Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico says Mass May 26, 2013 at the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral (Credit: Aquarela 08 via Flickr)

The Archdiocese of Mexico has countered claims made by two former priests that Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera covered up the actions of pedophile priests, calling the allegations an “orchestrated farce.”

The communications office of the Mexico City archdiocese reported that Cardinal Rivera had spoken to a Public Ministry official July 26, in response to the June 2 complaint filed by Alberto Athié and José Barba. Athié and Barba filed their complaint with the Attorney General of the Republic's Office, accusing Cardinal Rivera of the alleged cover-up of 15 pedophile priests.

In the 1990s Athié had brought allegations against Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ. Fr. Maciel was later removed from public ministry after it was verified he had committed sexual abuse and fathered several children. The Archdiocese of Mexico indicated that Athié and Barba based their charges on a Dec. 19, 2016, news brief published in El Universal “in which a meeting was made known that the cardinal had with journalists where the archbishop mentioned that during his administration as head of the Primatial Archdiocese of Mexico he had sanctioned 15 priests – not all for the crime of pederasty, but with other illicit acts classified in canon law.”

The archdiocese said that “the complaint against the Archbishop of Mexico was in the sense that he did not promptly report these cases to the authorities, for which they cavalierly accused him of covering up sexual abusers.” It indicated that during his July 26  meeting with the Public Ministry agent, “the cardinal showed copies of the complaints filed by the Archdiocese of Mexico since 2010, as laid down by law, against alleged criminal acts within the Church.”

The archdiocese added that Cardinal Rivera “made it clear that from the time that Part 2 of Article 12 of the Law on Religious Associations went into effect Aug. 19, 2010, – which obliged ministers of worship and their representatives to inform the appropriate authority of the probable commission of crimes – he was aware, through some of his episcopal vicars, of the probable commission of six presumably criminal acts.” According to the archdiocese, the cardinal instructed his episcopal vicars “immediately to notify the appropriate authorities, which was done, as attested by the copies he exhibited, and which demonstrated that he did not commit the crime of cover-up.”

The archdiocese also publicized the dates of the six complaints, along with the authorities to whom they were made, and the officials who made them. Cardinal Rivera “explained that the other nine cases were prior to the cited law going into effect, and only one had to do with the crime of pederasty, and the accused is being criminally prosecuted with the information that the archdiocese provided to the authorities,” the Mexico City archdiocese stated. “The other eight cases were for conduct penalized by canon law, such as financial fraud, mistreating an adult, breaking the seal of confession, and others that were made known to Church authorities,” it said.

The Archdiocese of Mexico stated that in response to “the express question of the Public Ministry agent, the Archbishop of Mexico acknowledged as his own the statement referred to in the news brief published by El Universal Dec. 19, 2016; clarifying that, however, since it was an impromptu interview, he failed to specify that not all the mentioned cases had to do with the crime of pederasty – as the former priests Alberto Athié and José Barba maliciously indicated.”

In addition, “he said that regarding the cases made known to the civil authorities, it was solely their responsibility to follow up on them, and of the ones the church authorities knew about, they were concluded with the suspension of priestly ministry, since in those cases the ecclesiastical sentence is given by the Pope and is made known through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”