By Wayne Drash, CNN
(CNN) – Told by two families that a visiting priest was suspected of molesting their children in 1988, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not immediately notify police. Instead, Cardinal Roger Mahony’s right-hand man alerted the priest – a heads-up that allowed him to flee the country for Mexico.
He remained in the priesthood there for another 21 years, allegedly continuing to molest. He has denied the accusations and remains a fugitive.
Newly released church documents show the behind-the-scenes machinations of top officials within the Los Angeles archdiocese making decisions on how to deal with pedophile priests, hindering police investigations and saying, in private, something completely different than what they said in public.
Mahony, one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church in America at the time, received constant updates on molesting priests and sometimes gave orders on how to deal with cases, including once telling subordinates to deny a police request for a list of altar boys. In at least one case, minute details like retirement benefits were discussed for an admitted molester.
On Saturday, Mahony faced a deposition, answering questions on his handling of the abuse scandal for the first time since the documents' release.
He will journey next to Rome to join the conclave to decide the next pope - a decision that has stirred controversy among advocates of abuse victims and many Catholics.
Anthony De Marco, an attorney who has spent decades representing abuse victims, said the newly released documents surprised even him, because they show “how frequently there was correspondence back and forth between Cardinal Mahony and his top assistants and others after a priest was accused.”
"We know a lot more about his conduct and his words now than we ever have, and I believe that's going to make for a much more thorough deposition," said De Marco, ahead of the deposition he was scheduled to lead.
The archdiocese had fought for years against the documents' being made public. But a judge ordered the release of the material – more than 12,000 pages that detail the extent of sexual abuse within the archdiocese dating back to the 1930s.
“I find these files to be brutal and painful reading,” Archbishop Jose Gomez said in rebuking Mahony, his predecessor.
Still, Gomez supports Mahony on his journey to Rome, where he will join the papal conclave in the Sistine Chapel to choose the next pope. In a letter to priests within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Gomez asked them “to pray for Cardinal Mahony as he fulfills this sacred duty as Cardinal Elector.”
“I am confident that Cardinal Mahony’s accomplishments and experience in the areas of immigration, social justice, sacred liturgy, and the role of the laity in the Church will serve the College of Cardinals well,” Gomez said.
‘The children are not traumatized’
The case of the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera is a microcosm of the larger abuse crisis within the church. It will be at the heart of the deposition.
At a time when the archdiocese was widening its base within the ever-growing Latino community in Southern California, Aguilar-Rivera came to the United States from Mexico, in March 1987. Aguilar-Rivera’s bishop in Mexico had asked the Los Angeles archdiocese to take him in.
The archdiocese welcomed him and found a spot for him in two parishes where parents trusted him with their children, unsupervised.
“He even used his status as a newcomer, his need to learn English, as his ruse for getting children alone," said Terry McKiernan, founder of the church watchdog group BishopAccountability.org. "It’s one of the most extreme combinations of devout Catholic people very open to a priest, very respectful of him, and the callousness and carelessness of hierarchy on both sides of the border about the dangers that this priest posed."
McKiernan added, “This is a man who was a total predator, whose entire life and being seemed to be focused on abusing children.”
Once in the United States, Aguilar-Rivera was first sent to work at Our Lady of Guadalupe, a church with a largely Mexican-American population in East Los Angeles. The bishop for that area, Juan Arzube, Mahony’s vicar general for the San Gabriel Region, had once been accused of molestation and often lobbied on behalf of molesting priests, arguing they deserved to be forgiven, the documents show.
Arzube denied molesting any children himself, but admitted under deposition to being alone with altar boys on many occasions in his rectory apartment. His name was part of a massive civil lawsuit settled with accusers in 2007.
Arzube’s cavalier attitude toward sexual abuse is summed up in a 1980 document in which he lobbied for reinstatement of a priest who had been stripped of his duties, for a second time, because he molested altar boys. “How many priests are there completely guiltless over a period of 10 years?” said Arzube, who died on Christmas Day in 2007 at age 89.
