Sarah is a very strange lady. She is a student of Canon Law and a member of the USA Canon Law Society.
She is the ex representative of the Silverstream whistle blower. Should a student be representing someone?
She is also very emotionally involved with the young monks of Silvdtstream.
AS YOU WILL SEE, SHE IS NO FAN OF MINE 🙂
EMAIL FROM SARAH TO ABBOT BRENDAN COFFEY.
“Sarah: To Brendan Coffey 18 Oct, 2020,
Dear Abbot Brendan,
Thank you for your email.
I do hope our communication can clear up some of this confusion and bring the negative misinformation to an end. I have removed Dom Alcuin from this email as it seems to me that it contains little that directly concerns him. If you disagree, you may forward this message to him. The term “sexual abuse” has a specific legal definition, and its own definition in the popular imagination. Certain actions of a person can be simply inappropriate or unwise, but when those actions occur within a relationship in which there exists an unequal power differential, those inappropriate behaviors can quickly cross the line into the legal definition of sexual abuse. In the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi issued last year, postulants and novices in the religious life are classified as vulnerable persons.
Whether Dom Mark Kirby’s actions reached the threshold of abuse considered under that motu proprio or by civil law, I am not in the position to judge. I do understand that many who do not work within the realm of safeguarding and professional conduct are prone to hear this term as referring only to direct sexual activity.
But when Dom Benedict and I first began to discuss the recent events at Silverstream he used the term “sexual harassment” with me. It is my understanding that he has largely used the term “sexual harassment” with people familiar with the crisis at Silverstream. The police detective who interviewed him suggested that “sexual harassment” is the proper term in Irish law.
It is also, in fact, the only term used in the leaked message on Mr. Buckley’s blog. It was Bishop Deenihan himself who requested that Dom Benedict clarify in his complaint whether the behavior he was reporting was sexual in nature. Based on what Dom Benedict told me I believe he was correct to characterize the behavior as sexual, though in professional terms which covers a broad range of actions.
It is difficult to adequately explain the nature of Dom Benedict’s complaint with only a single term, which is one reason why he opened up to friends and advisors concerning specific incidents, such as in the leaked message, seeking their evaluation of the boundary of misconduct. Dom Benedict and I only discussed the events of Silverstream in terms of sexual abuse in the past month, in light of Vos estis and his own discussions with his psychologist.
I can tell you that when the terms “sexual abuse” and “sexual assault” were used on Pat Buckley’s blog in August, Dom Benedict was quite surprised. Why Mr. Buckley used these terms I do not know, but I want to make clear that the language he used did not originate from Dom Benedict.
I do understand completely how unhappy the community of Silverstream must be to have Mr. Buckley discussing them and putting their pictures on his blog. My own husband, in fact, is a clergyman, so I do know personally how much anxiety being the subject of such a blog can cause. I am also quite horrified at the way some of the comments discuss the monks and speculate on their activities.
As I can see that Mr. Buckley moderates the comments, I hold him personally responsible for allowing such things to be posted on the internet. But like I said, Dom Benedict and I have no control over Mr. Buckley’s actions.
Though in some cases it is wiser not to further agitate the troublemakers, I do not like it at all. I had also hoped that Mr. Buckley’s blog post of 28 September would have corroborated Dom Benedict’s previous declaration that he did not communicate with Mr. Buckley. Mr. Buckley states, and I quote, “I tried to contact the monk. He was completely unwilling to communicate with me. He refused all communication with me, told me had nothing to say to me and not to contact him ever again?
I am therefore unhappy to learn that the monks at Silverstream are nonetheless furious with Dom Benedict over that blog post, apparently blaming him for its existence. It is understandably possible that they have been told not to view that blog, but it would seem that whoever informed them of that post did not also relate Mr. Buckley’s words about being utterly shut down by Dom Benedict. In the comments section of that post there are clearly people connected to Silverstream making comments and offering to contact Mr. Buckley with more information. It seems entirely unfair that Dom Benedict is being falsely accused of something, while the people making that accusation seem to be engaging in that very behavior. It is very hurtful to Dom Benedict to see this, and it is also, as you point out, very alarming that people connected to Silverstream are talking to Mr. Buckley at all.
I understand that there is a feeling that only Dom Benedict’s side of the story is being aired. But Dom Benedict has sworn that he does not publicly release any information. Mr. Buckley himself states that Dom Benedict has refused to speak to him. And I also have sworn that there is no communication of these matters coming from myself. I am at a loss as to how to do more to impress upon those at Silverstream that their anger directed at Dom Benedict here is misplaced. I would also like it to be pressed upon the whole community at Silverstream that they themselves also can not engage in such behavior, and that they themselves should exercise discretion in communicating to third parties who may be in contact with Mr. Buckley.
