Sep 19, 2006 2:39 pm US/Pacific

Alleged Sex Abuse Victim Sues Cardinal Mahony
(CBS) LOS ANGELES A Mexican man sued Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony and a cardinal in Mexico Tuesday, saying they should be held responsible for him being sexually molested by a priest who worked on both sides of the border.

Joaquin Aguilar Mendez filed his lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging negligence, sexual battery and conspiracy. He maintains a Los Angeles bishop allowed The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar -- no relation to the defendant -- to go to Mexico to avoid molestation charges in Los Angeles.

Once in Mexico, Aguilar sexually abused Mendez, who was an altar boy at the time, the lawsuit stated. During an October 1994 incident when Mendez was 13, Aguilar raped him in the priest's room after the boy had gotten up during Mass to use the restroom in the rectory, the lawsuit stated.

Mendez spoke at downtown news conference after the lawsuit was filed. Flanked by his attorneys and by members of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Mendez, now 25, said through an interpreter that he and his family members have received threats since he came forward.

Mendez said he is "very scared of what might happen," but believes he has to speak out "for all the other children."

Todd Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said he and church lawyers have not seen the lawsuit, but that archdiocese officials acted properly in Aguilar's case after hearing about the allegations.

Tamberg also said that, after telling the archdiocese he would remain in California with relatives, Aguilar fled without warning.

In addition to Mahony, the lawsuit names as defendants Cardinal Norberto Rivera of the Diocese of Tehuacan in Mexico and Aguilar, now 65.

According to the lawsuit, Aguilar was ordained a priest in 1970 in the Diocese of Tehuacan. While he was in the seminary, he sexually attacked a classmate, the lawsuit stated.

Another seminary student who reported the attack was kicked out by seminary officials, the lawsuit stated.

Aguilar was beaten at his parish home in the mid-1980s, but asked that the suspects not be prosecuted, the lawsuit stated.

Rivera was a bishop when he wrote Mahony, then an archbishop, in 1987 asking if Aguilar could be sent to Los Angeles, the lawsuit stated. Rivera knew "full well that Father Nicholas was a pedophile ..." and sent him to Los Angeles to cover up his alleged molestations in Mexico, the lawsuit stated.

Rivera warned Mahony in two letters in 1987 that Aguilar had "homosexual problems," the lawsuit stated.

Mahony appointed Aguilar to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in March 1987 and two months later transferred him to St. Agatha Church two months later, where he was named associate pastor, the lawsuit stated.

In December 1987, two altar boys at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church came forward and said Aguilar molested them, the lawsuit stated.

Confronted with the allegations in January 1988 by Monsignor Thomas Curry, Aguilar said he was going back to Mexico, according to the lawsuit.

Curry did not tell police about the allegations against Aguilar and the priest returned to his native country, the lawsuit stated.

Los Angeles police later estimated Aguilar molested 26 children during the nine months he served in Los Angeles and he was charged with 19 felony counts, the lawsuit stated.

Mahony wrote Rivera a letter in March 1988 asking that Aguilar be returned to Los Angeles to face charges, the lawsuit stated. Rivera replied that it was unlikely Aguilar could be forced to appear in a U.S. court, the lawsuit stated.

Rivera also reminded Mahony that he had previously warned him about "the homosexual problems of the priest," but Mahony wrote back that he did not receive such a letter from him, according to the lawsuit.

"We have here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles a clear plan of action: we do not admit priests with any homosexual problems," Mahony wrote, according to the lawsuit.

Six years later, the alleged rape of Mendez occurred at San Antonio de Padua Church, the lawsuit stated.

Criminal charges were filed in Mexico the next year against Aguilar regarding the Los Angeles allegations, but a Mexican judge dismissed the case as too old to prosecute, the lawsuit stated.

The Mexican Consulate attorney in Los Angeles told Los Angeles police in 2002 that Aguilar was not going to be prosecuted in his country because "the system was never going to prosecute a priest," the lawsuit stated.

A Mexican judge, however, found Aguilar guilty of sexual abuse in 2003, but he was not punished because the statute of limitations had expired, according to the lawsuit.