Cardinal Off the Hook, But Sex
Abuse Controversy Rages On
By Diego Cevallos
MEXICO CITY, (IPS) - The Roman Catholic Church in Mexico celebrated a legal ruling that dismissed a case against Cardinal Norberto Rivera in which he was accused of protecting an alleged pedophile priest, while the press published Church guidelines in which the clergy are asked to sign a letter releasing the archdiocese of responsibility in case of charges of sex abuse.
"The charges against Monsignor Rivera were false, as has been demonstrated," Catholic priest Hugo Valdemar, spokesman for the archdiocese of
He was referring to a verdict handed down by a judge in
But "Valdemar is lying, because no one declared that Rivera was innocent," said Eric Barragán,
"They should stop being deceitful and should know that the battle isn't over," said the activist, after announcing that the verdict would be appealed in the
Father Valdemar responded that the
But "the accusing party can invent things and appeal; they are within their rights to do so. What we know is that their chances of winning are almost null," he said.
After a year-long review of the evidence, which included questioning Rivera --
The civil lawsuit against Rivera and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony was filed in the L.A. Superior Court by a Mexican man, Joaquín Aguilar, who accused the two cardinals of protecting a pedophile priest.
The charges were negligence, retention of evidence, and conspiracy to protect Mexican priest Nicolás Aguilar (no relation), who allegedly sexually abused Joaquín, now 26, when he was a boy, as well as around 60 other boys.
Nicolás Aguilar served as a parish priest in the central Mexican city of
"We might not have been successful now. But well go to another judge, and well take the case to the international courts if necessary," said Barragán. "But they should know that the battle is not lost, and that we will not flag in our efforts."
"There was an international conspiracy between Rivera and Mahony to conceal a pedophile priest, which allowed him to continue to commit crimes. And we have evidence to prove that," he added.
However, that evidence was discounted by the
Joaquín Aguilar declared that he is sure that he will one day see Rivera "sitting in a courtroom; they should not claim victory."
The Catholic Church in
The verdict handed down in
But Valdemar said the document is five years old and is not related in any way to Riveras case.
The guidelines say that in the face of "reasonable suspicion" that a member of the clergy had committed sexual abuse, "precautionary measures, whether a transfer or suspension, will be taken" -- a strategy that critics of the Church see as a way of evading justice and even exposing other churchgoers to abuse.
The guidelines urge priests to avoid immoral conduct and actions that could be construed as harmful to minors.
"The clergy should avoid imprudent conduct like inopportune or awkward hugs, and touching or caresses that are out of place or unwanted. Priests should not bring minors into their rooms or spend their days off with them," the document says.
It also orders priests to sign a letter in which they release the archdiocese of
"The guidelines may have shortcomings and perhaps we could improve on them, but their only aim is to make it clear that if a priest commits a crime, he must assume personal responsibility and be held accountable. They do not in any sense seek to protect the guilty," said Valdemar.
In July, the archdiocese of
A total of 10,667 people alleged abuse by 4,392 priests in the United States between 1950 and 2002, and compensation-related costs for the Catholic Church amounted to 573 million dollars, according to a 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, "The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States."