A Catholic priest in Virginia has stepped down from his duties, at least temporarily, after publicly revealing his position as a "grand cyclops" in the Ku Klux Klan 40 years ago, the Washington Post reports. Rev. William Aitcheson wrote about his "despicable" role with the KKK in an editorial published Monday in the Arlington Catholic Herald. He says he was "an impressionable young man" at the time and has since been transformed through Jesus' mercy. The 62-year-old Aitcheson writes that the events in Charlottesville “brought back memories of a bleak period in my life that I would have preferred to forget.” But he adds: "We cannot forget, we should not forget."
In 1977, when Aitcheson was a 23-year-old college student, he was charged with burning six crosses, making bomb threats, and manufacturing pipe bombs in Maryland. The AP reports Aitcheson, who served 90 day in jail, also threatened to kill Coretta Scott King. He now says “racists have polluted minds, twisted by an ideology that reinforces the false belief that they are superior to others.” Aitcheson became a priest in 1988, and the diocese in Arlington says it knew about his KKK past when he arrived in 1993. However, Bishop Michael Burbidge now calls Aitcheson's involvement with the KKK "sad and deeply troubling." The diocese notes Aitcheson "voluntarily" agreed to take a break from public ministry following his editorial. (Read more Ku Klux Klan stories.)