AP NEWS

College says Archdiocese of New York hid priest’s past

January 3, 2019

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (AP) — The Archdiocese of New York instituted new review procedures for its letters of recommendation after a California university alleged the diocese lied about past allegations of sexual abuse by an upstate priest, a diocese spokesman said Thursday.

An official at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, California, told the Middletown Times Herald-Record she was shocked to learn about allegations against the Rev. Donald Timone, who has been a visiting priest at the college for several years.

Lidy Connolly, the university’s vice president for administration, said the archdiocese had provided a letter of suitability stating the 84-year-old Timone was qualified to serve as a priest and had “never been accused of any act of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving a minor.”

Connolly said she didn’t know the archdiocese had reopened a 15-year-old investigation of sexual abuse allegations until she read recent media reports.

“I’m still in shock that they would write this letter,” Connolly said. “Everyone who got that letter was lied to.”

The archdiocese investigated a sexual abuse allegation against Timone in 2002 but its review board did not substantiate the accusation. In 2017, a separate panel, the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program established by Cardinal Timothy Dolan in 2016, did substantiate allegations that Timone had sexually abused teenage boys he was counseling.

The archdiocese then reopened its own internal process for substantiating abuse claims, said spokesman Joseph Zwilling. “In the meanwhile, a letter of suitability was sent by our office of priest personnel,” Zwilling said. “That letter was rescinded and Father Timone was instructed not to exercise his priestly ministry.”

Those actions were taken in mid-December, after media reports that Timone was still working with parishioners and celebrating mass at the Church of St. Joseph in Middletown. Timone formally retired in 2009 but is a priest in residence at St. Joseph’s.

A call to Timone at St. Joseph’s was answered by a woman who said all media inquiries were being referred to Zwilling.

“Obviously there was an error” in providing the letter of suitability for Timone to serve as a priest at the university and elsewhere, Zwilling said. “The archdiocese after reviewing what happened came to the decision that a second layer of review by others outside the priest personnel office was required to make sure this did not happen again.”

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This story has been corrected to show the name of the college is John Paul the Great Catholic University, not John Paul the Great University.

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Information from: The Times Herald-Record, http://www.th-record.com