WASHINGTON, D.C. – An African-American family that suffered a cross-burning 40 years ago in Maryland has more questions than answers after discovering that man responsible has been a Catholic priest in Nevada and Virginia.
Phillip and Barbara Butler said Father William Aitcheson should identify his Klan associates along with anyone else who helped him burn crosses decades ago.
Aitcheson is taking a leave of absence from the Diocese of Arlington after describing his Klan membership and apologizing for his actions as a young man. He said his past was not a secret, but he felt compelled to make it more public after seeing violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
“My actions were despicable. When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else. It’s hard to believe that was me,” Aitcheson wrote in The Arlington Catholic Herald.
The Butlers’ lawyer, Ted Williams, said he believes Aitcheson came forward only because he was going to be exposed.
Aitcheson was ordained as a priest in 1988 by the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas, and has been assigned to the Arlington Diocese since 1993, most recently serving as parochial vicar – an assistant pastor – at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax.