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Lawsuit Says Cardinals Aided Pedophile Priest

September 20, 2006|John Spano | Times Staff Writer

A fugitive priest charged with molesting eight boys was shuttled by church authorities between Mexico and the United States, allowing him to prey on additional victims, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The allegations against Father Nicolas Aguilar, 64, are not new, but the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, contains fresh allegations of misconduct by high church officials, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Tehuacan, Mexico.

"To this day, this man is still a fugitive because Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Rivera together had engaged in a conspiracy of silence and indifference to the life and safety of the children in Los Angeles and the children in Mexico," said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for Joaquin Mendez.

Mahony's spokesman called the allegation "preposterous and totally without foundation."

Mendez alleged that he was raped repeatedly by Aguilar when he was an altar boy in Mexico in 1994, at a time the priest was a fugitive from the charges in Los Angeles, which are still pending. Aguilar continued serving as a priest in Mexico after fleeing Los Angeles.

Los Angeles police suspect Aguilar molested as many as 26 altar boys in two Los Angeles parishes in 1987 and 1988.

Mahony's spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said Aguilar was "swiftly" removed from the ministry and reported to police after the Los Angeles district attorney charged him in 1988. "Aguilar fled without warning, after saying he would stay in the L.A. area with relatives," Tamberg said.

The lawsuit alleges Aguilar was tipped by church officials to his imminent arrest, allowing him to flee to Tijuana. The allegations against Aguilar were reported to the Los Angeles Archdiocese before they were reported to police, the lawsuit stated.

john.spano@latimes.com

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