Priest Says COVID Rules Enforcers Will Burn in 'Hottest Levels' of Hell

A priest in La Crosse, Wisconsin had called COVID-19 safety measures "godless" and "Nazi-esque controls," while the church's recent bulletin offers criticism of vaccines.

Father James Altman of St. James the Less Catholic Church ignored COVID protocols at a recent Easter mass, according to the La Crosse Tribune and spoke out against rules designed to arrest the spread of the virus.

In a video posted to one of the priest's YouTube accounts on April 5, a large number of parishioners line up for communion—the newspaper estimated around 170 people—many of whom received the sacrament in their mouths instead of their hands, while many were also not wearing facemasks.

A photo from the mass seen by the newspaper showed around 50 people in the first five rows of the church who did not appear to be wearing masks or social distancing, the La Crosse Tribune reported on Sunday.

The La Crosse County Health Department has issued an advisory order that capacity for enclosed public buildings be capped at 75 percent and masks worn, while the Diocese of La Crosse has its own protocols capping attendance at 25 percent capacity and requiring mask-wearing and social distancing, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The health department's order is not independently enforceable but potential violations can be subject to complaints that may then result in enforcement measures if an investigation produces "credible, clear and convincing evidence."

In another video from a Palm Sunday celebration this year (March 28), which the description says was recorded by someone in attendance, Altman criticized COVID-19 protocols.

"A year ago this Palm Sunday, the godless madness already had taken control but only nine of us were allowed in here, including me. Let us reject and cast off the godless madness now and forevermore," he said.

"And let us realize that we do not fear dying so much that we fear to live."

"You've all heard the horror stories, all because godless vermin fed us fear and instituted godless, Nazi-esque controls on all of us and on those we love," Altman went on.

"Let us be clear, God damns every single one of those godless moves, whether it be in civil government or worse, in the complicity of many in the church. In fact, if hell itself has many levels [...] the lowest, hottest levels are the final burning place for those shepherds who were complicit in the godless restrictions."

"The godlessness of what has happened over the past year, the godlessness of what [Dr. Anthony] Fauci is now promoting in double masking, is damnable in the hottest fires of hell, and I'm not joking," Altman said later in the sermon.

The La Crosse Tribune also obtained the church's bulletin for April 18, 2021, which contains a page that calls vaccines "an experimental use of a genetic altering substance that modifies your body—your temple of the Holy Spirit."

The page says it is "diabolical for anyone to virtue-signal/shame/compel you to take such an experimental drug, making you nothing other than a guinea pig" and that people recommending the vaccine are "lying to your face."

"God is still the best doctor and prayer is still the best medicine," it read.

The Diocese of La Crosse issued a statement to the Tribune saying it would "privately address the concerns" about Altman.

"It is a matter of concern for Bishop [William] Callahan when Fr. James Altman, or any of his priests, address medical, political or worldly challenges in a manner that misleads or overtly condemns others," the statement said.

"It remains a challenge to balance our needs with the need to protect public health in our churches when we are in need of rebuilding a strength of faith and practice of religion. No matter one's view we should always act out of love for God and love for neighbor."

Altman has caused controversy in the past when he called Democrats "godless hypocrites" in 2020 and said you could not be both a Catholic and a Democrat.

Newsweek has asked the parish of St. James the Less in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and the Diocese of La Crosse for comment on this article.

Parishioners in a New York Catholic Church
Local residents attend a Roman Catholic Church mass on October 22, 2020 at the Sacred Hearts and St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church in New York City. A priest in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has criticized COVID-19 safety protocols. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

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