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Against orders, priest leaves diocese, treatment program after pleading guilty to theft
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Against orders, priest leaves diocese, treatment program after pleading guilty to theft

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Marcin Garbacz

Marcin Garbacz

A former Rapid City priest who pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of dollars of church donations has left a treatment program and the diocese, going against instructions from the bishop, according to the diocese's December newsletter.

Marcin Garbacz was suspended from his ministry duties in May after church officials caught him stealing and sent to a six-month treatment program in St. Louis.

In July, he was charged with first-degree embezzlement of property received in trust and first-degree petty theft in the alternative, which means he could only be convicted on one of the counts. Garbacz pleaded guilty to the theft charge on Oct. 26.

He received a suspended imposition of sentence — which means his record will be sealed from the public, but not the courts or police — from Judge Bernard Schuchmann on Oct 31. Garbacz paid $334 in fines and costs, and $620 in restitution to the church, a clerk said. 

While Garbacz appears to have complied with the court system, the diocese says he's not following church orders. 

"He has since departed the (treatment) program on his own, prior to completion, and moved to Seattle, Wash., both decisions in violation of the letter of suspension and in direct disobedience to the bishop," the newsletter says of Garbacz. 

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After he left the program, the newsletter says, Garbacz asked the diocese for a leave of absence and the diocese has not heard from him since. 

Garbacz indicated that he was thinking about leaving the priesthood in a Sept. 26 letter he wrote to Schuchmann asking for the suspended imposition of sentence. 

"As I am considering different career options at this time in areas like nursing, social work or counseling, having a misdemeanor on my record would limit or even prevent me from securing admission into academic programs and could inhibit state and federal professional licensing," he wrote. "A significant concern of mine is an inability to pursue a new career path due to my lapses in judgment." 

Garbacz wrote approvingly of the treatment program he was attending, and it's unclear why he left early. 

"I have been taking positive steps to make amends and develop healthier life skills," he wrote. 

Garbacz explained that he was attending an intensive six-month program at Saint Luke Consultation Center, a St. Luis-based facility that provides outpatient treatment for Catholic clergy. The program involves group and individual therapy, spiritual sessions and a lecture series, he said. 

The diocese wrote in its newsletter that it hopes Garbacz will return to his duties in Rapid City.

"The diocese continues to call him back to fidelity, conversion, repentance, and to then ministry as a priest in the diocese. Please pray for him," the newsletter says. 

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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