Priest Now Suspected of Molesting 26

By Marita Hernandez and Mathis Chazanov
Los Angeles Times
March 5, 1988

[For diocesan and legal documents on Aguilar and links to articles, see our webpage on The Aguilar Case.]

The number of altar boys allegedly sexually molested by a visiting priest who recently fled to Mexico has risen to 26, according to police investigators, and they have yet to interview about 15 more potential victims.

Church officials in Mexico, meanwhile, said that Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, 46, who left Los Angeles in mid-January before police could question him, stopped briefly in his diocese of Tehuacan and informed his bishop that he was resigning his priestly duties.

He also told the bishop that he was going to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to stay with relatives.

Bishop Norberto Rivera Carrera of Tehuacan, in the Mexican state of Puebla, said that before his brief talk with the priest, he had not heard from Aguilar since April, 1987, when the priest left for the United States with the bishop's blessing. Rivera said he knew nothing of Aguilar's "problem" in the United States.

Aguilar spent a few months at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the El Sereno community of East Los Angeles and then moved to St. Agatha's Church in South-Central Los Angeles, where he remained for about six months until fleeing to Mexico.

The alleged victims, altar boys at the two parishes, range in age from 9 to 13. They told police that the priest, who was welcomed into many of their homes, took them on outings and gained parents' permission for the children to give him private English lessons, then used those opportunities to fondle them.

Some questions have been raised about the church's handling of the case, particularly church officials' decision to apparently confront Aguilar with the allegations two days before reporting the matter to police. Police say this may have inadvertently allowed the priest to evade arrest.

But Los Angeles Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Battaglia countered Friday that a church representative began trying to contact child protection authorities the same day that the priest was confronted by his superiors.

Decision to Quit

Bishop Rivera said Aguilar's decision to quit his priestly duties came as a surprise to him. Even now, Rivera said, all he knows about the matter is what he has "read in the newspaper."

He added that he received only one vague communication from the Los Angeles Archdiocese -- after his brief meeting with the priest -- stating that Aguilar had "behaved badly" and was no longer welcome in the archdiocese.

According to Rivera, Aguilar's priestly credentials have since expired, and he is no longer carrying the required letter of introduction from his bishop, documents that a priest needs to officiate in a religious capacity. Although he remains a priest, Aguilar will not be welcomed at another parish without these documents, added Rivera, who said he does not know the priest's exact whereabouts.

Both Rivera and Mexican police officials said they were unaware of any allegations of sexual misconduct against Aguilar in Mexico. Before coming to Los Angeles, Aguilar, who has been a priest for about 20 years, served as pastor of a rural parish serving small communities near Tehuacan.


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