POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) – Two South Florida churches are in turmoil following the resignation of their pastors.
The pastor at St. Joachim Catholic Church in Southwest Miami-Dade is off the alter.
Fr. Cristobal de Paula faced “…allegation of a serious boundary violation with an adult woman.” That was investigated twice.
The first time the archdiocese said civil authorities ended their investigation with no action. The second time, the church said the allegations were credible. Fr. De Paula “…has always denied the substance of the allegation…”
That adult female appeared on Univision claiming she was sexually assaulted.
“He said that he was commanded by God,” she said in spanish. “He grabbed me, and when he pushed me down I hit my head hard.”
“They need to take him out of the priesthood,” she added.
Those claims have not been independently confirmed by CBS4.
Cristobal has not been charged by police.
Church officials also said, “Some financial irregularities were discovered due to Father’s apparent disregard for Archdiocesan policies on the proper handling of parish funds.”
They said if they find any money was diverted they’ll demand restitution and turn the case over to the state attorney’s office.
The archdiocese went on to say that “Currently, Father has no Archdiocesan assignment and no faculties to exercise priestly ministry here or anyplace else. A canonical trial will be initiated that might result in his being permanently barred from ministry.”
The archdiocese said they have sent a letter to the Broward State Attorney’s office, letting investigators know about their financial investigation into Fr. Pawelec.
Some church parishioners believe Cristobal is being railroaded by local church staff who want him out.
They say the staff members do not like how Cristobal allocates church money for improving the church and the school.
“The problem here is money, not Father Chris,” said Diego, a parishioner.
The pastor at St. Coleman Catholic Church in Broward County is off the alter too.
St. Coleman is a well-established Catholic church for east Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach.
Now, their pastor since 2015, Fr. Henryk Pawelec is no longer head of the parish. He resigned.
The archdiocese sent a letter to parishioners saying in part, “…parish funds had been diverted by your pastor, Father Henryk Pawelec for his personal benefit.”
Mary Fetter is concerned with recent stories coming out about the church.
“It’s sort of disheartening to hear,” she said. It’s upsetting for her. “As a member of the Catholic Church you get the opportunity to support them, but their side of the relationship, they need to be more transparent when things happen.”
Archbishop Thomas Wenski told parishioners Pawelec “…paid restitution in the amount of $236,469.00.” He continued saying, “This breach of trust on the part of Father Pawelec, I am sure, deeply saddens and disappoints you as much as it saddens and disappoints me.” And he’s not the only pastor in trouble.