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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Priest temporarily steps down after revealing Ku Klux Klan past, asks for forgiveness

A Catholic priest has temporarily stepped down after revealing his Ku Klux Klan past.

Writing in the Arlington Catholic Herald, Fr William Aitcheson, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, asked forgiveness for having been a member of the Ku Klux Klan years ago as ‘an impressionable young man’.

‘As a young adult I was Catholic, but in no way practicing my faith,’ Fr Aitcheson, 62, wrote in the diocesan newspaper on 21st August. ‘The irony that I left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me. It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy.

‘While 40 years have passed, I must say this: I’m sorry. To anyone who has been subjected to racism or bigotry, I am sorry. I have no excuse, but I hope you will forgive me,’ he said.

In response Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a statement: ‘While Fr Aitcheson’s past with the Ku Klux Klan is sad and deeply troubling, I pray that in our current political and social climate his message will reach those who support hate and division, and inspire them to a conversion of heart.

‘Our Lord is ready to help them begin a new journey, one where they will find peace, love, and mercy. The Catholic Church will walk with anyone to help bring them closer to God,’ he said.

Picture: Fr William Aitcheson, 62, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Va., is pictured in an undated photo. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Arlington).