LETTER TO DIOCESE OF MEATH SAFEGUARDING.
Dear Ms. Byrne,
It is clearly stated on the website: http://www.meathsafeguarding.ie that “any general queries regarding safeguarding” within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Meath should be directed to you for answer.
But, first let me introduce myself. I am Bishop Pat Buckey, better known on the island of Ireland as the Bishop at Larne. I appreciate you may have never heard of me, however, I am well-known to — but perhaps not well-liked by Bishop Thomas Deenihan. But, a bit of Christmas cheer might warm his cold heart.
Recently, I have been contacted by a priest of the Diocese of Meath with safeguarding concerns that I now bring to your attention within the present.
Do you not consider it absurd that a priest of the Diocese of Meath, does not report his safeguarding concerns to the appropriate authority in his diocese due to his well-founded fear of victimisation for reporting his concerns.
Instead, the priest feels it is “safer” to contact an independent figure such as myself! Does that not raise serious and significant questions about safeguarding within the Diocese of Meath?
The reason I was contacted by the priest was simple; it is his on-going concern about Silverstream Priory, and its priests. The Priory is an Institute of Diocesan Right located within the Diocese of Meath. And, that means the Priory and its priests are subject to the jurisdiction/oversight of Bishop Thomas Deenihan.
At the time of this writing, Silverstream Priory has three (3) priest on its books: a) the founding Prior, Dom Mark Kirby, OSB; b) Dom Benedict Andersen, OSB, who by virtue of his priestly ordination by Bishop Michael Smith, the previous Ordinary of Meath is de facto a priest of the diocese; and, c) Dom Hildebrand Houser, OSB.
An on-line search of the “Directory” reveals that none of three (3) priests of Silverstream Priory are listed as being priests of the Diocese of Meath. This is most surprising and begets immediate questions about safeguarding.
As previously stated, Dom Andersen, by virtue of his ordination by Bishop Smith is a priest of the Diocese of Meath. That is a matter of Canon Law, so it is surprising he is not listed as a priest.
Dom Mark Kirby has resided in the Diocese of Meath for a sufficient amount of time to have incardinated. If he has not incardinated — are you in a position to provide any guidance, why that is the case?
Is it the canonical reality that Dom Mark Kirby still attached to his previous religious Institute/Diocese, and is he actually subject to another Ordinary, who is NOT, Bishop Deenihan? This is a very important question; one that deserves an immediate answer.
It was brought to my attention that Silverstream Priory earlier this year were looking for a mitred prelate to conduct the solemn monastic profession of Dom Houser? Do you know if the solemn profession went ahead? And, if so, who conducted the ceremony?
We know that Dom Houser was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri, in the United States. If and when, he makes solemn monastic profession — will his connection with the Archdiocese of St. Louis be extinguished?
If the solemn profession has gone ahead with the concomitant lack of publicity, is Dom Houser: a) still a priest of the Archdiocese of St Louis, who is resident at Silverstream Priory with the consent of Archbishop Rozanski, Ordinary of the Archdiocese of St. Louis; b) was Dom Houser by virtue of his solemn monastic profession incardinated into the Diocese of Meath, and/or, c) is Dom Houser in the process of incardinated into the Diocese of Meath?
If Dom Houser was/is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, do you know if he complied with all the safeguarding requirements of that archdiocese in order to remain in good standing with his Ordinary? If not; why not?
A recent statement on the webpage of Silverstream Priory acknowledges that accusations had been made against the founder “Dom Mark Daniel Kirby”. It further states that “the allegations were denied” the community “understood that they had to be investigated by various authorities” and that the community “cooperated fully with the lengthy and thorough investigation that followed”. When the allegations were made, why was no public announcement made about the allegations? Why did no statement appear on the websites of the Diocese of Meath and/or Meath Safeguarding alerting people to the allegations?
We also learned from the statement that the allegations were sufficiently serious for “An Garda Síochána, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Charities Regulatory Authority” to have been involved. We also learned that “Dom Mark [Kirby] is priest in good standing”. So again, I ask: with whom is Dom Mark Kirby in good standing? Can you definitively tell us if Dom Mark Kirby is in good standing with Bishop Deenihan?
What is the canonical status of Dom Benedict Andersen? Where in America is he at the moment? Why has he been permitted to remain outside Silverstream Priory for an extended period of time? Is he subject to the jurisdiction of any bishop in America? Is he in receipt of a stipend from Silverstream or the Diocese of Meath? Is he saying Mass in the USA?
You would accept that the action of Dom Andersen in highlighting the sexual and financial misconduct of Dom Mark Kirby means he is a whistle-blower. We know from a series of articles in the press that Dom Andersen is being punished for highlighting misconduct – what does that tell you about safeguarding in the diocese? His allegations were deemed to be sufficiently serious to be investigated for over a year by An Garda Síochána; they in turn felt they were sufficiently credible to send a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions; hence, there was smoke and fire about Dom Kirby.
