GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - A Grand Haven Priest known for hugging children during the mass has told parishioners that he won't be doing it anymore.
For more than a decade, Father Bill Langlois of St. Patrick and St. Anthony Parish has offered children hugs during services.
"When I would hug the kids, I would say, 'I am hugging you, you are hugging me and Jesus is hugging us,'" he said.
But recently, a letter sent to the Diocese of Grand Rapids Bishop Walter Hurley from an anonymous visitor to the church suggested that practice could be perceived as inappropriate.
"The letter stated that this family was a little concerned that I was hugging kids," Langlois told 24 Hour News 8.
There was no allegation of any wrongdoing, but diocesan officials urged the priest to reconsider his habitual Sunday blessing.
In a weekend statement to his parish, Langlois informed them that he would stop hugging the children.
"The world we live in has changed since 2002," the statement read. "In our ministry we must respect that change."
Langlois told 24 Hour News 8 it broke his heart that we live in a world where he can't hug a child.
"It's painful, but it's the world that we live in right now, so we want to do the right thing," said Langlois.
Langlois went on to say in the statement that he would no longer hug the children because he and diocesan officials were concerned about confusing "the teaching of good boundaries as they [children] are taught in school and at home," as well as the appearance of impropriety.
Langlois said he realized that the kids he hugged during mass may learn the potentially dangerous lesson that they could hug any adult without discrimination.
"We want them to realize that there is good touch and bad touch and we want their parents to reinforce that," Langlois told 24 Hour News 8.
"I am going through turmoil," Langlois said. "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."
Langlois has been flooded with emails and Facebook posts from parishioners who almost overwhelmingly agree that they want to see the hugs continue.
Langlois said the fist bump will become his new trademark.
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