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EMAIL TO ABBOT GENERAL OF CISTERCIANS.

Eamon Fitzgerald

Dear Dom Eamon,

As the Abbot General of the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, you will be aware (more than most) of the conspicuous decline in monastic vocations.

A lot has changed, since you entered Mount Melleray Abbey; I understand that your novice master was the late Fr. Kevin Fogarty, OCSO, who departed this life on March 29, 2016.

In our present age, of those, that do make the decision to enter monastic life — only a handful “survive” the postulancy and the two-year novitiate to profess simple vows.

Thereafter, the individual will remain in simple vows for three years. And, if, he is, then deemed suitable, he will be permitted to make solemn monastic profession. Then, if a vocation to priesthood is discerned; the monk will be ordained a deacon and a priest. But, this, too, is an increasingly rare occurrence.

On the ordination of monks, I was delighted to read about the recent ordination of Br. John Dineen, OCSO, as a priest on September 26, 2021 at Mount Melleray Abbey, by my brother bishop, Alphonsus Cullinan. I noted that you were in attendance, and laid hands on the now, Fr. John, during the liturgy.

JOHN DINEEN

The Cistercian website records the priestly ordination of the following monks this year:

a) Fr. Teodoro Ekongo Satchenda on September 12, 2021 at the monastery of Maraflores, Chile;

b) Fr. Simon-Marie Nguyen on May 30, 2021 at the monastery of Bricquebec, France; and,

c) Fr. Augustine Kandathil on January 30, 2021 at the monastery of Kurisumala, India.

However, at the time of this writing — it is surprising that there is absolutely NO reference to the ordination of Fr. Dineen, OCSO, on the Cistercian website. Can this be attributed to the insouciance of the website administrator? But the real question is: are the Cistercians wishing keep Mount Melleray Abbey off the radar? 

Is it impertinent of me to suggest the desire to keep Mount Melleray Abbey off the radar, might-be, in part, due to your on-going failure to order an investigation into the allegations of serious sexual misconduct that have been repeatedly made against the Ordinary of the monastery, Dom Richard Purcell OCSO? 

PURCELL

As I have written in the past, it would be churlish of you to deny (GIVEN the wonders of mobile phone recording technology) what you acknowledged (to me) about Purcell’s behaviour at Mount St. Joseph Abbey during our telephone call that lasted eighteen (18) minutes and thirty-eight (38) seconds on September 13, 2020. You, and you alone, confirmed [to me, Bishop Pat Buckley] what was already well-known in the Irish clerical gay scene about Dom Richard Purcell.

Within the present, I would like to respectfully suggest that both you as the Abbot General, and the Cistercians as a Congregation were/are indulging a quixotic fantasy in naïvely hoping that Purcell’s rampant and out-of-control sexual (consensual I hasten to add) activity with men was/is under control. What happened at Mount St. Joseph Abbey, Roscrea, was not a one-off.

The corporate silence of the Cistercians with their concomitant failure to deal with Purcell is inexcusable and indefensible. It makes one legitimately wonder: what else are the Cistercians covering-up? 

While the ordination of Fr. Dineen is not recorded, thus far, on the website of the Cistercians, we do, however, have the homily notes of Bishop Alphonsus from the website of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. I think it would be fair to say that I am not liked by my brother bishop, Alphonsus. But, I absolutely agree with this simple fact within his homily:

“For generations of people Mount Melleray has been central to this area and beyond, central to the faith and lives of countless souls. How many people have been spiritually fed here, consoled, encouraged, pardoned”.

Dom Eamon, Mount Melleray Abbey is a holy place; it has been sanctified by the prayers and the silent witness of generations of monks. It is a place that is deeply loved by a great number of people; but, you, Dom Eamon, display a callous indifference to its history rooted in persecution; to its monastic witness; you, Dom Eamon, betray the Cistercian charism by wilful and deliberate inaction.

Your failure (and, it is your failure alone) to deal with Richard Purcell raises legitimate questions about your own monastic, priestly, and canonical integrity as the Abbot General. You are bringing your own tenure as Abbot General and by extension the Cistercians into disrepute. Clearly, you have learned nothing from the scandals that have enveloped the Irish church over the past three decades. Your obdurate inaction is surprising, disappointing, and scandalous.

If, the Cistercians are hoping that by playing the long game, i.e. ignoring the allegations, the scandal (which is the occult gay life of Richard Purcell masquerading as a Cistercian abbot) would disappear — they were very much mistaken. Very soon, this cover-up will become very public, and you will have questions to answer. But, Dom Eamon, it is never too late to do the right thing.

In conclusion, while I suspect you view me with contempt; it is my erstwhile hope and prayer that the priestly ordination of Fr. John Dineen (whose solemn monastic profession you received) will be a moment of grace, a sign of hope and renewal, and the catalyst to inspire others to pursue the monastic life at Mount Melleray Abbey.

I, too, also hope and sincerely pray, it will inspire you to courageously act and do what is right before God for Mount Melleray Abbey, the house of your monastic profession.

Sincerely in Christ, I remain,

+ Pat Buckley.

PAT SAYS:

The scandal of Richard Purcell has not gone away and will not go away.

It will not go away until the Cisterciansand the RC bishop of Waterford, Phonsie deals with it.

Time will not make it go away.

In fact, time increases the scandal.

The scandal will overshadow next years international chapter of the Cistercians when Eamon Fitzgerald ceases being abbot general – which will be attended by representatives if the 160 monasteries in the order.

WE intend to take steps to put the Purcell scandal on the chapter agenda.