The first inkling of Aguilar-Rivera’s alleged actions in America came on Friday January 8, 1988, when two families – “all trustworthy people” – informed their pastor that they believed their children had been molested. The priest, in turn, told Thomas Curry, the vicar of clergy and Mahony’s second in command.
One incident “happened at Christmas when Father visited the other family,” Curry told Mahony in a letter dated January 10, 1988. “There was a good deal of drinking, and the family asked him to stay. He slept in the room with the children and is supposed to have gotten into bed with one of the boys that night.”
The principal of the boys’ school, Curry noted, had been informed of the accusations and “will be obliged to report it to police.”
But the church didn’t respond by first alerting police. Instead, Curry met with Aguilar-Rivera at the church the day after the allegations were made, a Saturday morning, and informed him that a police investigation would be launched.
“I offered to find a place for him to live until he could make other arrangements, but he volunteered that he would stay with his sister here and leave for Mexico on Monday or Tuesday of this week,” Curry wrote Mahony.
“… He asked that his bishop not be told, and I said that would not be possible. I told him the charges as I knew them, although I did not give the names of the families. He denied all, although he admitted that there was a good deal of drinking at Christmas. I told him that it was likely the accusations would be reported to the police and that he was in a good deal of danger.”
The documents show no suggestion on Curry’s or Mahony’s part that Aguilar-Rivera stay in the United States, cooperate with authorities and face the allegations.
Armed with the information, Aguilar-Rivera skipped town before police were notified on Monday, apparently by the school principal. That day, a detective asked an official within the archdiocese if Aguilar-Rivera intended to flee to Mexico.
“I said I was not sure,” said the official, who is not named in the documents. “I also said that Nicolas knew that it would probably be reported to the police, and that I had explained that some people were bound to report.”
Law enforcement took the allegations seriously and launched an investigation, even accusing the church of not fully cooperating with its efforts – an accusation that would eventually go public in a story in the Los Angeles Times.
One document says that a boy’s relative “had heard” that cops had accused church officials of a cover-up. “The family does not want any trouble,” said the memo dated January 21, 1988. “They want [Aguilar-Rivera] to receive help and that he not be able to do this again.”
The memo added, “The children are not traumatized.”
Five days later, police pushed for a list of altar boys at St. Agatha’s, the second parish where Aguilar-Rivera worked. This request sent archdiocese officials into a frenzy.
Curry wrote Mahony that he believed the church should not cooperate. “We have no evidence that Father Aguilar-Rivera was involved with altar boys as such,” Curry wrote on January 26, 1988. “All the boys involved were members of families he was friendly with in Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the alleged abuse took place while he was visiting these families or while they were visiting him.”
The pastor at St. Agatha, Curry continued, had no knowledge of abuse on his premises and “his concern is that if the police come and interview the boys, the matter will spread around the parish. The parish there is a black-Hispanic one, and he finds his situation as an Anglo pastor a very delicate one.”
“The whole issue of our records is a very sensitive one, and I am reluctant to give any list to the police,” Curry concluded. “We are being friendly but firm.”
At the bottom of the typed letter is a handwritten message from Mahony. “We cannot give such a list for no cause whatsoever,” he scrawled on the page, initializing it with “RMM.”
He underlined “cannot” for extra emphasis.
None of the archdiocese officials were ever charged with obstruction of justice.
Police eventually got the altar boy list, with no help from the archdiocese. Investigators learned the extent of Aguilar-Rivera’s alleged crimes by interviewing boys ranging in age from about 9 to 13.
In all, police said, 26 boys were molested in just nine months, many of them repeatedly. Aguilar-Rivera would eventually be charged in a felony complaint relating to 10 boys, with 19 counts of committing a lewd act with a child.
A Los Angeles Times reporter asked the archdiocese for comment at the time; its public statement stands in direct contrast to what the newly released documents reveal. “He was asked to stay in the country to face the accusations against him, but he chose to leave,” said Joseph Battaglia, the spokesman for the archdiocese.
