A Catholic priest known for hugging children in his Michigan parish 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, according to reports.
As a result, the Rev. Bill Langlois of St. Patrick and St. Anthony Parish told parishioners in a recent letter that he will change the way he greets children -- "When I would hug the kids, I would say, 'I am hugging you, you are hugging me and Jesus is hugging us,'" he says -- from now on after more than a decade.
"It's painful, but it's the world that we live in right now, so we want to do the right thing," Langlois told HLN affiliate Wood-TV.
The letter didn’t allege any wrongdoing, but highlighted that “this family was a little concerned that I was hugging kids," Langlois told 24 Hour News 8. "The world we live in has changed since 2002," the statement read. "In our ministry we must respect that change."
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But 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.
Speaking to WWL in Detroit, longtime parishioner Kari Mayer said Langlois has lived a scandal-free life and that the brouhaha was the result of a visiting troublemaker. “I find the letter itself an allegation,” she said. “An anonymous letter from an out-of-town person. I wish they had talked to someone at the church, it’s a very open, welcoming church."
For Langlois personally, he 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. It really isn't proper in a way in the context of a liturgy, but it's something I have done so long that I have to consciously think I have to discontinue that."