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Mexico cardinal hit by priest abuse lawsuit

Mexico's top clergyman is accused in a new lawsuit of ignoring two decades of sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest and conspiring to shuttle him between the United States and Mexico to avoid arrest.
/ Source: Reuters

Mexico's top clergyman is accused in a new lawsuit of ignoring two decades of sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest and conspiring to shuttle him between the United States and Mexico to avoid arrest.

The case, filed on Tuesday in a California court, is being brought by an anonymous man who says he was raped in 1997 as a 12-year-old in Mexico by a priest accused of numerous abuse charges in both countries.

In the latest case against the Catholic Church over alleged molestation of children, the lawsuit claims Cardinal Norberto Rivera knew about the priest's history of abuse and protected him from prosecution, allowing him to continue as a practicing priest until he was defrocked last year.

The priest, Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, was first accused of sodomizing boys in 1987 when the cardinal was a high-level bishop. Aguilar Rivera was beaten up in a small town in Mexico by parishioners who accused him of sleeping with boys in his chambers, the lawsuit says.

Transferred to Los Angeles church
Cardinal Rivera, who is not related to Rivera the priest, had him transferred to a church in Los Angeles where he was accused of abusing two dozen boys over nine months, said the defendant's lawyer, Anthony De Marco.

A spokesman for the Mexican archdiocese, Hugo Valdemar, said the accusations against the cardinal were false and that groups bringing charges against the Church were out for financial gain.

The Catholic Church is facing increased scrutiny over revelations of sexual abuse by priests around the world.

Pope Benedict -- who has come under fire from victims' groups for using vague language to address the accusations in the United States, Austria, his native Germany and elsewhere -- on Wednesday promised Church "action" to counter the scandal.

Mexico, home to the world's second-largest Catholic population after Brazil, has been rocked by its own share of allegations against Church leaders.

Cardinal Rivera has won similar lawsuits against him in the United States in the past since the crimes he is accused of overlooking occurred in Mexico.

"The same thing will happen with this case as happened with the two previous cases. They were thrown out because there is no jurisdiction," Valdemar said. "We are not worried about the new case."

But lawyers say they are using a different legal argument this time that allows foreigners to be prosecuted in the United States for human rights violations.

"We have brought this lawsuit utilizing a different legal theory." De Marco said. "We've been scouring because something needs to be done to make sure ... these victims have some kind of access to justice."