Catholic priest tells the black family, he was blinded by hatred,’ apologizes for the burning of the cross was 40 years ago on their lawn

The Rev. William Aitcheson, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Catholic Diocese of Arlington


A Catholic priest who was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan and apologized in writing for a black pair for the burning of a cross on their lawn 40 years ago.

The Rev. William Aitcheson told Philip and Barbara Butler, he was “blinded by hate and ignorance” when he addressed them in 1977 at their home in College Park, Md.

The Washington Post reports that in a letter, dated Sept. 8, Aitcheson said he rejected those beliefs before he joined the priesthood, but was too embarrassed to face the Butlers.

“I believe now that all people can live together in peace, regardless of race,” he wrote in the letter. “I also know that the symbol of the most enduring love that the world has ever known, should never be used as a weapon of terror. Use against you was a despicable act. I seriously regret the distress caused.”


Rev. William Aitcheson

(Arlington Diocese )

The Butlers said that they are not sure what Aitcheson, who was sentenced to 90 days in prison in 1977, could do to earn forgiveness.

“This is going to take a while,” Barbara Butler said after a press conference Friday, reports the Associated Press.

“For you to come into my life, 40 years, and sorry to say. I will pray. That is the only thing I can do.”

The Butlers and their lawyer also talked about the recent payment to the Butlers of $23,000 of an outstanding judgment in a lawsuit, along with $9,600 in attorney fees.

In a statement, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said Aitcheson used his own money, and a personal loan to make the payment.

Aitcheson wrote in a recent essay that the violence against the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in August, made him think about his actions with the KKK.

“If this matter is related to the Butler family and Fr. Aitcheson has solved only recently the plans for his future ministry can be still distinguished,” the diocese said in a statement Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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