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Sunday, December 10, 2017

"The Quality of Mercy is not Strained:" The Butler Case & Fr. William Aitcheson

The Reagans visited the Butlers in 1982
after reading about their ordeal.
After months of silence, there is finally word about my former pastor Fr. William Aitcheson who stepped down from his position at St. Leo's after being publicly exposed for his KKK activities 40 years ago.  Crux News reported today that Father sent a handwritten letter of apology dated September 8th (Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother) including financial restitution to Barbara and Phillip Butler. He expressed his heartfelt regret for the harm he caused the couple by burning a cross on their lawn in 1977. [Read previous posts about Fr. Aitcheson here and here]

The diocese issued a statement following a press conference the Butlers and their attorney held on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th. The Butlers refused to meet personally with Fr. Aitcheson and initially refused even to accept Fr. Aitcheson's letter of apology and his check for restitution.  The Butlers later reconsidered and took the money ($23,000 in restitution and $9600 in lawyers' fees which Father is paying from his personal funds and through a loan), but the couple have publicly stated they don't know what it will take before they can forgive him.

And, in fact, at the press conference the Butlers said they are thinking of suing the Church for "covering up" for Fr. Aitcheson. According to a FOX 5 report, "The Butlers say Aitcheson used his position as a Catholic priest to continue his Ku Klux Klan activities by reportedly teaching young people the south was fighting for state’s rights, not slavery during the Civil War."

What nonsense!

After reading that, my sympathy for the Butlers started to dry up. Is this their "pound of flesh" moment? Get a shark lawyer to sue the Church and destroy Fr. Aitcheson as well? It begins to look like revenge and sounds like the lawyer is doing what lawyers do -- convincing people to sue. The bigger the target, the richer the payback (for the lawyer as well as his client).

Well, this is where the sin of detraction leads as I wrote when I criticized the former parishioner who almost gleefully scooped the story. She could have gone privately to Fr. Aitcheson and urged him to make things right. (That's what the Gospel says to do.) If he had refused, she could have gone to the bishop. (That's what the Gospel says to do.) It might actually have led to a real reconciliation between Fr. Aitcheson and the Butlers. But the story was more important than Christian charity and now things appear to be getting murkier and nastier which is generally the case when a lawsuit-hungry lawyer gets involved. Hey, a nice fat settlement might get Ted Williams a shiny new car. And I suspect the goal isn't a court case which I doubt they can win, but an out-of-court payoff to just get things over with and move on.

Well documented history of the
Civil War including many documents,
short biographies of the principals
and a thorough examination of
the issues. Highly recommended.
With regard to the Civil War, anyone reading my blog knows I agree with Fr. Bill about its causes. Slavery was an issue, yes, especially in the deep South, but to make the Civil War only about slavery is simplistic and untrue. It's hard to imagine why the 75% of white households in the South who DID NOT OWN SLAVES (shown by the 1860 census) would send their fathers, sons, and brothers to die for it.

And, really, criticizing Father for singing Dixie? Please! I play Southern music including, yes, Dixie. Does that make me a racist? Is there certain music now that proves one is guilty of hate and bigotry?

A disturbing element from the latest information which really concerns me is this quote from the Diocese of Arlington's statement. “As this matter involving the Butler family and Fr. Aitcheson has only been resolved recently, plans for his future priestly ministry are still being discerned."

I'm not sure what that means. Is Fr. Aitcheson reluctant to come back? Is the diocese worried about the public reaction of returning Father to ministry? Is the threatened lawsuit impacting the decision? Are the Butlers holding veto power over Father's future? What exactly is "being discerned."

Many saints were public sinners earlier in their lives. If past sins were held against us, who among us could claim to be innocent? I suspect even the Butlers and their lawyer have sins in their past they would rather keep private.

The diocese has said that not once during Father's ministry has he been accused of racism or bigotry. We have black members in our parish as well as a large Hispanic population and I never saw Father, during his time as pastor here, treat anyone with less respect than anyone else. His commitment to Church doctrine and his passionate defense of the right to life speak volumes. (Since abortion especially targets black babies, it's hard to imagine a racist being vehemently opposed to it like Father is. He is one of the few priests I EVER heard preach about it.)

