Cardinal Mahony sued by Mexican citizen for alleged 'cover-up' of pedophile priest

A Mexican citizen sued Cardinal Roger Mahony and the Roman Catholic cardinal of Mexico City in federal court in Los Angeles today, alleging the church's leaders conspired "to conceal and cover-up'' the activities of a pedophile priest in the late 1980s.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles by attorneys on behalf of "Juan Doe 1.'' It alleges that Rev. Nicolas Aguilar sexually abused "Juan'' in Mexico in 1997, at a time when Aguilar would have been imprisoned had the church leaders acted correctly.

The suit claims Mahony, then the Los Angeles archbishop, conspired with Mexico City's then-cardinal, Norberto Rivera, to allow Aguilar to transfer to L.A. in 1987 despite being told that Aguilar had personal problems prompting the transfer.

The priest allegedly molested at least 26 children at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Los Angeles in the nine months after being transferred here in 1987. After being confronted, Aguilar fled to Tijuana and molested "Juan'' in 1997, a date when Aguilar should have been in prison.

Aguilar is now a fugitive from U.S. law, the suit claims.

An Archdiocese spokesman called the lawsuit's claims "preposterous and without foundation.''

"None of the documents concerning Nicholas Aguilar-Rivera are new,'' said Tod M. Tamberg. "The media have reported on them extensively in the past decade. They show that Cardinal Mahony urged Aguilar-Rivera's return to the U.S. to face justice.''

Two previous lawsuits were thrown out after judges determined that a Mexican citizen cannot sue another Mexican citizen in U.S. courts. But the new complaint is based on the legal theory that the alleged transfer of Aguilar was a violation of the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows non-citizens to seek legal recourse in U.S. courts for violations of international law.

Mahony, 74, is poised to retire next year, as he reaches the church's mandatory 75-year-old retirement date.