William P. Skeete / The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News
BREWSTER, N.Y. -- He came, he saw, he stole. And then he confessed.
A New York man accused of stealing two gold-plated Communion chalices from a church recently wrote a letter to the parish confessing his crime and asking forgiveness.
The Rev. Richard Gill published William P. Skeete's letter in the Church of St. Lawrence O'Toole bulletin this past weekend with the note: "Let's offer him our forgiveness and keep him in our prayers."
Skeete, a 48-year-old two-time convicted felon, was charged earlier this month with felony larceny in the theft of the chalices in March. They were sold at an Elmsford recycling plant for $20. The plant owner had seen a story about the chalices in The Journal News and returned them. Sheriff's investigators arrested Skeete a few weeks later.
Skeete, who lives in Shrub Oak, wrote the letter from the Putnam County jail, where he's being held without bail. In the letter, he apologizes for his actions and asks for forgiveness and prayers. He said he had no choice.
"I did so out of desperation as I was on the verge of being evicted from my home and just wanted to try and make up my rent money so that wouldn't happen," he wrote.
He failed to mention that he's twice served time in state prison - about five years in all - on burglary convictions in Westchester County, including for breaking into the Reformed Church of Bronxville on Christmas Day in 2001. His criminal record dates to the early 1990s.
George Collins, a parishioner leaving 9 a.m. Mass on Tuesday, said Skeete should be forgiven - but should also pay for his crime.
"It sounds like he's fallen on some hard times and that he may have a problem," said Collins, of Brewster. "We should forgive him. But he still has to serve his punishment."
Another man leaving the Mass who declined to give his name said the church's rosary group had been praying for Skeete.
"The day the rosary group prayed for him, they recovered the missing items," he said. "We've been praying for him ever since."
The Rev. Gill did not return a message seeking comment.
Robert Brancatelli, a former professor at Fordham University's Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, said if Skeete is making a true act of contrition, he must do penance.
"It is perfectly acceptable to forgive this man his crimes while seeing him punished for the crime," Brancatelli said. "Church teachings on sins and penance are clear."
He said if Skeete is trying to fix damage he caused through prison time and the letter, he must also change his ways.
"There is an interesting quote from the Rite of Penance, which says about the Act of Penance, 'Thus, penitents, "forgetting the things that are behind" (Philippians 3:13), again become part of the mystery of salvation and press on toward the things that are to come.' It's a beautiful expression and one hopes that the defendant will do just that," Brancatelli said.
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Read the original story: Ex-con confesses his sin: Stealing from church