I can personally testify to his care for the people and his compassionate ministry. My mother lived with us the last five months of her life when she was dying of cancer. Father visited her and anointed her. The morning after she died he was knocking on the door to see how we were doing. I'll never know how he knew, since she had died just hours before.

We need Fr. Aitcheson in the pulpit and among the people. And I pray for him daily and for his return to ministry. I also pray for the Butlers and their ability to forgive.

It's interesting to note that both Fr. Aitcheson's letter and the Butlers' press conference occurred on feast days of Mary, the model of humility and compassion. Can anyone imagine Mary withholding mercy from one of her repentant children? I sure can't! I'm offering my rosary this evening for Fr. Bill and for the Butlers. We can expect to receive mercy in the degree we offer it to others.I hope the Butlers think about that.

Our Lady, Mother of Divine Mercy, pray for us.


Unknown said...

It appears to me that Fr. Aitcheson has made full restitution, offered an apology and offered to meet with them. If they can't forgive him after 50 years, that is very sad. Their wrong might even be worse than his!

rohrbachs said...

The Butlers would do better to sue the democrat party who put the indoctrinating statues in the town square in the first place.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand in this whole story is that the KKK lumps Catholics among its despised. How in the world is a Catholic priest being propped up by the KKK? That would be like a Rabbi being supported by the Nazi party. Was the Father a convert to the Catholic faith? But that still doesn't explain the supposed current or recent allegations about a Catholic priest being a KKK supporter.

I must be missing something in this story.

J. Ronald Parrish said...

I find it interesting that many who rightfully condemn the Klan are effusive in their praise of the racist baby killings NAACP.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

RodH and J. Ronald Parrish, you are both spot on.

RodH, Father was a Catholic I believe, but not practicing the faith (obviously) and, as he admits, filled with hatred. He was in his early 20s at the time. I suspect that jail time had something to do with his conversion (as with Chuck Coulson). He was ordained to the priesthood in 1988, eleven years after the incident. The media has been totally irresponsible in their reporting, neglecting to make it clear that he was not a priest and not practicing the faith.

And J. Ronald Parish, I totally agree. The hypocrisy on the left is astounding. Bill Clinton, who touted himself as the "first black president," is one of the most avid supporters of Planned Parenthood and their eugenic policies attacking people of color. Abortion is black genocide. Those who fight it are friends of the black family. Those who support it are racists and eugenicists. See

turkeyridge said...

Dear Mary Ann,

Do you reckon this new bishop will, following the lead of the former bishop, and "Father Haley" Father Aitcheson? BTW, just where IS Father Haley. Inquiring people want to know. With priests in short supply you'd think a good bishop would have to keep him in ministry. I wonder how many disaffected parishioners, having lost a good priest will just say "to hell with it" and join the 30,000 former American Catholics, and due mainly to the bishops,leave the Church. Pray for the good people to stay faithful, and to refuse to accept excuses from the hierarchy and demand their priest back!

Mike Smith
Victim of the Richmond Diocese---but still militantly Catholic!

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Thanks for commenting, MIke!

"Do you reckon this new bishop will, following the lead of the former bishop, and "Father Haley" Father Aitcheson?"

I sure hope not. Fr. Aitcheson is a good priest. My husband thinks he'll never be back but I pray he's wrong. (God forgive the young woman who exposed him to the world for a scoop and a headline!)

Re Fr. Haley -- He was removed from ministry and is not likely to EVER be back. He lives a nomadic kind of life traveling around in a motor home. His loss was a tragedy and Bishop Loverde has a lot to answer for. Whether the bishop has any regrets, I have no idea. I pray for him because what he did was unconscionable.

I sympathize with you being in the Richmond diocese. There are a few good parishes but darn few. I do know a good priest there, though -- Fr. Tom Collins who is, not surprisingly, out in the boonies in a very small parish (two parishes in fact) in Covington.

Glad to hear that despite all you are "still militantly Catholic." May we all keep the faith no matter how many scandals tempt us to commit spiritual suicide by leaving.

sally kuczynski said...

St. Paul helped to kill St.Steven our first martyr. Afterwords St.Paul was then converted and in turn converted many people. Fr. Aitcheson converted 11 years after the incident that was hateful. Does't the Bishop who fired Fr. Aitcheson know the church's history?