Mahony denies warning on priest

Cardinal Roger Mahony has denied that his Mexico City counterpart warned him that a priest who transferred to Los Angeles and racked up 19 felony child molestation charges had been suspected of sexual abuse before his arrival.

In a deposition made public Monday, Mahony refutes statements made by Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera that he had warned Mahony through code words in a letter introducing the Mexican priest to Los Angeles Archdiocese officials in 1988.

The original letter from Rivera to Mahony said the priest – Nicolas Aguilar Rivera – wanted to move to Los Angeles for “family and health reasons,” which Cardinal Rivera maintained in documents were code words used among the clergy to refer to sexual problems.

In his deposition, Mahony denies knowing such words were code for priests who could sexually abuse children.

The Mexican cardinal’s statements were part of documents filed last month by his lawyers in a Los Angeles lawsuit alleging he and Mahony conspired to protect the priest, who fled back to Mexico before facing justice in the United States.

Mahony’s deposition was released Monday by the victims’ group Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, at a news
conference outside the Los Angeles Archdiocese headquarters downtown.
Among other things, the Mexican cardinal is quoted as saying:

“I granted Father Aguilar permission to serve in Los Angeles on the condition that Cardinal Mahony first accept him for said service, and I warned Cardinal Mahony of my suspicion that Father Aguilar suffered from homosexual problems.”

But Mahony denies in the deposition that Rivera warned him of Aguilar before he started his service in L.A.

At the news conference, SNAP leaders called on Mahony to fire Bishop Thomas Curry of Santa Barbara, who in the late 1980s was a monsignor and vicar for clergy in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

SNAP leaders also released other documents they contend show Curry deliberately allowed Rivera to escape prosecution in Los Angeles, giving him a three-day headstart back to Mexico before notifying authorities.

“These documents and Curry’s own deposition prove that he intentionally let a criminal flee the U.S. to Mexico,” SNAP Western Regional Director Mary Grant said.

Nineteen felony counts of sexual abuse of minors were filed against Father Aguilar Rivera while he was in Los Angeles in 1988, but he fled the country and was never extradited by Mexican authorities.

Mahony said the archdiocese notified Mexican church officials within days of learning of the local sexual molestation allegations against Rivera and that it was his understanding a police investigation was underway within days of the complaints.

SNAP leaders said Aguilar Rivera remains a priest hiding in Mexico.

The lawsuit against Rivera and Mahony was brought by Joaquin Aguilar, a former altar boy and no relation to Father Aguilar Rivera, who says he was raped by the priest in Mexico City in 1994.

In his deposition, Mahony maintains that had he known of allegations of sexual abuse and impropriety against Aguilar Rivera, he would not have allowed him to be a priest in the archdiocese.

While he does not openly say so, Mahony intimates in his deposition that Cardinal Rivera misled him when he initially wrote to the archdiocese about Father Aguilar Rivera in what Mahony said appeared to him to be a positive reference letter.

By Tony Castro, Press-telegram