WEAKlaw enforcement and compliant Church authorities make Mexico ahaven forUS pedophile priests fleeing justice, a victims' group saidtoday.
TheSurvivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, whichhelpedbring a lawsuit this week against two of North America's topcardinals, said itknows of 46 mostly US priests hiding out south of theborder.
"Mexico has really become a secure place because herejudicial authoritiesdon't track them down and nothing happens," saidgroup spokesman Eric Barragan.
The US Catholic Church has beentarnished by a pedophile priest scandal thaterupted in Boston in 2002and spread to almost every diocese in the nation.
Several USCatholic priests have been prosecuted, multimillion dollar payoutshavebeen made to scores of pedophile victims and church files revealedthatsome bishops repeatedly transferred priests accused of abusingminors to otherparishes rather than reporting them to police.
Mr Barragan said Mexican pedophile priests, to a lesser degree, often flee tothe United States.
HisUS-based group helped filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles yesterdaythataccused Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Mexico City'sCardinal NorbertoRivera of allowing a priest wanted for multiple sexabuse to flee California forMexico.
Cardinal Rivera is Mexico'smost senior Catholic clergyman and was mentionedas an outsidercandidate last year to succeed Pope John Paul II.
The suit wasbrought by Mexican former altar boy Joaquin Aguilar, 25, whosays he wasraped by Catholic priest Nicolas Aguilar in Mexico in 1994.
Itclaims that Cardinal Mahony facilitated Father Aguilar's flight toMexicoin 1988, when a US warrant was issued for his arrest, withoutnotifying lawenforcement in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors were investigating allegations that he had abused more than 20boys in the Los Angeles archdiocese.
CardinalMahony's spokesman, Tod Tamberg, said the conspiracy chargewas"preposterous and without foundation" and the Mexico Cityarchdiocese saidCardinal Rivera "feels at ease because there was nocover up".
SNAP said it had hired private investigators whotracked down Father Aguilarto rural southern Mexico where he has beensaying Mass at a convent and threedifferent parishes and living out ofhis car with no fixed address.