Mexico church bars priest with abuse conviction

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexico City archdiocese said Thursday it is barring a priest who pleaded guilty in 1989 to sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Colorado girl from working in the city.

The office of Cardinal Norberto Rivera said that Lucas Antonio Galvan has been stripped of his license to work as a priest in the city because he failed to provide documents about his past. Rivera's spokesman, Hugo Valdemar, said the decision shows the church is taking sex abuse allegations seriously.

Galvan can still practice in churches elsewhere in Mexico, however.

Galvan pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual assault and the girl who accused him later settled a lawsuit against the Pueblo diocese for more than $90,000. Galvan moved to a church in Buenos Aires in 1992 and arrived in Mexico City in 1997.

The Catholic Church has recently been accused of failing to act on allegations of sex abuse against priests or shuffling them between churches when they are accused of sexual misconduct. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has sued Rivera four times in the U.S., including a lawsuit this week, accusing him of covering the abuse of another priest, Nicolas Aguilar, who is wanted by police.

Valdemar said the Mexico City archdiocese asked Galvan about his history after the Mexican magazine, Emeequis, reported in late March that 25 priests, including Galvan, had sought refuge in Mexico after sexual abuse allegations. Valdemar said the archdiocese investigated and found that Galvan was the only priest named in the magazine who was working in Mexico City.

Valdemar said the archdiocese still does not know the details of Galvan's criminal conviction because he has not turned over his files.

"He can't work as a priest here because we have serious doubts, and until he proves otherwise he will not work as a priest here," Valdemar said. He said Galvan could still be a priest anywhere outside the city, as long as the bishop in charge of a given area authorizes it.

Galvan was the second-in-charge at the Mexico City church where he worked. A woman who answered the phone at the church said the priest in charge, Jesus Orozco, did not want to talk about Galvan's case.

Valdemar said the archdiocese is changing its attitude toward sexual abuse allegations and taking "drastic measures" when accusations arise. He said the media has "made us take seriously cases that we handled with relative calm before, which is something we can't do anymore."