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New Mexico

Former Las Cruces Catholic bishop under Vatican investigation for handling of sex abuse cases

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U.S. State Dept.
Catholic Bishop Oscar Cantú.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- The former bishop of the Las Cruces Catholic Diocese is under investigation by the Vatican for his handling of sex abuse cases while in southern New Mexico, according to a report from the Catholic News Agency.

Bishop Oscar Cantú, who is currently the leader of a California diocese, acknowledged the probe in a statement he released Wednesday.

The 53-year-old Cantú said he supports the Vatican’s efforts “to ensure the accountability of bishops and to bring justice and healing to victims/survivors.”

“I intend to cooperate fully with any inquiry,” said Cantú, who was bishop in Las Cruces from 2013 to 2019.

The Diocese of Las Cruces told ABC-7 on Wednesday that it had "no comment" on the probe.

The Catholic News Agency quoted Vatican officials who confirmed the investigation was underway, but added that Cantú “has every presumption of innocence and remains in office.”

The Las Cruces diocese has faced numerous accusations of sexual misconduct involving clergy over the years. Documents it publicly released previously showed 60 priests have had credible claims made against them - some dating back to the 1950s, with 13 of those occurring during Cantú's tenure as bishop. (You can read that document at the bottom of this article.)

The CNA report said Vatican officials declined to identify which case or cases were the subject of the internal investigation.

A spokesman for the Las Cruces Police Department told ABC-7 on Wednesday that it had no reports currently under criminal investigation involving the diocese.

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

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