Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suspect in Slaying `Poured His Heart Out' but It Wasn't Confession, Priest at Cathedral Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suspect in Slaying `Poured His Heart Out' but It Wasn't Confession, Priest at Cathedral Says

Article excerpt

Until 10 a.m. Monday all seemed routine in the rectory of the Cathedral of St. Louis. Staff members were busy at their computers in the first floor office. The four priests in residence had chores - from preparing daily sermons, to planning the altar servers' annual picnic, to sorting donated flea market items for an annual fund-raiser.

Then a man opened the gleaming wooden door of the gray granite rectory next door to the Cathedral. iw He looked through a reception window on the vestibule's west side and asked for a priest. Then he waited in silence.

The man was Wiley West Jr., who police say had just killed his ex-wife at a Florissant aerobics studio.

In a couple of minutes, a priest wearing a black shirt and Roman collar unlocked the door and walked him to a comfortable study near the front door. Sitting near a large wooden desk decorated by a picture of Mary, West gave the priest his name. He said he was not Catholic, then he asked the priest to pray for him.

Seated facing each other, the two men prayed and talked for more than 30 minutes. They said the "Our Father"c and some spontaneous prayers.

"I could see he was very troubled," said the priest, who asked not to be identified. "I just listened to him pour his heart out."

West explained he was in special need of prayer because he had killed his ex-wife, Laura. He gave no details of the crime - never mentioned Florissant, or an aerobics studio. m

Individuals - of many faiths - occasionally tell priests they have done terrible things. Some exaggerate. Some have delusions about sins they never committed. The Cathedral gets more than its share of non-Catholics, the priest said, perhaps because it is best known among the more than 300 Catholic churches in the Metro area. Despite the caution of locked doors, the Cathedral priests try to adhere to the scripture admonition to welcome all strangers.

"Priests sometimes get unstable people coming to us," he said.

The priest realized that West may have killed his ex-wife that morning, but he never felt afraid. Indeed, his visitor seemed more afraid of death than he.

"I tried to help the gentleman prepare himself for turning himself in," the priest said. West agreed that was the right thing to do. He said he knew something about the law because of his background in security work.

"I spent a lot of time with him because I thought I could help," the priest said.

When West said he was ready to leave, he left without incident by the front door.

The priest said he is keeping his promise to pray for West.

"I was very moved by the gentleman," he said.

Sacrament Of Confession

Neither West nor the priest used the word "confession," the priest said. Confession is a rite and a sacrament in the Catholic Church. While the formal words of confession are not required to begin a confession - and often are omitted when someone is ill or dying - the person, generally but not necessarily a Catholic, must ask for the sacrament of confession. …

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