ARLINGTON, Va. — Writing in the Arlington Catholic Herald, Father 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,” Father Aitcheson, 62, wrote in an Aug. 21 op-ed in the diocesan newspaper. “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 Father 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.
The diocese said “no accusations of racism or bigotry” have been directed against Father Aitcheson “throughout his time in the Diocese of Arlington.” His article “was written with the intention of telling his story of transformation,” it said. The diocese added that it had approved his request “to temporarily step away from public ministry, for the well-being of the church and parish community.”
Father Aitcheson’s article was published with the headline “Moving from hate to love with God’s grace” and also posted on the newspaper’s website, http://catholicherald.com/home.