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Former Port Aransas priest reacts to being cleared of theft charges

Former Port Aransas priest reacts to being cleared of theft charges
Posted at 3:36 PM, Aug 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-19 18:52:15-04

Fr. Krzysztof Bauta will not be facing charges. Nueces County Assistant District Attorney Matt Manning said his office found evidentiary issues in its case against the Port Aransas-priest accused of theft, and need to assess further.

"We are not precluded from bringing the case in the future should we deem that appropriate," he said.

Bauta currently is in Poland with family. As of now, he is undecided on whether he'll return to work for the Diocese of Corpus Christi, but is happy about the investigation's outcome.

"I was just ecstatic," he said. "So, today, I'm just a free man, and celebrate my liberty."

The investigation was launched by the Texas Rangers, though Bauta said he doesn't know how the theft allegations came about.

Bishop Michael Mulvey removed Bauta from St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Port Aransas in October 2017, after he was accused of stealing thousands of dollars meant for the church.

"I have no idea why I was so abruptly removed from my assignment ... in such a horrible way ... without even knowing that my superior, the Bishop, had any kind of accusations against me," Bauta said. "I mean, if you have any issues, you should call me to his office and just explain what is going on and try to find something, or do something about it."

Bauta admitted having some disagreements in the past with the Bishop, but refused to elaborate as to the cause.

"I don't want to make too (many) comments because the Bishop knows what's going on," he said.

Bauta said that the day he was arrested at his home, he had no idea why.

"When the Ranger came over, you know, he just asked me my name," Bauta said. "He said 'Step outside. Extend your hands.' He put the shackles over my hands, and I said 'Are you kidding me?' I said, 'Is this a prank?' I couldn't believe it."

He described the nearly two-year ordeal as being surreal.

Bauta said he was arrested after the Diocese of Corpus Christi provided the Texas Rangers with the Diocesan Audit, a review of the diocese's finances. When he was released, Mulvey sent him to a local residential facility for retired priests.

"I was just sitting there and waiting for a decision to be made," Bauta said. "I was in limbo. In complete limbo. No one should go through so much time, waiting and waiting. Not doing the work you're accustomed to do for 42 years."

He described becoming a "semi-hermit," spending most of his days praying and -- at times -- would join friends for lunch and dinner, where he said they would cry together over his situation, so he is relieved everything went in his favor during Friday's evidentiary hearing.

"The (Nueces County) District Attorney's Office came to the conclusion there was nothing to accuse me of," he said. "That's how I understood (it). I was sitting there with many of my supporters, and I was still kind of reliving all that nightmare and (thinking) 'How can they accuse me of these things that are not true?'

Bauta said he, along with several parishioners who he sees as family, have been thrilled with the outcome.

"They are rejoicing with me that this horrible nightmare is behind me," he said.

When asked if he plans to return to work with the Diocese of Corpus Christi, he was unsure. He said he hasn't had any contact with anyone from the Diocese's Chancery Office since the D.A.'s office announced its decision, despite, in his opinion, being so quick to announce his arrest.

"I want to be away from the place where I was hurt in such a horrible, vicious way," Bauta said. "I feel like a dog that was pushed aside and licking his wounds, and now I don't know how I feel, honestly speaking.

"So, I don't know. I might be returning, I might not -- I'll let God make these decisions for me."