Moreno’s work and outward appearance hid an often troubled side

Buffalo News

BY: Jay Tokasz

He endeared himself to area police officers, responding at any hour of the day to their personal or professional tragedies.

Parishioners of the East Side parish where he celebrated Masses grew to love his disheveled, everyman way of ministering, and impoverished residents in the neighborhood appreciated his caring attention.

In some ways, the Rev. Joseph F. Moreno Jr. did the kind of gritty priestly work for which few other clergy are suited.

Yet Moreno, 54, also was by many accounts a tortured soul – an enigmatic man who craved attention but refused to allow people to really know him.

His death Oct. 13 due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound sent shock waves across Western New York and caused his family and other supporters to blame diocesan officials for what they called a callous mishandling of the priest.

With the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal still looming as a backdrop, some people wondered whether an allegation of that sort had surfaced for Moreno, who reportedly was distressed over his pending departure from St. Lawrence Church, where he had been living since 2005.

In a statement, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said no allegations of sex abuse of a minor were ever raised about Moreno. There were no indications Moreno harmed a child. But the priest had other troubling incidents in his past, including a 1989 conviction for attempted arson and falsely reporting an incident and a 2005 bankruptcy filing in which he listed $447,000 in debts.

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