John Paul the Great U. responds to news from New York

"The [Dec. 4] letter is a lie”

JP Catholic campus in Escondido (from school website)

The following comes from a Dec. 28 story posted on Catholic News Agency.

The Archdiocese of New York told a California college this month that a local priest had never been accused of sexual abuse, even while the priest was being investigated by the archdiocese for several abuse charges. An administrator at the college called the letter “a lie,” and said she can no longer trust assurances from the archdiocese.

On Dec. 4, the New York archdiocese issued a letter stating “without qualification” that Fr. Donald Timone had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or misconduct involving a minor.”

In fact the archdiocese first received in 2003 an allegation that the priest had sexually abused minors, and it reached settlements with alleged victims in 2017.

The archdiocesan letter was received by John Paul the Great University in Escondido on Dec. 13. According to the university, it was not rescinded until after university officials contacted the Archdiocese of New York, following a Dec. 20 New York Times report on the history of allegations against Timone.

Allegations were first made against Timone in 2003 but they were dismissed as “unsubstantiated” by the archdiocese following an investigation by the archdiocesan review board. New allegations were made against the priest during a 2017 investigation by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program of the Archdiocese of New York.

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 retired priest 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 also 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.”

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.”

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.

Comments

  1. If one Catholic education institution, located in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, can not trust the representations made by the New York Archdiocese, how can the lay Catholic faithful rely on the representations, on any matter, made by any diocese or archdiocese.

    The same doubt holds for representations made by bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the Holy See itself, including those made by official spokespersons.

    • Salvatore Manella says:

      So much for the honesty and ethics of the honesty and ethics of the Catholic leadership in America.

      “Catholic” means “Universal”; however, it appears that is no longer true. Now we have various dioceses competing with each other with each one claiming its own brand of Catholicism; somewhat akin to competing ecclesiastical communities. Even the Holy See can not come to a single conclusion about honesty in Sacred Tradition.

      At this pace, “schism” and fragmentation is a distinct possibility.

    • Minor point, John Paul the Great Univ. Is located in San Diego not LA.

    • This also seems to indicate, to be fair, that a priest is never again employable in ministry, and probably anything else, after one unsubstantiated accusation. This is the dark, very dark, downside of the abuse crisis. We must not condemn people for whom none of the accusations are shown to have real proof. This is craziness, and I am a HUGE detractor of our shepherds on the handling of this issue, but no baby out with the bathwater. please. CYA is NOT ok if priests lose their rights. NOT OK at all.

  2. Well, well, well…more evidence of a dysfunctional clerical culture.

  3. John Rondina says:

    St.John Paul II the Great is in Escondido.
    That makes it in the Diocese. Of San Diego.

  4. John Paul the Great? Let’s pump the brakes on that one. I don’t think his pontificate is going to look too good in light of what was done and not done in the pedophilia scandal in the years and decades to come.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I get the message, loud and clear– the Catholic Church, including the Vatican– is not trustworthy. Mostly– they seem very worldly — and want to “go along to get along” with the rest of the world– and protect the institution, and its clergy, at all costs. That’s all that seems important to them. Will this change?? Not much, I am afraid. Maybe the Pope and clergy all need to be poor, barefoot, humble, prayerful, holy monks and friars, under strict discipline — like St. Francis of Assisi– for success to do the work of Christ.

  6. Zwilling…a skilled manipulator of words, he surely is. But not quite good enough to hide this.

  7. Lying liars who lie. They are now desperately desperate to protect their power structure. If the truth gets out, trust in the episcopacy will collapse. So they are now lying to protect their power.

  8. Marie Gauley says:

    This kind of cover up has been going on for more than fifty years! Even before the Vatican II revolution! The faithful priests, brothers and sisters and the whole laity have been betrayed by those in leadership and powerful Catholic Church positions. The flock has been invaded by wolves! May Our Precious Lord help His Flock! Our Shepherds have abandoned us!

  9. Read comments by Father Philip G. Bochanski, Executive Director of Courage re Fr. Timone @ https://couragerc.org

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