Attorney Attacked at Mexican News Conference on Clergy Sex Abuse

Pamela Miller, Star Tribune

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson was back in Minnesota today after being rescued by Mexico City police from a group of men who scuffled with him and colleagues at a news conference announcing a sex-abuse lawsuit against a priest.

The identity of the men, who said they were immigration authorities and were later detained, remains under investigation, said Anderson, who was confronted along with colleague Michael Finnegan, victims’ advocate David Clohessy and alleged abuse victim Joaquin Aguilar Mendez.

Anderson was in Mexico to talk about a lawsuit he filed Tuesday in Los Angeles alleging that Mexican Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony conspired to protect the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar, whom they accuse of raping Mendez, now 25, in 1994.

“Mexico’s problem with clergy sex abuse is fivefold what it is in the United States,” Anderson said.

At the Mexico City news conference, Anderson said that Aguilar, who faces multiple child-molestation charges in California but none in Mexico, where criminal charges were dropped, continues to celebrate mass in the state of Puebla, in central Mexico.

Mendez told the more than 70 mostly Mexican journalists gathered for the unprecedented news conference that he has feared for his life since he went public with his accusations last year.

Anderson said that after complaints about Aguilar in Mexico, he was sent to Los Angeles with a letter warning American officials that he had “homosexual tendencies.”In just nine months in California, he raped 26 children,” Anderson said. When charges were filed there, “he fled back to Mexico,” Anderson said, where he continues to act as a priest in remote areas.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles archdiocese called the lawsuit’s claim that it conspired to protect Aguilar “preposterous,” and Rivera’s office issued a statement denying the claims or that it knows where Aguilar is.

Anderson, who has filed several high-profile lawsuits in Minnesota and other states over alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests, brothers and nuns, said that clergy abuse of children in Mexico is widespread and largely unchallenged.

“There’s a great cultural reverence for the church there, with 90 percent of the population Catholic, and church leadership has a close relationship with government,” he said. “And Rivera is considered a saint there, so people are not very open to criticism of him.”

Anderson said that near the end of the news conference, his group was accosted by “some officials who said they were immigration agents who demanded to see our papers, even though our paperwork was all fine.” Amid what he called “a media frenzy,” the men “pulled us toward a van they had outside until we told them to get their hands off of us.” The attorneys called the U.S. embassy and the Mexico City police, who detained the men “and escorted us to the airport because they said they were concerned for our safety,” Anderson said.

Anderson said police told him that despite wearing ID tags, the men were unable to produce official proof that they were immigration agents.

“They and we think they might have been kidnappers,” he said. “It was quite chaotic, but we’re fine. I wasn’t intimidated, just concerned for the children of Mexico. Nobody has ever taken on a Mexican bishop, much less a cardinal, before. But it needs to be done.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pamela Miller ? 612-673-4290 ?