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Victims' group
say Mexican cardinal knew of abuse before priest was
sent to U.S.

Victims' group
say Mexican cardinal knew of abuse before priest was
sent to U.S.

A victims' group said Tuesday that newly released documents support its claim that Mexico's most prominent cardinal knew a Mexican priest was suspected of molesting children but transferred him to the United States anyway.

The group, Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, made public written correspondence between Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. It also released a 1986 Mexican police report in which witnesses alleged the suspect spent the night with young boys while working as a priest in the central state of Puebla.

The documents were filed as part of Rivera's defense in a lawsuit against him in Los Angeles Superior Court that alleges he and Mahony conspired to protect the suspect, the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar. It wasn't immediately known why the documents were filed by the defense, but it could be because they suggest Rivera warned Mahony.

SNAP represents the alleged victim named in the lawsuit, Joaquin Aguilar Mendez, who is no relation to the accused priest.

''The documents were an eye-opener for us,'' said Eric Barragan, director of SNAP in Mexico and Latin America.

Carlos Villa Roiz, a spokesman for the Mexico City archdiocese, did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. Rivera's representative, Bernardo Fernandez, has said the Los Angeles court has no legal right to try a Mexican cardinal for events that occurred in Mexico.

In the lawsuit filed against Rivera, Aguilar Mendez says Aguilar raped him in Mexico City in 1994. Aguilar Mendez was 12 years old at the time of the alleged crime.

Earlier, in 1988, Aguilar spent nine months working in Los Angeles, where he was later charged with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child. After returning to Mexico, Aguilar continued working as a priest for years despite attempts to extradite him to the United States.

The suit charges Rivera and Mahony with negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and sexual battery. Aguilar is accused of sexual battery.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Aguilar Mendez said Rivera was responsible for the rape because he had covered up the priest's previous crimes.

''If Rivera had done something, nothing bad would have happened to me,'' Aguilar Mendez said Tuesday.

Previously, Rivera has said the lawsuit is an attempt to extort the church.

The newly released documents include a letter Rivera sent Mahony in January 1987, just five months after the police report was filed in Puebla.

In the letter, Rivera said Aguilar wanted to be transferred to Los Angeles because of ''personal and health reasons.'' The cardinal, then a bishop in Puebla, added that there was no reason why Mahony should not grant the transfer.

Also among the documents was a missing letter Rivera wrote Mahony in 1987 referring to Aguilar's ''problems of homosexuality.'' Mahony has said he did not receive the letter before approving Aguilar's transfer and requested it in later correspondence, although Rivera has maintained it was sent in 1987.

According to Barragan, Mahony did not receive a copy of the letter until 2004.

''We know the mail in Mexico is bad, but the idea that it would take a letter 17 years to arrive is absurd,'' Aguilar Mendez said. (Jessica Bernstein Wax, AP)

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