In the article, police said the church was being less than forthcoming with investigators; a father of two of the alleged victims said simply, “The church shouldn’t be telling lies.”
With the allegations now in the open, the tone of archdiocese officials shifted. Three days later, Curry wrote Aguilar-Rivera’s bishop in Mexico and included a copy of the Los Angeles Times’ story.
“May I request that if you know of the whereabouts of Father Aguilar-Rivera,” Curry said, “you urge him most strongly to return here to answer the allegations that have been made against him.”
While on the run, Aguilar-Rivera even called the home of one of the boys he allegedly molested.
“Don’t you know everybody is looking for you?” the mother said, according to a March 11, 1988, memo.
“For what?” Aguilar-Rivera responded.
Aguilar-Rivera would remain in the priesthood in Mexico - for another 21 years. He would be dogged of more molestation allegations while there.
A civil suit filed in the United States in 2010 by a Mexican citizen alleged Aguilar-Rivera raped him when he was a 12-year-old altar boy in Mexico. The suit alleges Mahony and a Mexican cardinal conspired to hide Aguilar-Rivera between the two countries with full knowledge of his alleged pedophilia, putting an untold number of children at risk. Mahony has denied the allegations.
Aguilar-Rivera was convicted in Mexico in 2003 of a misdemeanor sex abuse charge, but was allowed to walk free while the case was under appeal, according to the Dallas Morning News.
He remains on Mexico’s federal prosecutor’s Most Want List wanted on charges of rape and indecent assault.
Aguilar-Rivera was finally stripped of his duties in 2009 by the Vatican, which approved his removal from “clerical state, a priest who has been accused of the sexual abuse of minors in Mexico and the United States,” the Catholic News Agency reported on July 31, 2009.
Attorney De Marco said it’s disgusting church authorities did nothing to stop him.
“He was able to walk around with the authority of the collar in a country where that authority carries more significance than it does here,” De Marco said. “How could anyone ever justify that 21-year delay? This man molested 26 children in nine months in the United States. How many more were there over 21 years?”
Aguilar-Rivera, now 71, is believed to be alive, a free man in Mexico.
Mahony prays for humiliation
Mahony, who turns 77 next week, was appointed archbishop of Los Angeles by Pope John Paul II in 1985, overseeing the archdiocese until 2011 when he retired. In 1991, he became a cardinal, the highest-ranking Catholic clergy below the pope.
McKiernan, who launched BishopAccountability.org in 2003 to keep track of the widespread church abuse, said the recently released documents show the scope and magnitude of Mahony’s and Curry’s efforts in “intentionally evading the authorities.”
“We didn’t have evidence of that before. It’s actually more stark,” he said. “You can tell from these documents Mahony was trying to keep abused priests away from police. … The document record is a disgraceful one.”
Curry stepped down earlier this month as the regional bishop of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties and “publicly apologized for his decisions while serving as vicar for clergy,” archbishop Gomez said in announcing the resignation.
Mahony has said he has long acknowledged mistakes in the 1980s and that he improved the reporting mechanisms of priestly abuse in the years that followed.
He has recently taken to his personal blog, scribing an array of posts about praying for humiliation.
“… I am for the first time realizing that I should be praying for the very things from which I cringe, the disgrace I abhor, the fool that I seem,” he blogged on February 15.
In a post this week, he asked followers for “your prayers and your encouragements in my own life to handle all of my mistakes, omissions, and commissions as God asks, and as Jesus and Mary lived out: to take in what swirls around me, to hold it, to carry it, to transform it and to give it back as grace, blessing and gift.”
De Marco, the attorney conducting the deposition, said Mahony should feel one emotion far greater than humiliation: shame.
Amid calls for Mahony to not travel to Rome, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles remains steadfast in its support of his trip, saying canon law dictates that he attend.
Catholics United, a liberal-leaning group that pushes for social justice within the church, and SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) said they delivered a petition with close to 10,000 signatures to Saint Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood on Saturday, asking for Mahony not to attend the conclave.
