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Group says papers show knowledge of abuse

Mexico cardinal faces accusation

MEXICO CITY - A victims' group said yesterday that newly released documents support its claim that Mexico's most prominent cardinal knew a Mexican priest was suspected of molesting children but transferred him to the United States anyway.

Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests made public written correspondence between Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony. It also released a 1986 Mexican police report in which witnesses alleged the suspect spent the night with young boys while working as a priest in the central state of Puebla.

The documents were part of Rivera's defense in a lawsuit filed against him in Los Angeles Superior Court that alleges he and Mahony conspired to protect the suspect, the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar. SNAP represents the victim named in the lawsuit, Joaquin Aguilar Mendez, who is no relation to the accused priest.

"The documents were an eye-opener for us," said Eric Barragan, director of SNAP in Mexico and Latin America.

Carlos Villa Roiz, a spokesman for the Mexico City archdiocese, did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment. Rivera's representative, Bernardo Fernandez, has said the Los Angeles court has no legal right to try a Mexican cardinal for events that occurred in Mexico.

In the lawsuit filed against Rivera, Joaquin Aguilar Mendez says Aguilar raped him in Mexico City in 1994. Aguilar Mendez was 12 years old at the time.

Earlier, in 1988, Aguilar spent nine months working in Los Angeles, where he was later charged with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child. After returning to Mexico, Aguilar continued working as a priest for years despite attempts to extradite him to the United States.

The suit charges Rivera and Mahony with negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and sexual battery. Aguilar is accused of sexual battery.

The newly released documents include a letter of recommendation Rivera sent Mahony in January 1987, five months after the police report was filed in Puebla.

In the letter, Rivera said Aguilar wanted to be transferred to Los Angeles because of "personal and health reasons." The cardinal, then a bishop in Puebla, added that there was no reason Mahony should not be granted the transfer.

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