Runaway Priests [See a list of articles in the series.]
Hiding in Plain Sight
Beating the System

Dallas Morning News
June 22, 2004

Church leaders on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border have helped the Rev. Nicolás Aguilar escape sexual abuse allegations. The Mexican justice system has also played a role. Here are key events in the story of Father Aguilar, who denies any wrongdoing. All places named, except for Los Angeles, are in Mexico.


Full name: Carlos Nicolás Aguilar Rivera; generally goes by Nicolás Aguilar
Date of birth: Sept. 10, 1941, Huehuetlán el Chico
Date of ordination: July 12, 1970, Tehuacán

1976 - Father Aguilar becomes the first parish priest of San Sebastián Parish in Cuacnopalan.

1986 or early 1987 - He is brutally beaten at the parish residence. Police suspect one or more of the many young male visitors to the rectory, but the priest asks that the case not be prosecuted.

1987 - Father Aguilar is transferred to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles by Tehuacán Bishop Norberto Rivera. He works in two parishes and abuses at least 26 boys in nine months, police later conclude.

1988 - Father Aguilar flees to Mexico. He tells Los Angeles Archdiocese officials that he is going, but they fail to alert police. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Rivera exchange letters about the scandal. Los Angeles authorities refer their cases for prosecution in Mexico, where officials let them languish.

1995 - The priest works at Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro in Mexico City. Bishop Rivera becomes cardinal of the archdiocese there. A Mexican judge dismisses the Los Angeles cases as too old to prosecute.

1997 - Father Aguilar is working in San Nicolás Tolentino Parish, Tehuacán. A criminal case begins after four boys tell police that he has sexually abused them.

1999 - Father Aguilar works at San Miguel Arcangel, Mexico City.

2000-2001 - The priest works at the cathedral in the Diocese of Ciudad Lázaro Cárdenas.

2003 - Father Aguilar is convicted of one misdemeanor sex abuse charge in the 1997 cases; he remains free while his conviction is appealed. Other charges have been dismissed.

2004 - A court upholds the conviction but decides the crime is too old to punish. Father Aguilar says he occasionally celebrates Mass in the Archdiocese of Puebla and the Diocese of Cuernavaca.

SOURCES: Catholic Church documents; Mexican criminal records; California criminal records; Dallas Morning News research.

"It is almost impossible to determine precisely the number of young altar boys he has sexually molested, but the number is large. ... This priest must be arrested and returned to Los Angeles to suffer the consequences of his immoral actions."

"You will understand that I'm not in a position to find him, much less force him to return and appear in court. ... In the letter of presentation of January 27, 1987, I included an identification photograph, and in the confidential letter of March 23 of the same year, I provided a summary of the priest's homosexual problems."

"I would like to tell you that I have not received any letter from you dated March 23, 1987, nor any other information concerning "the homosexual problems of the priest." ... We have here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles a clear plan of action: We do not admit priests with any homosexual problems."


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