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2nd woman accuses ex-pastor of advances; Says she complained to diocese in 2008

A second woman has stepped forward to allege inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances by a Buffalo priest.

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo acknowledged this week that it has received a second independent complaint regarding the Rev. Secondo Casarotto, the former pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church on Court Street.

Casarotto was removed from his pastorate Jan. 14 after Bishop Edward U. Kmiec learned that the priest was accused in a Buffalo police report of groping a former parishioner inside the rectory.

Casarotto told Buffalo police the sexual contact was consensual, and the priest was not charged with a crime.

A Florida lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse cases, Adam D. Horowitz, is representing the former parishioner and is investigating the matter for a possible lawsuit.

Horowitz said he recently received a call from a second woman accusing Casarotto of making unwanted sexual advances in August 2008, while she was alone with the priest in her home in a Buffalo suburb.

The second accuser has not asked Horowitz to represent her.

The woman also contacted the diocese recently to report her allegations, diocesan spokesman Kevin A. Keenan confirmed.

The woman told the lawyer and diocesan officials that she previously reported the 2008 incident by calling the Catholic Center and sending a certified letter. The diocese has no record of the letter, Keenan said.

But Monday, a Catholic Center employee told diocesan officials that he remembered handling a call from a woman complaining about Casarotto, Keenan said.

The employee, whom Keenan declined to identify, did not inform diocesan officials of the complaint.

"It didn't go anywhere. The person got the complaint but didn't tell anyone at the diocese about the complaint," Keenan said. "We have procedures in place, and they were not followed in this situation."

The employee who acknowledged handling the woman's call, Keenan said, was not part of the diocese's Safe Environment Program, the office that typically handles complaints regarding alleged sexual abuse or improprieties. The employee does not have written record of the phone conversation, he added.

"We just learned of this today [Monday]. We've got to take a look at exactly what happened," Keenan said.

Horowitz's client, who is married and in her 30s, filed a complaint with Buffalo police last June, in which she accused Casarotto of groping her and making unwanted sexual advances in summer 2009 while the two were in the priest's residence at St. Anthony Church.

The second complaint sheds light on his client's case, Horowitz said.

"This fact, which is new to us, changes the landscape and presents a scenario where the Diocese of Buffalo knew or should have known of Father Secondo's propensities," he said.

The allegations have stunned members of the small parish where the Italian-born Casarotto served for more than 25 years. Some parishioners say they strongly doubt the accusations are true.

Casarotto, who is not a Buffalo diocesan priest, has been sent to Staten Island, where his order, the missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo, otherwise known as the Scalabrini Fathers, has its provincial offices.

The diocese is forwarding its information to the order, which is obligated to investigate, Keenan said.

Officials with the Scalabrini Fathers have not responded to several telephone messages left by The Buffalo News.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com