LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - A churchgoer who claims he was sexually assaulted by a Hobbs priest has sued the Diocese of Las Cruces, alleging church leaders "facilitated" the priest's abuse and helped him leave the state.
The male plaintiff, whose age and name are not given in the lawsuit, alleges he was abused by Father Ricardo Bauza of St. Helena Parish.
Father Bauza is also a former pastor of St. Genevieve Catholic Church in Las Cruces.
The lawsuit alleges that after employees notified Bishop Oscar Cantu of the allegations of sexual, the priest was "quietly removed" from the parish and members of the church were not notified.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges Father Bauza was transported out of the state and the whistleblowers were fired from the parish "in apparent retaliation for reporting the abuse."
The plaintiff is represented by Connie J. Flores of the firm, Flores, Tawney & Acosta, P.C. and by the offices of Brad D. Hall, LLC.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces had no comment on the lawsuit. Instead, a spokesman directed ABC-7 to a statement on the Diocese website:
"When I was informed about the accusations this past summer, I asked Fr. Ricardo to absent himself from the parish and enter a treatment center for therapy," wrote Bishop Oscar Cantú on November 30th. "Wanting to respect the privacy of the accusers as well as the accused, I did not want to make this matter public."
To end his November statement, Bishop Cantú wrote: "I urge you to withhold judgment and not engage in gossip or speculation, especially when we are not aware of all the facts."