it is wrong. I can say that it does not speak for Christ, is not of Christ and leads to hell, not heaven.
I am doing that now.
The rest is up to Father Altman’s bishop and the Vatican.
The video below is used with permission. Copyright Melinda Ribnek, All Rights Reserved.