"His participation in the conclave would only bring clouds of shame at a time that should bring springs of hope. Cardinal Mahony, please, stay home," said Chris Pumpelly, Catholics United's communications director.
There is no indication he will.
The Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church consists of more than 20 Catholic churches, all in fully communion with Rome. In theory, ANY Catholic Eastern rite or Catholic Orthodox Patriarch could be elected as the new Pope. perhaps an Arab Pope would trigger millions of new Muslim converts to Christianity and diminish world Islamic madness, violence, terrorism and discrimination.
A better choice would be to put the pope in an orange jump suit in jail where he belongs.
Trading one form of madness for another is not a positive outcome.
The catholic church is and has always been run by pedophiles, perverts, con-artists, thieves, and the criminals who cover up their crimes.
How can anyone, in good conscience, continue to be a part of a church with such a disgusting and shameful history?
Typical response from a bigot who has never conducted a criminal prosecution or defense.
What does that have to do with it?
Mike, the pope belongs in jail. he is a common criminal.
I think this is a question worth asking. The church and those in it are imperfect. We are all sinners. We are all in need of God's mercy. God's mercy always trumps His justice. Thus I would rather belong to a church which is imperfect in need of God's mercy than one to which we exclude ourselves when we recognize imperfection in it.
I'm not a sinner. I do not need your god's mercy. Your god does not exist. You have the logic of medium sized roadkill.
IF ONLY the NEXT Pope were Someone; who did not think that Women were 'Icky'
There is so much disgust and downright hate towards christians on these posts. The number of comments against christians and other religions on this "Belief Blog" make me think they should call it the "Non Belief Blog"
It gives me HOPE and HAPPINESS!!! Nones rule!!!!
Rubbing little boys is as regular as rubbing rosary beads for catholic priests and they bind themselves to secrecy in public while continuing to grant themselves privilege in private.
Together with scandals from other religions it always serves as a reminder to my children that religion is nothing but a mask, behind which lurks the worst in people. All of my kids are grown now and have happy, healthy families of their own, not a one of which was raised on religion of any kind whatsoever. I would have rather had a kid strung out on drugs than religion any day.
In nine months 26 kids were supposedly molested, what is a guy to do when he reads about this news. There is no respect, and they tell Cardinal Mahony to "stay home". These are serious charges, maybe the elderly wants to be respected for his experience and that is why the news are the way are. I suspected someone of taking advantage of me, but I was young I could have just been angry for being inexperienced. Please take care of your bodies.
how is this turd no in jail? he covered up for s.exual abusers of children. and now he's going to go vote for head molester in Rome? makes me sick.
All you libs will be orgasmicand slobbering if Mahoney gets elected the pope
How is this in any way connected to politics, tarura? Or do you just take any opportunity, no matter how tenuous and ridiculous, to bash the party you don't like?
So you do not swallow, it is alright, they will forgive you, it is part of the business plan, forgiveness.
Uh, right. Bu,t I'm sure we'll be pleased if his ass goes to jail, while he brings down the rest of your hypocritical fantasy club with him.
I hope they do elect him Pope.
what does being liberal have to do with any of this tarura? come back when you have something intelligent to say.
Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.
Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease. Realistically, many abortions could be avoided if a morning-after pill would not is not viewed as such an evil option. Many of these same people bring children into the world at a high pace, and then would prefer that the rest of society take over and educate their children in their particular brand of religion when they don't plan well and don't want to violate their silly beliefs.
Recently we learned of the head of LCMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.
One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.
One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".
One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.
On sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.
Conflicted right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as it goes.
Has anything improved with Christianity since 200+ years ago?
Thomas Jefferson, POTUS #3 (from Notes on the State of Virginia):
Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
James Madison, POTUS #4, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights (from A Memorial and Remonstrance delivered to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785):
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
John Adams, POTUS #2 (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816):
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.
Ben Franklin (from a letter to The London Packet, 3 June 1772):
If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, blamed persecution in the Roman church, but practised it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.
Thomas Paine (from The Age of Reason):
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Although you will find such abuse anywhere, I do not think priests should be above the law.
