Dear Bishop Alphonsus,

I direct your attention to the announcement made yesterday morning that Fr. Richard Purcell has resigned as the Abbot of Mount Melleray Abbey. I took no pleasure in reading the news.

However, it is long overdue, because Fr. Purcell’s scandalous lifestyle has been known about for a considerable period of time. In fact, he was NOTORIOUS within the Diocese of Killaloe. And, he was notorious in your own diocese; however, you overlooked this reality with wilful and deliberate intent. Hence, you were part of the problem and not part of the solution.

The announcement on the website of the Order Cistercians of the Strict Observance is an exercise in obfuscation. It is also a demonstrable example of an egregious and unacceptable cover-up. I submit that the Apostolic Visitation of Mount Melleray Abbey was a sham. I would further submit that this so-called “visitation” was a half-hearted and ignominious attempt to salvage the utterly compromised and utterly discredited Abbot General, Dom Eamon Fitzgerald. Why do I make this assertion?

Because, it can be irrefutably established that Dom Eamon Fitzgerald, OCSO, knew that Fr. Richard Purcell was sexually active as a monk of Mount St. Joseph Abbey. And, he did so for a considerable period of time.

On September 13, 2020, at 6.39 p.m., Dom Eamon Fitzgerald called me [Pat Buckley], and we had a free-flowing conversation lasting eighteen (18) minutes and (39) seconds about Fr. Richard Purcell. Dom Eamon admitted to me [Pat Buckley] that Purcell had been sexually active at Mount St. Joseph Abbey, and he [Fitzgerald] further acknowledgement that they [the Cistercians] had hoped it was a one-off.

As I have made clear in the past due to the advances in mobile (“cell phone” for my American readers) phone technology it would be and deeply imprudent of Dom Eamon Fitzgerald to deny the conversation and what he admitted about Fr. Purcell on the evening of September 13, 2020.

Bishop Alphonsus: did the two (2) visitators of Mount Melleray Abbey: a) the Abbot of Tilburg, Dom Peeters and, b) Mother Fourmentin, Abbess of Arnhem, know about this conversation. And, did they interview Dom Fitzgerald about same?

Did Dom Peeters and Mother Fourmentin visit the Dublin-based “Boilerhouse” with a photograph of Fr. Purcell?

Did Dom Peeters and Mother Fourmentin ask the proprietors of this house of ill-repute if they recognised Fr. Purcell from his frequent visits in the past?

And, if they did visit the Boilerhouse: did they ask any of the patrons present if they recognised Fr. Richard Purcell and/or know about Fr. Purcell’s known proclivity for barebacking? Because you are probably innocent “barebacking” is the term of reference for unprotected sex, i.e., sex without a condom.

Did the Dom Peeters and Mother Fourmentin review the accounts of Mount Melleray Abbey? Did they review the credit card statements?

Did Dom Peeters and Mother Fourmentin ask Richard Purcell about how he paid for his visits to the Boilerhouse? Presumably, he must have paid with cash in order to avoid creating an electronic trail that could be picked up by forensic accountants and/or officials from the Charities Regulator, or indeed any abbot or abbess that might have investigated Mount Melleray Abbey.

It is, of course, noteworthy that the allegations that I have repeatedly made against Fr. Purcell were not explicitly DENIED. And, it is also the case that Dom Peeters and Mother Fourmentin were never going to find any corroborating evidence; because, the visitation was instituted to beget/facilitate an agreed outcome.

In light of the allegations that I have repeatedly made against the now Fr. Purcell, I find it surprising that I was not contacted. I could have provided Dom Peeters and Mother Fourmentin with the identity of the ex-seminarian from the Diocese of Killaloe who alleges that he had consensual anal sex with Richard Purcell at the Boilerhouse. The said ex-seminarian recognised the now Fr. Purcell from a retreat conducted by the latter when the former was a seminarian in Maynooth. 

Bishop Alphonsus, you have known about these allegations for some time. In fact, you were among the first to know. In fact, like a white sepulchre you have overlooked a significant sexual scandal within a monastery within your own diocese. Moreover, you afforded to the now Fr. Purcell every opportunity to minimise and dilute the severity of the scandal by permitting Purcell to celebrate the Eucharist beside you at functions within the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. Therefore, instead of being part of the solution you were part of the problem. You let your animus towards me cloud your judgement to the detriment of the greater good of Mount Melleray Abbey and the diocese that was entrusted to your pastoral governance by Pope Francis. And, that raises serious questions about your integrity.

Your demonstrable hypocrisy, both personal and ecclesiastical adds significant credence to the calls of the Labour Party for the removal of church patronage in Irish schools. Sadly, you lack the insight to discern how abominable your handling of the scandal has been for the past eighteen months or so, and it has been nothing short of scandalous. If you had any decency you would resign immediately as the Ordinary of Waterford and Lismore.

When you celebrated the funeral liturgy of the late Monsignor Michael Olden and when you ordained Fr. John Dineen, both at Mount Melleray Abbey, you were aware of the severity of the allegations that had been made against then Dom Richard Purcell. You [Bishop Cullinan] were as I wrote previously “complicit in the corporate silence of the Cistercians and their concomitant failure to deal with Purcell”. Hypocrisy, thy name is: Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan.

Thus, the question remains: will you now preventively suspend the priestly faculties of Fr. Richard Purcell within the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore? The actions of Fr. Purcell bring the Cistercian monastic life into disrepute. It is the case that Fr. Purcell is no longer an Ordinary — so will Fr. Purcell be subject to a canonical investigation conducted in accordance with Canon 1717?

This e-mail will be published on my blog. It is been copied to the Irish Apostolic Nuncio and to the Cardinal Prefect of the so-called Congregation for Religious, so that they have “knowledge” of this scandal.

I am copying this to Bishop Erik Varden, because, he, too is also complicit in this cover-up. Because, he inexcusably failed to reply to a letter that was sent to him about the Purcell scandal, so, he, too, is another Cistercian hypocrite.

I am also bringing this matter to the attention of Sr. Eleanor Campion; she is a member of the Law Commission of the Order. Perhaps, she and the other members of the “Commission” may wish to look at the procedures to deal with complaints against abbots and abbesses; because, clearly the current system has not worked, as Dom Eamon “Ostrich” Fitzgerald, has reverted to type when he was the Abbot of Mount Melleray, utterly incapable of making a decision.

It is been further copied to the English-speaking and French-speaking Cistercians, so they can see the real nature of: a) the despicable abbatial tenure of Richard Purcell; and, b) the lamentable handling of a “known” scandal by the Abbot General, Eamon Fitzgerald, OCSO.

Thereby, when they come to elect a successor to Fitzgerald as Abbot General, they will elect an individual who will not (we hope) in the future show the same moral ambiguity and lack of leadership as Dom Eamon. And, who bring about renewal within the Congregation and not be a mindless steward who oversees decline.

Finally, I take great heart that the resignation of Purcell followed the death of Fr. Jean-Pierre Schumacher, the last surviving monk and sole survivor of the assassination of the monks of Tibhirine. It gives me hope for the renewal of the Cistercians. Let us seek the intercession of the Altas Martyrs for the renewal of Mount Melleray Abbey and the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance.

+ Pat Buckley