HOBBS, NM (ChurchMilitant.com) - The diocese of Las Cruces has waited nearly three months to address allegations one of its priests engaged in homosexual abuse.
Father Ricardo Bauza, the co-Director of Vocations for the diocese of Las Cruces and pastor of St. Helena Catholic Church in Las Cruces, New Mexico, is being accused of groping one adult man in the shower, standing naked in the rectory in front of a cleaning woman and showing pictures of his genitals to two other men in the parish. All are alleged to have occurred between July 2014 and April 2016.
A criminal complaint filed in Hobbs Magistrate court on October 25 reveals the victims, upon learning that others had been subject to improprieties by Bauza, approached the diocese to complain.
The 24-year-old unnamed victim claims that he asked to shower in the rectory because his shower in his apartment was broken. He was taken by surprise when Bauza entered into the shower and washed the victim with a sponge and his bare hand. Taken aback, the victim asked Bauza what he was doing, Bauza responded, "It is ok, we're both just men."
The victim returned the following week but left after Bauza insisted on entering the shower naked with the victim.
The News-Sun is reporting that one of the victims believe Bauza met with diocesan authorities on July 5 and it was determined he would continue as pastor despite parishioner complaints. Another accuser notes that Bauza approached him on July 17 asking why he reported him to the diocese.
Bauza remained as pastor of St. Helena until August when the victims filed a criminal complaint against him with the Hobbs police department.
But on November 30 — nearly three months later — Bp. Oscar Cantú, head of the diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico, addressed a letter to members of St. Helena Parish and the citizens of Hobbs. He notes, "I find it necessary to comment now that the matter has been reported to the media."
Cantú comments, "I urge you to withhold judgment and not engage in gossip or speculation." He also admits Bauza was removed from public ministry in August and ordered to "enter a treatment center for therapy."
He also goes on to mention he has not seen, as of the letter's publication date, the police report, adding that he cannot comment on details because it is a criminal case.
"No minors were involved" he clarifies, explaining that he didn't want to "make this matter public" in order to "respect the privacy of the accusers, as well as the accused."
An arrest warrant has been issued and as of yet Bauza has not been apprehended. Police claim, however, to know of his whereabouts.