In any group of people you will find abusers, it is the fact the organization they are apart of actively hid them and helped them continue their abuse. It is the insi.tutional corruption that is appalling.
The following is according to the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him (John 14:17).
For a better understanding of the history of abuse we invite you to read the latest entry 'Cover-Up by L.A. church leaders' on the Current Events page of the website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
We also encourage you to read the article 'Files show how L.A. church leaders controlled damage' listed on the website.
The church hierarchy refers to the Pope as 'Holy Father', while the Word of God teaches us to call no man your (spiritual) father upon the earth (Matthew 23:9). The Pope was never appointed or ordained by God but rather by men and a quick study of the Papal Office will confirm that it is not 'Holy' at all.
For a better understanding of the history of the Papacy and the spirit the Pope serves, we invite you to read the article 'Papal Infallibility, Contradictions and Spiritual Blindness', listed on our website.
The following is an excerpt from the article.
"All of the ceremonies and celebrations of the Catholic Church, including the Mass, Baptism and all of its doctrines and dogmas are an abomination in God's eyes and stand in opposition to the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:24-26). For a better understanding of the history of the Church we invite you to read the articles 'The Mystery Babylon' and 'Popes and the Princes of This World'.
The dogma of Papal Infallibility, which states that the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error, is a claim that he has bestowed upon himself while he does not know what spirit he is of (Luke 9:55), as he continues to err in the scriptures (Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:24; 1 John 4:6)."
We also invite you to read the second item (Scarlet and Purple Colour) on the Recent Revelations Page. It simply and clearly explains the deceptions that for centuries have been hidden and have now been revealed, confirming what is written in Matthew 10:26 that there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.
Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:14).
this con man is selling a book
AvdBerg is a troll on this blog and a proven liar, they are only here to sell their book and website to support their cult.
Click the report abuse link to get rid of this troll!
while CNN is distracting you with noise:
With Little More Than a Note, Obama Deploys US Troops To Niger
West African nation that will host fleet of US drones will also have armed US soldiers with "boots on the ground"
– Jon Queally, Common Dreams, Feb 22, 2013
For every bad Catholic Priest or Protestant Minister there is always more than eleven good Christian clerics. In Islam is the opposite, for every one good Muslim cleric there is always more than 11 evil Islamic clerics, for them is much better if they don't follow prophet Mohammed's role model.
For every one priest that molested, there were more than eleven who knew about it and did nothing, or actively helped to cover it up.
And you know this how?
Persecution Of Scientists
The list of the crimes and atrocities of the catholic church is endless.
How can anyone of good conscience continue to be a member of such a church?
Where did you get those stats, Skorpio? Did you remove the crucifix from your rectum to pull them out?
"the gay cabal" with outside "secular" ties blackmailing the pope ? read all about it as reported by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon today. educated guesses are always closer to the truth than corporate media gibberish.
Yes, do read it. It's about the final scandal that may have broke the Pope's back: the money laundering scandal, the massive payouts to the victims of pedophile priests, and the priests caught cavorting with male prostitutes.
For extra fun, read TJI's Vatican spin on it, posted this morning.
Where is god when children are being molested by priest? Or does god give a damn!
Jerking it in the corner with a tear stained face...
Catholic church... one heck of a business... 2000 years old no other business has lasted that long... One heck of a PR job too.
Mahony should go to jail where i am sure he would get some of his own medicine... from follow inmates, I am sure he would love that!!!!
With criminal charges hanging over Cardinal Mahony, what stops him from seeking sanctuary or claim illness and such with the Vatican and to never return to the U.S.?
Very good point. I wonder if that is why he's so determined to make the trip?
Maybe Ratzinger is in need of a roomate.
I'll bet a lot of cardinals find "reasons" to linger at the Vatican long after the choosing of the new poop.
There are two meanings to the word "deposed;" the second one would be far more appropriate. Mahoney should be stripped of any authority in the Church and sent to some remote monastery to reflect and repent for the rest of his born days. That is, if they can't find him guilty of criminal obstruction.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.