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."
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.
"I'd defend the Church come hell or high water," Connolly told CNA, "but there is no defending this - the [Dec. 4] letter is a lie."
(Story continues below)
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Connolly said she contacted the Archdiocese of New York after reading media reports about Timone, to ask why he had been given a clean bill of health.
"They totally evaded my questions," Connolly told CNA.
The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on why it issued letters for years indicating that no allegations had been made against Timone, even after settlements were paid by the IRCP and Timone became the subject of a renewed investigation by the archdiocesan review board.
The Dec. 4 letter explicitly states that all the relevant archdiocesan files had been checked before it was issued. The Archdiocese of New York declined to comment on whether this had happened in Timone's case and, if not, whether similar letters had been issued for other priests accused of abuse or misconduct.
Zwilling told CNA that "lessons were being learned" and that a new process had been instituted in the light of the case.
"As a result of our experience with Fr. Timone's case, in the future, before any letters of suitability will be issued by the archdiocese the request will be passed through the offices of the archdiocesan civil attorney and the Safe Environment Officer," Zwilling said.