Cardinal says he warned Mahony

Times Staff Writer

A Roman Catholic cardinal in Mexico said he warned Cardinal Roger M. Mahony in 1987 about a priest then seeking employment with the Los Angeles Archdiocese, who was later charged with molesting eight boys before fleeing back to Mexico, court documents said.

Father Nicolas Aguilar, 64, continued to work as a priest in Mexico, where the abuse allegedly continued, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles last year accusing the cardinals of conspiring to conceal the priest’s conduct.

The plaintiff, Joaquin Mendez, alleges Aguilar raped him in a church rectory in 1994, when he was a 13-year-old altar boy in Mexico City.

At the time of the alleged rape, Aguilar was a fugitive from the United States, where he had been charged with sexually abusing 10 altar boys while assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in El Sereno.


The victims’ advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says he allegedly abused 60 more in Mexico.

In a declaration filed in response to Mendez’s lawsuit, Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Tehuacan, Mexico, said he sent a letter to Mahony in 1987 suggesting Aguilar had “some sort of problem” and anticipating that Mahony would inquire further. Rivera said he suspected Aguilar had “homosexual problems,” not that he was a pedophile.

“I cautioned that the motivation for Fr. Aguilar’s trip to Los Angeles was ‘family and health reasons,’ ” Rivera said in his declaration. “The phrase ‘family and health reasons’ was used within the Church to warn that a priest suffers from some sort of problem.”

Tod Tamberg, spokesman for Mahony, said the cardinal never received a letter from Rivera. “We’ve said this many times before, and Cardinal Rivera may very well have sent a letter, but nobody received it,” Tamberg said.

Survivors network leaders say the two “high-profile prelates” are not doing enough to warn churches about Aguilar and help bring him to justice.

“What we are seeing is two complicit bishops pointing the finger at each other,” said Mary Grant, a spokeswoman for the group.