2 South Florida priests resign amid money theft, ‘boundary violation’ reports

POMPANO BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Two South Florida priests have resigned after one was accused of stealing money from his congregation and the other was accused of a “boundary violation” with a woman.

In a statement released Sunday, Archbishop Thomas Wenski said Father Henryk Pawelec of Saint Coleman Catholic Church and Father Cristobal de Paola of Saint Joachim Catholic Church have been relieved of their duties.

Letters went out to parishioners in both churches.

“Recently, the Archdiocese of Miami received a report that parish funds had been diverted by your pastor, Father Henryk Pawelec, for his personal benefit,” wrote Wenski in a statement to the parishioners of Saint Coleman.

“We actually take our kids here. I think it’s terrible. It certainly doesn’t instill confidence in making donations to the Catholic Church,” said Saint Coleman parishioner Steve Agostinacchio.

Pawelec is accused of stealing over $200,000 from his parish located at 1200 S. Federal Highway in Pompano Beach. He had been the priest at this church since 2015.

“Shocking. I think there needs to be some accountability,” said Saint Coleman parishioner Mary Agostinacchio.

“The Archdiocese investigated and reviewed the parish’s financial records with the cooperation of parish staff to make a determination of how much money was purloined during the time of his tenure as pastor,” wrote Wenski.

Pawelec has paid $236,000 in restitution.

Paola, meanwhile, has resigned after being on administrative leave for several weeks from his parish, located at 11740 SW 192nd St. in Southwest Miami-Dade.

He has been accused of what the Archdiocese calls a “serious boundary violation with an adult woman” who went to the church. He is being investigated for financial irregularities, as well.

“It doesn’t make them a higher power,” said neighbor Mark Leach. “We’re still all equal. If they step out of line, they should be held accountable.”

“I suppose, no matter how much faith you have, sometimes people just decide to make the wrong choice and go down the wrong path,” said Steve Agostinacchio.

Both men could face criminal charges as both churches are working with the State Attorney’s Office, which has forwarded their information to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

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