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Mexican man who says he was raped by priest files lawsuit naming Mahony, Mexican cardinal

April 20, 2010 |  3:34 pm

A Mexican man who says he was repeatedly raped by a priest who was shuttled between southern Mexico and Los Angeles in the late 1980s filed a lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that Cardinal Roger Mahony and his Mexican counterpart conspired to hide the alleged predator's 20-plus years of abuses to protect the church from scandal.

The complaint filed in Los Angeles relies on a more than 200-year-old U.S. law allowing foreign victims of human rights abuses to bring their perpetrators to justice in U.S. courts. The civil suit on behalf of the now 25-year-old victim is the first known to use the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 to demand a jury trial and compensation for offenses committed abroad.

The suit accuses Mahony and Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of negligence and conspiracy in covering up sexual abuses reported by dozens of young boys against Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera in Los Angeles and Mexican parishes.

The Mexican-born Aguilar first came to the attention of Mexican police in late 1986, after a brutal beating attributed to punishment for having young boys stay overnight at the rectory in the Diocese of Tehuacan, Mexico. A month later, Cardinal Rivera Carrera wrote to Mahony to offer Aguilar for placement in a Los Angeles ministry with a coded reference to the priest being problematic, the lawsuit alleges.

Mahony appointed Aguilar associate pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Los Angeles in March 1987, and two months later transferred him to St. Agatha parish. Within nine months of Aguilar's arrival, Los Angeles police had amassed 26 reports of sexual abuse of minors by the priest, who fled to Mexico the night Mahony was informed of the impending charges, says the suit announced by the victim's attorney, Jeffrey R. Anderson of St. Paul, Minn.

Anderson said Aguilar's escape was believed to have been facilitated by church authorities to evade arrest and an ensuing scandal.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg called the lawyer's claims "preposterous and without foundation."

"None of the documents concerning Nicolas Aguilar Rivera are new. The media have reported on them extensively in the past decade. They show that Cardinal Mahony urged Aguilar-Rivera’s return to the U.S. to face justice," Tamberg said in a statement. He said that was all the church planned to say on the subject.

The latest in a string of lawsuits brought by alleged victims of Aguilar, the complaint filed by Juan Doe1 contends that the priest raped him repeatedly in 1997, after both cardinals knew he was a sexual predator.

Aguilar was defrocked in July, more than 20 years after the first credible complaints of sexual abuse were brought by authorities in Mexico and Southern California, Anderson noted. He said Aguilar is suspected of abusing as many as 60 boys in Mexico as well as the 26 reported in Los Angeles.

Aguilar remains a fugitive in Mexico and subject to arrest and extradition warrants. If apprehended, he faces criminal charges in his homeland and the civil charges in U.S. court.


-- Carol J. Williams

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