Roman Catholic priest, Bill Langlois, of St. Patrick and St. Anthony Parish, Michigan, known for hugging children, will now give fist-bumps instead. The change came after an anonymous letter sent recently to the Diocese of Grand Rapids chastised the clergyman for the practice, suggesting that it may no longer be appropriate in these times. The letter didn’t allege any wrongdoing, but highlighted that “this family was a little concerned that he was hugging kids."
Ed Carey, the chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids, told ABC News that this was not the first time the church has received correspondence about Langlois’ hugging little ones. In fact it has been an “ongoing discussion” within the diocese.
“From time to time, on a fairly regular basis, people would write and say, ‘You know, I understand what he’s doing. I think that it’s perfect innocent, however the appearance may not be good for him and it may be sending, for some children, the wrong message,’” Carey told ABC.
Langlois said that he was discouraged that we live in a world that looks down on an adult that hugs a child that is not theirs.
"I am going through turmoil," Langlois told Wood-TV. "It's almost automatic after 15 years of hugging. It's part of the liturgy almost."
I am not a natural hugger but I remember being hugged and sitting on knees was a regular occurrence when I was a kid. As was being kissed by elderly female relatives with bristly chins - yuk! So times have changed as far as attitudes to adults hugging children are concerned although I doubt if the actual danger, feared so much nowadays, has changed in the slightest.
The thing is, I reported a parish priest once for taking a teenage boy to a sauna and photographing him in the nude. This parish priest would hug children and young people at every opportunity and would try to persuade even quite old kids to sit on his knees. So, although I miss those times of innocence when the fear of paedophiles was hidden well back in the minds of parents, I can also understand why touching someone else's kids is now, in these times when we are all more knowledgable about child abuse, a big no-no.
However, for those who wish to persist in the innocent hugging of the young I am thinking of producing a range of tee shirts emblazoned with the motto, "I'm A Hugger, Not A Bugger." Hopefully the wearing of my new product will help to put parents' minds at rest as you lunge towards their offspring with arms outstretched.