Dear Abbot Brendan,
I am, of course, aware, that hearing from me is not a development that you will welcome. Nonetheless, it should not come as a surprise due to your lamentable, negligent, and wholly unacceptable oversight of the monastic visitation of Silverstream Priory in 2020.
Recently, I have received some fresh information about Silverstream Priory. And, that information has been confirmed by a number of priests within the Diocese of Meath. Yesterday, I sent an e-mail asking a number of pointed questions to Bishop Thomas Deenihan about the presence of a Fr. Richard Abourjaily at Silverstream Priory.
It is clear that Fr. Richard Abourjaily was resident in Silverstream Priory doing what he liked with impunity with the explicit approbation of Dom Mark Kirby, OSB, and possibly with the tacit approval of the then Bishop of Meath, Michael Smith.
Because, I believe transparency is good for the church, I published my list of questions to Bishop Deenihan on my blog. I enclose a link to the blog posting for your kind consideration:
Of course, if you are in a position to provide any answers to the questions asked of Bishop Deenihan, I would be most grateful. But, I suspect that might-be naïve on my part, however, one can always hope.
In any event, the catalyst for the present e-mail is a comment posited in the form of a question and an observation that was posted on my blog at 1.18 p.m. this afternoon in response to the above list of questions to Bishop Deenihan.
It is worth highlighting the question in full: “Was the Abourjaily matter brought up to Deenihan’s visitation? If so, it makes the visitation’s initial confirming of Dom Kirby as prior even more shocking”.
As you know, I will publish this e-mail on my blog, however, for the benefit of my readers, I will clarify what is meant by “Deenihan’s visitation”; it is the Apostolic Visitation ordered by Bishop Thomas Deenihan, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Meath in response to allegations he received from an individual whom we now know to be Dom Benedict Andersen, OSB, a monk and priest of Silverstream Priory. The visitation was conducted by you, Abbot Brendan Coffey, OSB; the frequent visitor to the gay sauna in Dublin known as The Boilerhouse, Dom Richard Purcell, OCSO, and Monsignor Gearóid Dullea, the former executive secretary to the Irish Episcopal Conference. Hence, there was sensibly a cornucopia of monastic/ecclesiastical experience to call upon.
As so many documents pertaining to the visitation have been leaked you should have no problem in answering any of the following questions.
Therefore, Abbot Brendan, are you in a position to confirm whether the presence of Fr. Richard Abourjaily was raised during the Apostolic Visitation of Silverstream Priory?
Are you able to answer if Fr. Richard Abourjaily was permitted to reside within Silverstream Priory with the ecclesiastical approbation of the Diocese of Meath?
With the benefit of hindsight complemented by your considerable experience as the Abbot of Glenstal and as a monastic troubleshooter, e.g., Ampleforth Abbey, do you consider the presence of Fr. Richard Abourjaily to have been a blessing or a curse for Silverstream Priory? I would be grateful for a considered reply to this important question.
I am told by Meath-based priests that Dom Purcell was appointed to be one of the visitators due to his purported expertise in financial matters. We were apprised in a report published by the National Catholic Reporter [hereinafter, NCR] that the three visitators stated that they are “very concerned about your [Silverstream Priory’s] current financial situation and the economic viability of the monastery”. Thus, can we infer that a proper financial audit of the community was undertaken? If not; why not?
What was your involvement (if any) in the financial audit of the community? It is my understanding that none of the people involved in the visitation hold professional qualifications in financial management/accounting. Why did you not suggest that a forensic audit of the accounts by a specialist firm be commissioned by the Diocese of Meath? Do you now consider that to have been a mistake made by the visitators?
It is, however, interesting that in the NCR article NO reference was made, in the visitators’ report to the allegations of sexual misconduct that had been levelled against Dom Mark Kirby. We learned after the completion of the visitation [September 2020] from Martin Long, Director of the Catholic Communications Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference that Dom Mark “Kirby remains a priest in good standing and is currently on sick leave in Dublin and has resigned his post as superior”.
Thus, as the safeguarding co-ordinator for the Congregation of the Annunciation, I ask you the following question: were the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Dom Kirby not investigated during the visitation?
Was Mr. Martin Long at that time mistaken in stating that Dom Kirby was a priest in good standing or was Mr. Long being a well-paid deceiver?
We know that accusations of sexual misconduct were levelled against Dom Mark Kirby. We know that you were actively involved in the covering-up of same. Hence, do you consider that your position as the Abbot of Glenstal Abbey is untenable? Would you adopt a similar modus operandi if a similar complaint was made against a monk/priest of Glenstal Abbey? For the avoidance of doubt that is cover-up and sweep the accusation under the carpet and make it go away…
Because of your egregious handling of an allegation of sexual misconduct, do you consider that your position as the safeguarding Co-ordinator for the Congregation of the Annunciation is untenable?
Have you considered submitting your resignation as the safeguarding co-ordinator to the Abbot President of the Congregation of the Annunciation, Fr. Maksymilian R. Nawara, OSB? If not; why not?
Do you accept the charge that you have no credibility from an ecclesiastical and/or secular perspective when it comes to safeguarding?
Do you further accept that you bring “monastic safeguarding” into disrepute and your actions/initiatives within Glenstal Abbey and its school along with the wider Congregation of the Annunciation cannot be accorded any credibility?
Can the parents of students who are pupils in Glenstal Abbey School have any confidence in the safeguarding procedures in the school as a result of your active participation in the exoneration/cover-up of allegations of serious sexual misconduct in Silverstream Priory?
Would you be happy for me to send a copy of this e-mail to Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary-General of the Irish Department of Education, asking him to bring these safeguarding concerns to the personal attention of the Minister for Education, Ms. Norma Foley? For the sake of convenience, you might wish to refer Glenstal Abbey School and your oversight of same to Mr. Foghlú. His e-mail address is: email@example.com
You exercised the delegated authority of the Ordinary of the Diocese of Meath, Bishop Deenihan, and acted as the Superior of Silverstream Priory for a period of time. Thus, if Silverstream Priory is suppressed by a Decree of the Holy See, and some members of the community wish to remain Benedictines in Ireland, would you be receptive to receiving monks from Silverstream Priory into the community at Glenstal Abbey? If not, why not? If you resign, and when the new Abbot of Glenstal is elected, would you recommend any members of the Silverstream community to the new Ordinary of Glenstal Abbey?
With prayerful best wishes,
+ Pat Buckley
Abbot President, Congregation for the Annunciation, Fr. Maksymilian R. Nawara, OSB.
His Lordship, the Bishop of Meath, the Most Rev’d Dr. Thomas Deenihan, PhD, (Hull).