To bring further clarity to the matter of the leaked message in that post: Dom Benedict and I have discussed how this came into the possession of Mr. Buckley. Our reticence to reveal the details is because Dom Benedict no longer possesses the original message. He believes it was a message sent back in May on WhatsApp connected to his old Irish number. He can no longer access this. He believes he remembers who the message was sent to, but without being able to confirm that, he does not want to name someone who may actually be innocent. However, who he believes he sent it to is someone whom you yourself would likely heartily agree is a person who could be trusted with discussing such personal and confidential information. Perhaps the person simply did not exercise good care and allowed the message to be accessed by a third party. Nonetheless, Dom Benedict is himself upset that this person betrayed his trust and wishes to make it clear to you that he has in fact acted with great discretion concerning who he confides such details with.
Dom Benedict has little to comment on concerning Abbot Purcell. He had no personal contact with Abbot Purcell while he was in Ireland, and simply has no information which directly contradicts the things Mr. Buckley is saying. It is quite unfortunate that the visitation has stirred together so many things for Mr. Buckley to speculate about. My hope is that Dom Benedict’s statement will remove that portion of the narrative. Therefore, it seems to me that for the statement to combine them in any way would be counterproductive.
As for the “French letter,” Dom Benedict has shared it in strictest confidence with only a few people, one of whom is you. He only shared portions of its contents with me last month; he only brought it up with me in connection with our discussion of what happened at Silverstream and exploring his own reactions to it. He brought it up with his parents as well, and to one other person, a priest, in the context of pastoral guidance.
The account of Dom Mark Kirby’s childhood trauma came not from the French letter, but from a personal conversation between Dom Mark and (then) Subdeacon Benjamin, in Tulsa in the summer of 2010. If Dom Mark does not wish people to know the graphic details of his childhood abuse, he ought not freely tell people about it. I actually learned of this incident back in February of this year, when Dom Benedict spoke on the phone with my husband and I concerning his growing difficulties at Silverstream. I had a great deal of concern about that incident then, both in terms of the power differential and the psychological impact being told such details would have on an impressionable young man but did not then bring up those concerns to Dom Benedict as I did not think it was my place to pry into the inner relationships of the monastery. I do not know if that conversation in Tulsa an isolated incident was or if Dom Mark frequently recounts the details of his abuse to people. But I do know that he cannot expect that to remain private if he himself exercises no care in who he tells that story to.
All the other details of Dom Mark’s past which appeared in Dom Benedict’s leaked message, including the sexual history, came not from the French letter, but from other conversations which Dom Mark had with Dom Benedict over the years. Such conversations were also possibly quite unwise for a Prior to have with one of his own monks. But again, Dom Mark cannot freely share information and expect that it can later be withdrawn from the world’s memory. As for the French letter itself, everything else in it is, as far as I know, of little present consequence. The letter was itself sent to Dom Benedict by Dom Mark himself. Most of it is, again, things which Dom Mark himself freely discussed with Dom Benedict. Dom Benedict has no interest in using it maliciously. The letter has already been shared with all the people Dom Benedict believed needed to be aware of it. So, I’m not sure what effect deleting it from his hard drive would have. From a purely legal standpoint, I believe such an action could look incriminating if later some actual threat should surface from this letter. It is better, I believe, to simply let things rest where they are. I understand that Dom Mark is anxious about people having copies of this letter, and how it could be used. Dom Benedict will be writing to Dom Mark and assuring him that he has no interest in using this document as a weapon against him, now or in the future. I am happy to hear that there is no prohibition of communication on the members of Silverstream. Dom Benedict is saddened to learn that their silence has been because of their “fury” towards him. He has previously sent two letters of apology, one in June and one in August, which received no response. In the interest of having some measure of healing, the lines of communication are important. It seems that those lines of communication did not happen in time for Dom Benedict to enter his voice about Dom Cassian’s profession. Though we understand that this can require time and a repair of trust, Dom Benedict would like Dom Elijah to make him directly aware of important happenings of Silverstream. In this regard, Dom Benedict would like to write a letter to the whole community of Silverstream in advance of the issuing of any public statement. He feels that they should hear his voice first, and not have to hear his message from others. We hope the missal can be found. It is a smaller altar missal that Dom Benedict used mostly in his office. It had tiny pages of Benedictine propers (from an all Latin hand missal) inserted at the end. If there is space in the box, Dom Benedict would also like any personal letters and cards addressed to him to be included.
Regarding the celebret, and also the current travel restrictions placed on travel from America, Dom Benedict wishes to know if it is possible for Bishop Deenihan to issue a new celebret for the Archdiocese of New York. The last email Dom Benedict sent the bishop went unanswered, so I am bringing this up here. I also want it to be clear that this request is obviously a temporary measure until other arrangements can be finalized. This also possibly reopens the question of mass stipends. There is also another old point that I should mention. Dom Benedict still does not have access to the online Matins propers which are needed for the recitation of that Office by a monk of Silverstream. This came up in an email communication last month, and you said you would communicate with Silverstream about it. Dom Chrysostom was producing them when Dom Benedict was last there. As the access has not yet been restored, I ask that you communicate with Silverstream again about this. Below is a draft of a statement Dom Benedict and I created together. Input from public relations professionals is a generous offer, but I am unsure how wise it is to have officials of the diocese involved in crafting a statement which is supposed to be Dom Benedict’s own free voice. Such would, if Pat Buckley found out (and we must operate under the assumption that he will find out anything), suggest that there is indeed a “cover-up” being foisted upon the public, with the “victim” being used under threat. To dampen that possible outcome, I would like the text below to stay within a small circle of people. We operated under the assumption that Dom Mark is not, and will not be, the Prior. We are still uncertain about that point, however, but we hope that what is said is correct. Dom Benedict is also still concerned that there are people (such as oblate Robert Nugent) still suggesting he misappropriated funds with the PayPal account. We are uncertain how to address this in this statement. I understand that while the visitation is going on you yourself likely cannot make any public statement. But it would ease Dom Benedict’s mind greatly if it could also be publicly communicated that this matter is closed. Perhaps in the next newsletter it could be stated that the donations have been tracked and accounted for. This may also be good for all the donors to know. Dom Benedict would also like assurance that his statement will be taken in good faith, and that it will not be used against him. He does appreciate the fact that you recognize his right to make the initial complaint and make his voice heard, he simply wants it to be known that his actions were authentic.
