Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 24th 2017 Contents life B25
Thursday, August 24, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Priest urges haters
to repent; reveals his
Ku Klux Klan past
Forty years ago he was a Ku Klux Klan "wizard,"
burning crosses on black families' lawns. Now,
after decades as a Catholic priest, he's coming
forward about his past.
While Father William Aitcheson's racist past was
a matter of public record, it wasn't widely known in
the diocese of Arlington, until this week. Prompted by
images of violence during a white nationalist rally in
Charlottesville, Aitcheson described his transforma-
tion in a column published Monday in The Arlington
Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper and urged
white supremacists to repent.
"While I firmly believe God forgave me---as he for-
gives anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness
---forgetting what I did would be a mistake," wrote
Aitcheson, who is taking a leave of absence from active
ministry. "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."
Aitcheson, 62, said 40 years have passed since he
was in the Klan, but the violence he saw last week
compelled him to describe his journey.
The diocese noted that Aitcheson "voluntarily asked
to temporarily step away from public ministry, for
the well being of the Church and parish community."
In a statement, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge
called Aitcheson's past with the Klan troubling, but
said he hopes his story of transformation will help
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.
In his article, Aitcheson wrote that his membership
in the Klan is public information, but rarely comes up.
Indeed, Aitcheson was convicted on criminal charg-
es in 1977 after the cross-burnings, one of which drew
a response from President Ronald Reagan years later.
Articles from the Associated Press archives show
that Aitcheson was arrested in 1977, when, as a student
at the University of Maryland, authorities identified
him as the "wizard" of a 12-member KKK lodge.
He was charged in state and federal court with mul-
tiple cross-burnings, and a threat to kill Coretta Scott
King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. He was
convicted and sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Five years later, a judge ordered Aitcheson to
pay US$23,000 in damages to Philip and Barbara
Butler, who were victimised by one of Aitcheson's
cross-burnings after they moved into a mostly white
neighborhood in College Park, Maryland.
That prompted the visit from Reagan, who sought
to reassure the Butlers that the racist attack was not
representative of most Americans' views.
In his column, Aitcheson urges white supremacists
to take a different path and seek forgiveness. (AP)
Father William Aitcheson, a priest in the Roman
Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. Aitcheson is
taking a leave of absence after disclosing he once
was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. AP PHOTO
• From Page B24
Canada contends the Arctic archipel-
ago's waters are its internal waters, and
has stepped up its presence in the region,
including creating a new Arctic research
centre. The United States contests Can-
ada's claim, which would give Ottawa the
right to stop ships from freely traveling
through the Northwest Passage.
Some smaller firms are pressing ahead.
The Alaska-based company Quintillion
is laying a fibre optic cable through the
Northwest Passage to provide high-speed
Internet traffic to local communities and an
additional link between London and Tokyo.
Climate change is even opening new
avenues in agriculture. Mette Bendixen,
a climate researcher at the University of
Copenhagen, projects that global warm-
ing will extend the growing season by two
Despite its promise, several challenges
are holding back Arctic development.
The search for fossil fuels above North
America has slowed in recent years, partly
because of low oil prices and public pres-
sure. Shell relinquished most of its federal
offshore leases in Alaska's Chukchi Sea last
year, after pouring billions of dollars into
exploration efforts. Former Shell leases in
the neighbouring Beaufort Sea have been
taken over by an Alaska Native-owned
And only 10 per cent of the Northwest
Passage is surveyed to the highest modern
standards, meaning uncharted shallows
could pose a serious risk to shipping.
Ocean currents are predicted to push
polar pack ice into the passage for dec-
ades, limiting the route to sturdy vessels
with experienced navigators ---and keeping
insurance costs high.
Environmental concerns and a growing
acceptance of the indigenous population's
rights have held back some plans for Arc-
tic exploration. Daria Gritsenko, a public
policy researcher on board the Nordica,
also cautioned that melting permafrost
poses a problem for Arctic infrastructure.
Arctic development faces several challenges
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