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.