Mexico Cardinal Sued over Alleged Abuse

By Julie Watson
The Associated Press, carried in San Francisco Chronicle
September 19, 2006

(09-19) 13:38 PDT Mexico City, Mexico (AP) — A group of sexual abuse survivors filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a Mexican cardinal, claiming he hid evidence to protect a priest accused of molesting boys.

A lawyer for the Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who was considered a candidate to replace Pope John Paul II when he died last year.

The network announced in Mexico City that it had filed the lawsuit, saying it would give details in a news conference Wednesday. Rivera's office promised a statement with its reaction.

The survivors' group alleges Rivera, now Mexico's top-ranking cardinal, helped cover up abuse by the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar involving 50 boys when Aguilar served as a parish priest in central Puebla state in 1987. Rivera was bishop of Tehuacan in Puebla state at the time.

Rivera, according to the group, later helped in Aguilar's transfer to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Aguilar has been charged in California with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child.

The network said as many as 60 alleged victims from both Mexico and the U.S. have come forward with cases against Aguilar.

Tuesday's lawsuit was filed on behalf of Joaquin Aguilar, 25, who has no relation to the priest. Joaquin Aguilar said at a news conference in Mexico in December that he was abused by the Rev. Aguilar in 1994 when he was a teenager. He reported it to authorities, he said, but nothing was done.

His family was ostracized by authorities and people in their parish, Aguilar said, adding that the ordeal led to problems with drugs and alcohol.

The 64-year-old archbishop of Mexico, Rivera was appointed by Pope John Paul II. He opposes abortion and artificial contraception and has spoken out against globalization, government corruption and election fraud.

The church has become more openly involved in socio-economic and political issues during Rivera's tenure, thanks in part to a change in the policy of the government, which until 1992 banned church-run schools and public religious processions.

As Mexico's foremost cardinal, Rivera was given an outside chance of succeeding John Paul II.

Rivera has maintained a high profile in Mexico's news media, officiating at celebrity weddings and commenting on current affairs during and after Mass at the Mexico City Cathedral — which faces city hall and the Presidential Palace.


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