Cardinal Cleared

Sexual abuse lawsuit against Mexican Cardinal dismissed


A Los Angeles judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday against Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera, who had been accused of transferring a priest accused of sexual abuse to the United States with the co-operation of Catholic authorities in the United States, the Associated Press reports.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu M. Berle dismissed the suit because the plaintiff did not have enough evidence against the cardinal.  The judge likewise dismissed claims against the Mexican Diocese of Tehuacan, where the cardinal was bishop at the time he transferred the priest.

The plaintiff alleged that Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera raped him in his room at the rectory when he was twelve years old.  The priest allegedly threatened to abuse his siblings if he did not keep silent.

Cardinal Rivera, who is not related to the priest, declared that he had sent a letter to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in 1987 warning that the priest had "homosexual problems."  A Los Angeles archdiocesan spokesman has said Cardinal Mahony never received the letter.

The accused priest fled to Mexico after he was accused of sexual abuse in Los Angeles.  He has since been charged in California with 19 felony counts of committing lewd acts on a child.  At first he secured permission under false pretenses to serve as a priest in Mexico City, but fled when Cardinal Rivera was appointed to the archdiocese.  The priest's current whereabouts are unknown.

Mike Finnegan, the plaintiff's attorney, criticized the decision dismissing the lawsuit.  "It was a legal technicality," he said. "It didn't reach any of the merits of the case, and it didn't get to the key issues in the case, which is Cardinal Rivera's complicity in sending (the priest) to the United States as a child molester."

Cardinal Rivera's spokesman, Hugo Valdemar, said that the cardinal was happy with the decision.  "We are happy and satisfied that the judge confirmed what we have always said: This isn't a case to be judged in the United States," Valdemar said.  He noted the plaintiff had every right to present a complaint in Mexico.

Finnegan plans to pursue a lawsuit in Mexican courts.

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