The Roman Catholic Church in Mexico confirmed on Friday that it has suspended seven priests, including one accused of sexual abuse while serving in Los Angeles, from its diocese in the border city of Tijuana pending an investigation into alleged sexual harassment and abuse.
The Archdiocese of Tijuana didn't reveal the names of the priests but it did confirm to The Associated Press that Rev. Jeffrey Newell was among them.
Newell was first mentioned as being a part of the priests under investigation in a statement by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which is the main U.S. group of victims of abuse by priests.
In 2010, a U.S. man filed a lawsuit in California against the Los Angeles archdiocese alleging that church leaders engaged in fraud and negligence by allowing Newell to continue working around children after he went to church officials to accuse Newell of abuse.
"It's tragic that this predator priest has apparently struck again," the U.S. victims group said in a statement. "Fr. Newell should have never been given a church job in Mexico."
In January 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and a top advisor plotted to conceal child molestation by priests from law enforcement, including keeping them out of California to avoid prosecution, according to internal Catholic church records.
The archdiocese's failure to purge pedophile clergy and reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement has previously been known. But the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese's chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation's largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders' own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.
Prosecutors in Baja California state, where Tijuana is located, said that no one had filed a complaint against the priests and that police could not open an investigation without one.
The investigation against the seven priests was first mentioned this week by Tijuana Archbishop Rafael Romo, who told local media that the alleged victims were teenagers and that the investigation was continuing.
The Archdiocese of Tijuana issued a statement this week calling on those who had been victims or witnessed abuse to come forward and go to authorities.
The case in Tijuana follows the suspension of a priest in the northern Mexico state of San Luis Potosi. Last week, 19 people filed a criminal complaint alleging they were sexually abused by priest Eduardo Cordova and charging his archdiocese covered up the allegations for years.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.