We are clearly in a situation where there is very little trust on both sides, in particular between the community in Silverstream and Dom Benedict. I hope that for our part we can show that Dom Benedict truly is not trying to destroy Silverstream, which he helped to shape, nor for that matter, you, Abbot Purcell, Bishop Deenihan, or indeed the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Dom Benedict simply wants an end, as soon as humanly possible, to this whole sorry process, to move on from it, coming to a place of personal peace and canonical stability as a priest and monk. This is another lengthy email, for which I do apologize. I do understand that in the interest of the demands upon your time your replies may be quite briefer. By the prayers of St Luke the Evangelist, I hope this message finds you well,
STATEMENT OF THE REV’D DOM BENEDICT
Concerning the current situation of Silverstream Priory in the Diocese of Meath, Ireland, I wish to confirm that I was indeed the author of a letter of concern, dated 30 April 2020, addressed to Dr Tom Deenihan, the Bishop of Meath.
Developments since then impress on me the desire to issue this public statement. As Silverstream is a diocesan monastic community, not directly under the Holy See, Deenihan is the individual, before God, ultimately responsible for the monastery. I wrote this letter of 30 April to the Bishop of Meath in fulfillment of my duties as (then) subprior of Silverstream, according to the Declarations and Statutes of Silverstream Priory as approved by the Holy See and the Bishop of Meath in 2017 and revised in 2019.
Following these clear provisions and having attempted to bring my concerns to the Prior himself and then to the senior fathers of the monastery, I finally turned to the Bishop of Meath as the ultimate authority.
I also, at the bishop’s request, gave a sworn affidavit concerning these matters to the Garda Síochána (the Irish police).
A few days later, on 2 May 2020, Bishop Deenihan ordered a diocesan visitation of Silverstream Priory. I spoke in my complaint of dysfunctional patterns of acting and relating on the part of the former prior of Silverstream. These were actions which I believe violated both the spirit and the letter of the Holy Rule and certain articles of our own Declarations and Statutes.
I wish to clarify that while my complaint contained grave concerns, the suggestion that those concerns included acts of sexual perversion or even sexual assault is not true. I also wish to make it clear that the misconduct I reported does not in any way characterize the community of Silverstream as a whole. As one present from the very beginnings of the community, I can with great confidence describe all of my brethren who have joined the community as living lives full of integrity and chastity, in full adherence to the precepts of Christian morality and the age-old traditions of monastic conversion. Though it pains me greatly to leave my community,
I have judged it best to request from my superior, Abbot Coffey, and my ordinary, Bishop Deenihan, to begin the canonical process of finding a new context for my monastic and priestly vocations. I pray that my brethren may find peace and move forward under new leadership.
Finally, this statement should not be understood as a retraction of my complaints concerning certain patterns of behavior on the part of the former prior of Silverstream, nor a resolution of the ongoing civil and canonical processes. I trust that this statement will clear up any confusion, or misinformation, concerning this matter. I have acted according to my conscience as a Christian, and the solemn duties laid upon me both as a senior father and subprior of Silverstream, as well as a founding member of the board of trustees of the charity established in Irish law. I have no regrets for the role I played in the founding of Silverstream Priory, and I retain many rich blessings from my decade as one of its monks. I trust that God, who began the good and holy work of Silverstream, will bring it to a happy fulfillment, for the salvation of all souls involved, and the strengthening of the Church in Ireland and the world.
END OF STATEMENT.
EMAIL OF COFFEY TO SARAH 19.10.20
Brendan Coffey firstname.lastname@example.org To “Sarah
19 Oct, 2020, 2:39 am
Unfortunately, more material has appeared on the Blog this morning regarding Silverstream in a strange parallel to our communications. I made it clear from the outset that no fruitful engagement is possible between us if this “noise” continued on the Blog or in the media,
regardless of its origin.
Given this situation the only possible way forward I now see is to await the outcome of
the civil investigations, which must be nearing their conclusion after so many months,and on foot of these findings take appropriate actions.
Many thanks for your efforts to resolve these matters,
Brendan Coffey OSB
Abbot, Glenstal Abbey
Murroe, County Limerick, V94 A725 Ireland