Last week, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told CNA that the archdiocesan review board had reopened its formal investigation into Timone in early autumn 2018.
The officially retired priest, still active at the university and in other contexts, was removed from ministry Dec. 21, according to the New York Times.
Timone has served for the last decade as a visiting priest at the university during the winter and summer terms. His duties included saying Mass and hearing confessions. He taught a class during the summer term of 2018 and was scheduled to lead a seminar in the coming term.
University Vice President for Administration Lidy Connolly told CNA that she was “thrown for a loop” when she heard about the allegations against Timone.
“Fr. Timone has been coming here for more than a decade and New York never told us anything about [the allegations] against him,” Connolly said.
Letters of suitability are issued by dioceses around the world for priests traveling outside of their home dioceses. They have assumed a far greater importance in recent decades, especially in the United States, following the sexual abuse scandals of the last twenty years.
“What do these letters of suitability and good standing mean if they say there’s never been an allegation and there clearly have been?” Connolly asked.
“Does this mean we can no longer have priests come visit from New York? At the moment the archdiocese’s word means nothing.”
The Dec. 4 letter was signed by New York’s archdiocesan director of priest personnel, Msgr. Edward Weber.
“I have carefully reviewed our personnel and other records which we maintain,” Weber wrote.
“I assure you that Reverend Donald Timone [is] a person of good moral character and reputation and is qualified to serve in an effective and suitable manner as a priest. I have no reason to suspect that the above-mentioned priest is unfit for service as a priest.”
Weber wrote that he could “certify and affirmatively represent without qualification” Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor,” and “manifested no behavioral problems in the past that would indicate he might deal with people, including minors, in an inappropriate manner.”
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The letter also attests that Timone has “never been involved in an incident which called into question his fitness or suitability.”
In 2017, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program paid settlements in response to substantiated allegations that Timone had sexually abused two teenage boys, one of whom eventually committed suicide.
A spokesman for the archdiocese told CNA that, after the Dec. 4 letter was issued, archdiocesan officials conducted an internal discussion about Timone’s status in active ministry.
“The question of Father Timone remaining active in ministry did arise when a letter of suitability was requested for his trip to California,” archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling told CNA.
“He was initially instructed not to publicly exercise his ministry or present himself as a priest while there; it was followed a few days later with a further restriction of ministry for whenever he returns to New York, while the matter is under review by our review board.”
Connolly told CNA that John Paul the Great University had received letters attesting to Timone’s suitability for more than a decade. She expressed shock and outrage on behalf of the university.