Priest Who Was Still Saying Mass After Abuse Settlements Is Suspended
By Sharon Otterman
New York Times
December 23, 2018
|The Rev. Donald G. Timone during Mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Middletown, N.Y., in early December.|
Photo by Dana Ullman
The Archdiocese of New York has suspended a priest who had continued his clerical duties despite two settlements paid for allegations of sexual abuse of teenage boys.
The Rev. Donald G. Timone, 84, is the subject of an internal investigation by the archdiocese, but had continued to celebrate Mass in New York and California, more than a year and a half after an archdiocesan compensation program paid settlements to the two men, as detailed last week by The New York Times.
A spokesman for the archdiocese, Joseph Zwilling, said on Friday that the archdiocese would no longer allow Father Timone to remain in ministry while it weighed permanently removing him.
One of the men who came forward with claims of abuse by Father Timone committed suicide in 2015 after what his widow said was a decades-long struggle to come to terms with the abuse.
Father Timone, who formally retired in 2009, is a priest in residence at St. Joseph’s Church in Middletown, N.Y., and had celebrated Mass there as recently as Dec. 2.
But Father Timone, Mr. Zwilling said in an email, has “been instructed that he is not to exercise his ministry at all until the review board has again examined his case and the matter has been resolved.”
The two settlements were awarded in the spring of 2017 by the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, founded by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, to compensate victims of clergy abuse, provided they release the archdiocese from future legal claims.
Those settlements did not trigger Father Timone's removal from the ministry despite the archdiocese’s “zero-tolerance” policy on child sexual abuse, Mr. Zwilling said, because the compensation program functioned separately from the archdiocese’s own internal process for substantiating abuse allegations.
Supporters of the two men who had received settlements said that they were relieved Father Timone was now being pulled from the pulpit, at least temporarily, but that did not excuse how the archdiocese had handled his case.
“It’s reprehensible that Cardinal Dolan allowed this priest to minister for years to sexually vulnerable minors,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy abuse. “The cardinal put other children at risk. And it raises the question: How many other accused priests is he concealing?”
In recent years, Father Timone has been dividing his time between New York and California, where his niece lives.
Lidy Connolly, the vice president of administration at John Paul the Great Catholic University in California, where Father Timone has been working as a chaplain, spiritual adviser and teacher, said that the Archdiocese of New York had informed the university on Wednesday that Father Timone’s letter of good standing — a required credential for a priest — had been revoked. He was no longer working there, she said.
A church secretary at the Church of the Nativity in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., where Father Timone often assisted as a priest, said on Thursday that Father Timone was no longer listed on the Mass schedule. He had been scheduled to be a celebrant as recently as Dec. 16, according to the church bulletin.
Father Timone has been active since the 1980s with Courage, an international Catholic ministry that counsels people who experience same-sex attraction to remain celibate, in accordance with Catholic teaching. He spoke at the group’s national conference in 2017, and has continued to counsel young people and their families as a spiritual adviser since his retirement as a priest.
In a letter posted on Friday on Courage’s website, the Rev. Philip G. Bochanski, the organization’s executive director, said that Father Timone had been “a friend and collaborator of the Courage Apostolate for many years.” He said that there were no allegations against Father Timone connected with his work at Courage, but he encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
“I hope for a just resolution of the new investigation being conducted by the Review Board,” he wrote.
According to the testimony presented to the compensation program, the archdiocese has known about at least two abuse allegations against Father Timone since 2002. Mr. Zwilling, however, has only confirmed that the archdiocese knew about one allegation by 2003, and the archdiocese had not substantiated it, he said.
That explanation was at odds with the sworn testimony of Donald D. Brown Jr., a lawyer who told The Times that representatives of the archdiocese did not dispute the allegations of his client, Timothy P. Murphy, in 2003.
Mr. Murphy committed suicide at age 61 in 2015. His widow, Susan Cassinelli-Murphy, received a six-figure settlement in 2017 from the compensation program.
The second man who received a settlement, who asked not to be identified, said he had been contacted on Thursday by an archdiocesan attorney who was gathering evidence for the review board. He said he had first reported his allegations against Father Timone in 2002.
“It will be interesting how it turns out this time,” he said.
Father Timone had worked as a priest at St. Joseph’s Church in Millbrook, N.Y., and as an administrator at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Both cases of abuse compensated by the program occurred during those years.
Ms. Cassinelli-Murphy said she hoped coming forward about the abuse her late husband suffered would help other victims. “But I am heartbroken,” she said.