A Catholic priest in Virginia is temporarily stepping down after it came to light that he used to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Rev William Aitcheson made the admission in an article he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald.
'As an impressionable young man, I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan,' he writes. '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's article was prompted by the scenes in Charlottesville, where white nationalists processed with torches, in scenes reminiscent of the KKK.
The Klan, which has been used to describe a number of disparate but related groups over the past 200 years, still exists in parts of the South. It is well known for its hatred of black people, but the bigotry extends to Jews, Catholics and others.
'The irony that I left an anti-Catholic hate group to rejoin the Catholic Church is not lost on me,' he wrote. 'It is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy.'
The priest has decided to take a temporary break from his duties. A spokesperson for his diocese said, 'Fr Aitcheson decided that given the current political and cultural climate around the sensitive issue of racism, he felt it best to temporarily step away from his parish duties. He felt it was best for the Church and his parish. His request was approved. His hope is that his story of transformation would be helpful to others.'
Father Aitcheson's closing words in the piece were: 'If there are any white supremacists reading this, I have a message for you: you will find no fulfillment in this ideology. Your hate will never be satisfied and your anger will never subside. I encourage you to find peace and mercy in the only place where it is authentic and unending: Jesus Christ.'