Catholic priest at South Florida church resigns after 'serious boundary violation' with woman

Archbishop says 'financial irregularities' also uncovered at St. Joachim

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - A priest at a southwest Miami-Dade County Catholic church has resigned because of a second allegation involving "a serious boundary violation" with a woman, the Archdiocese of Miami announced Sunday.

Father Cristobal de Paola, the pastor at St. Joachim Catholic Church, had been on administrative leave for the last three months while the archdiocese investigated the allegation. He was also placed on leave in October 2016 because of the same allegation, Archbishop Thomas Wenski said in a statement.

"In May of this year, the accuser contacted the archdiocese again and the investigation was reopened," the statement said. "As called for by our policy, father was placed on administrative leave again."

The archdiocese conducted interviews with the alleged victim, several of her family members and de Paola.

"The testimony of the victim was determined to be credible," Wenski said.

De Paola denied the allegations but agreed Thursday to resign as pastor at the church.

"Currently, father has no archdiocesan assignment and no faculties to exercise priestly ministry here or anyplace else," Wenski said. "A canonical trial will be initiated that might result in his being permanently barred from ministry."

Wenski said the archdiocese also uncovered some "financial irregularities" as a result of de Paola's "apparent disregard for archdiocesan policies on the proper handling of parish funds."

The news came on the same day that Wenski announced the pastor at St. Coleman Catholic Church in Pompano Beach resigned after stealing more than $200,000 in parish funds. Wenski said Father Henryk Pawelec has been relieved of duties in the archdiocese and paid restitution in the amount of $236,469.

Father Adonis Gonzalez-Betancourt was chosen to take over as parochial administrator at St. Joachim Catholic Church. Wenski said the irregular practices have been corrected by Gonzalez-Betancourt.

Wenski said the investigation is ongoing and, if any funds were used by de Paola for his personal consumption, the archdiocese will seek restitution and notify the state attorney's office.

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