UPDATED- May 26, 5:25 PM EST
BREAKING- Father Pedro Corces has been asked to step down as the pastor of St. Rose of Lima according to a statement from the Archdiocese of Miami.
The principal of the school Sister Bernadette Keane has also been replaced by a Archdiocese official for the reminder of the school year
The announcements came in a letter emailed to parents at St. Rose on Thursday afternoon.
In it, Archbishop Thomas Wenski announced that he has asked for Father Pedro Corces to step down as pastor of St. Rose of Lima in an effort to fix the “fractured” spirit and unity at the church and its associated school after a group of parents and a private investigator published a 129 dossier of information filled with allegations against Father Corces.
This is developing and this story will be updated.
Read the full statement from Archbishop Thomas Wenski:
A group of concerned parents at St. Rose Of Lima School in Miami Shores have accused their parish priest, Father Pedro Corces, of putting children at the school in “grave danger” after he allegedly hired a man as a school maintenance worker who was once arrested on prostitution charges.
That allegation and many others were made in a 129 page “dossier” of information prepared by a group of parents at the school organized under the name of Christifidelis @ Saint Rose of Lima Miami Shores.
The group also paid a private investigator over $3,500 to surveil Father Corces to help them build a case against him. Once they could no longer afford the investigator’s services, parents took to surveilling Father Corces on their own.
The document was leaked to RISE NEWS on Friday afternoon and it alleges that Father Corces is in a relationship with a school maintenance worker named Juan Alberto Cardenas.
The group and the private investigator both assert that Cardenas has been arrested on three separate occasions including in 2000 after he allegedly offered oral sex to an undercover police officer for $15.
The private investigator said that he got a hold of Cardenas’ date of birth and then matched his mugshot photos to those found on social media and through surveillance to ensure it was the same person.
Cardenas was also arrested in 2002 on a charge of uttering forged bills and in 2004 for making false insurance claims.
The document also alleges that Father Corces takes frequent expensive vacations, sometimes with Cardenas and that he often spends the night at Cardenas’ condo where he pays for his employee’s cable bill.
Christifidelis is a group of “faithful Catholics” according to group spokesperson Rosa Armesto.
Most of them have children at the school and they take the name of their group from a similar effort of unrelated activists who worked to uncover what they called a “homosexual super culture” in the Archdiocese of Miami in 2005.
The original Christifidelis came to national prominence after Gawker published their findings in 2011.
Many of the allegations Christifidelis leveled at Father Corces surround his sexuality and some of the document can read as being anti-gay.
RISE NEWS has only decided to report on some of the allegations after confirming the group’s findings with the private investigator involved in the investigation.
Father Corces first came under scrutiny from some members of the St. Rose community after the shock announcement in January that the nuns that have run the school since 1981 were being asked to leave. Parents rebelled and demanded answers but received little in the way of clarification.
While publicly supporting the Archdiocese’s line that they had been asked to withdraw from St. Rose by the Motherhouse in Pennsylvania due to the declining supply of sisters in the United States, some of the nuns were privately telling parents that Father Corces had pushed them out.
As a result, the community became divided between the side of the nuns and that of the parish priest.
Some even feel that Father Corces lied to them about the situation and that he tried to stop parents from talking about it.
“There is undeniably a reign of intimidation from Fr. Pedro Corces,” Armesto said in a phone interview.
The Hunt For Answers
Christifidelis took serious actions in order to build their case about Father Corces.
Some of the information was gathered when a family that lives next to the rectory allowed cameras to be placed in rooms in their house to surveil activities there.
From that source and others, the group was able to determine that many people were coming and going into the rectory at all hours of the night, raising suspicions about who actually lives there.
“We’ve seen people over there who are not priests,” the man who owns the home next to the rectory said in an interview. He gave his name but asked for it not to be published after his wife objected. “A lot of weird things have been going on. It doesn’t look right.”
Other neighbors didn’t want to talk about the situation but one said that he hadn’t really noticed anything out of the ordinary since Father Corces had moved there a few years ago.
But according to the family that allowed their house to become a surveillance outpost, things are different.
“We used to have a little community thing for all of us that lived around the lake. We always had a Christmas get together. But since this guy [Father Corces] came here, things changed.”
Christifidelis also searched the trash left outside of the rectory on numerous occasions, where it claimed to find a tax form for a massage business that Cardenas runs.
“The fact that such form was filled in the rectory also suggests a closer relationship between Father Pedro and Alberto Cardenas than the usual boss‐subordinate relationship,” Christifidelis wrote in the report. “It also raises the question as to whether Father Pedro provides tax or financial advice of some type.”
A high-ranking school official who wished to remain anonymous due to concerns over potential retribution said that she became frustrated after discovering that there was no contact information on record for the maintenance workers.
She also said that it was widely known that three of the maintenance workers including Cardenas have keys to the rectory, which was not standard practice before the new workers were hired.
Cardenas was hired in 2015 as a worker at the school according to Christifidelis, about a year and a half after Father Corces fired a “significant portion” of the longstanding maintenance staff.
The firings came around Christmas of 2014 and were a surprise to many in the community.
Little information about the maintenance staff can be found on the school’s website.
In fact, on the “Staff Pictures 2016” page, four of the maintenance staff are the only people without pictures included. Cardenas’ name is not even on the page.
The maintenance staff has seemed to take a more low-key role in the life of the school since Father Corces fired most of them in 2014.
The new crew, including Cardenas has never appeared in the St. Rose yearbook for example, one of the few moments when a parent can physically see all the people who work around their children.
But a review of St. Rose yearbooks going back to 2008 shows that the maintenance staff were always included in the staff pictures section except for in 2015 and 2016.
Armesto, the Christifidelis spokesperson claimed that she saw a pre published version of the 2016 yearbook and that in it were the names of the maintenance workers without pictures. However, the final published version of the book does not include the names or pictures of the workers.
A group of parents at the school had hoped to hold a rosary prayer session before the 9 AM Mass on May 22 in order to pray for the “well-being of the parish”. It happened to also be the 28th anniversary of Father Corces’ ordination into the priesthood.
However they were not allowed to pray after being told by a priest that they needed to clear any sort of demonstration with the Archbishop.
When reached for comment via phone, Archdiocese spokesperson Mary Ross Agosta started laughing and said “Oh, you again,” to a RISE NEWS reporter.
When asked about the contents of the Christifidelis report, Ross Agosta refused to talk about them.
Ross Agosta then said that she had nothing to say and hung up the phone.
RISE NEWS has been unable to speak to Father Corces or Alberto Cardenas.
UPDATE #1- The Broward Palm Beach New Times is reporting that the Archdiocese of Miami has “initiated” an “investigation in accordance with canon law” into the accusations made against Father Corces.
UPDATE #2- St. Rose school officials sent home a letter to parents on Tuesday afternoon announcing that some “lay employees”- presumably some of the maintenance men have been placed on administrative leave by Archbishop Wenski pending an ongoing investigation into the allegations.
Here is the text of the full letter sent home to parents:
“Allegations of misconduct at St. Rose of Lima Parish not involving minors were brought to Archbishop Thomas Wenski last week. The Archbishop takes the allegations seriously. In accordance with canon law and Archdiocesan policies, the Archbishop immediately initiated an investigation that is ongoing. At the present time Father Corces is attending a previously scheduled retreat. The lay employees in question have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.”
Read The Full Report.
Have a tip about this story or something similar? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.