Aitcheson is sorry of his youthful days
Father William Aitcheson, a Catholic priest who was once a member of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan has apologized through a letter to a black couple . The then 23-year-old Aitcheson burned a cross on the house lawn of Philip Butler and Barbara Butler in January 1977. Aitcheson was then arrested and subsequently charged with multiple cross burnings. He was then sentenced by the court to a total of 90 days jail time for the criminal misdemeanor.
The priest, now 63-years-old, said he was compelled to make himself public after a rally held by the far-right in nearby Charlottesville led to widespread violence. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when she and a few others were intentionally rammed with the car. Aitcheson wrote that the Charlottesville photos made him remember a certain period of his life he would prefer to forget. He described his own younger self-actions as 'despicable'. He added that now he finds it hard to believe that the person who did those misdeeds was himself.
In his letter, Aitcheson wrote the Butler couple became a target because at that time he held a belief that people of dissimilar races cannot co-exist in the same place. He admitted to being made blind by sheer ignorance and hate. Now, he said, his views had changed. He now thinks that people of all races can peacefully exist.
Other than the letter, dated September 8, Father Aitcheson also sent two checks of total value $23,000. The priest has also consented to send about $9,600 more to cover legal fees. The amount of money was what the family expected to get post-filing a lawsuit at that time. Aitcheson declined to pay money during that period.
Arlington's Catholic Diocese has a slightly different take on the story. They said Father Aitcheson took the decision to come clean about his past when a freelance reporter contacted about a news story. The latter has discovered his legal name was identical to a person arrested during the 1970s. The priest then acknowledged his past. He also saw it as an opportunity to inform everyone about his story. The intention for this tell-all is that others will also see the possibility of repentance and consequent conversion.