However, what characterised the response of the Diocese of Meath about Dom Kirby and indeed this safeguarding office was the silence of a cover-up, and this cover-up is on-going and deliberate. The people of the Diocese of Meath were deliberately kept in ignorance about Kirby. Why?
Would you accept that if a priest highlights misconduct in the Diocese of Meath, he will be punished by Bishop Deenihan for generating negative publicity?
And, as a consequence of that known and demonstrable reality — priests of the Diocese of Meath do not trust Bishop Deenihan, and that the role of safeguarding within the Diocese of Meath is nothing more than a sham? And, that harsh reality has very serious consequences for safeguarding and the culture of safeguarding within the diocese?
And, would you further accept that your role is a charade that provides the thinnest possible credibility for Bishop Deenihan?
But, why does all this matter? It matters, because young boy scouts were repeatedly brought to Silverstream Priory for overnight camping trips. In fact, one of the people, involved in organising these visits to Silverstream Priory is a Senior Counsel at the Law Library. For the avoidance of any and all doubt the Senior Counsel was oblivious to the misconduct of Dom Kirby.
The Silverstream Newsletter for January-February 2015 recorded that “we were happy to have Ireland’s first international troop of THE SCOUTS OF EUROPE in attendance at Holy Mass. The troop, under the expert leadership of Guilhem Fritsch, is made up of boys from France, Poland, and Ireland”.
In the Silverstream Newsletter for “Lent 2017”, it is recorded that on December 3, 2016: “Two patrols of the Gasóga na hEorpa (Scouts of Europe) camp on the monastery grounds and attend Holy Mass in Oratory of the monastery”. The newsletter contains a photograph of Dom Mark Kirby, “directing scouts in the singing of the Kyrie”.
In the Silverstream Newsletter for “Summer 2017”, two separate entries for the visit of the Scouts of Europe recorded their attendance at a camp near the monastery; it also records that on June 4, Pentecost Sunday, that the “small oratory is full beyond capacity for Mass, with the families of the Cub Scouts”
And, it is further recorded that on June 15, 2017, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi that the canopy the over the monstrance was at times carried by Scouts of Europe, which included a photograph of the Scouts carrying the canopy.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am not ridiculing the attendance of the Scouts and/or their families at Silverstream Priory. It is encouraging to see faith been publicly expressed, however, what is very troubling is the failure of the Diocese of Meath to ensure the protection of the Scouts, which in part explains the antecedents of the present.
Hence, these questions about safeguarding within the Diocese of Meath are legitimate, extremely serious, and the scandal that is Silverstream Priory needs to be brought to a prompt end. It is my intention to write to the Senior Counsel referred to, herein, with a list of questions. Once, they have been answered, I will be in contact, and I will bring my concerns to Tusla, and (if necessary) to An Garda Síochána.
In the past, I have directed my concerns to Bishop Deenihan, however, with typically obduracy, (a characteristic often associated with those who are Cork-born), he has not replied, which is deeply surprising given we are dealing with an on-going church scandal.
I am copying this e-mail to the TDs of the constituencies of Meath East and Meath West, because we are dealing with safeguarding issues and the protection of minors. It is noteworthy that one of the TDs is Helen McEntee, the incumbent Minister for Justice. Thus far, the only positive action Bishop Deenihan has taken, under duress, probably due to the intervention of the Apostolic Nuncio, was to involve An Garda Síochána in light of the Andersen allegations.
I await your considered and prompt reply to my questions.
(Bishop) Pat Buckley
PS: because, I believe transparency is good for the Church, I will place a copy of this e-mail on my blog.
Bishop Thomas Deenihan.
Archbishop Jude Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the Republic of Ireland.
Damien English, TD.
Johnny Guirke, TD.
Peadar Tóibín, TD.
Thomas Byrne, TD.
Helen McEntee, TD.
Darren O’Rourke, TD.
REPLY FROM DIOCESE OF MEATH THOS MORNING
Dear Bishop Buckley,
Many thanks for your email and for contacting me.
Any Priest of the Diocese of Meath with a child safeguarding concern would be best advised as a Mandated Person to report their knowledge, concerns, suspicions, or allegations of child abuse to TUSLA and the Gardai. The Children First Act 2015 places a legal obligation on all members of the clergy as mandated persons to report child safeguarding concerns to the statutory authorities.
As you can appreciate, I am unable to discuss personal sensitive information regarding safeguarding matters with anyone other than the statutory authorities. Should TUSLA and/or the Gardai wish to conduct any safeguarding investigations into any concern regarding child safeguarding in the Diocese of Meath, all of us in the Safeguarding Team, including Bishop Deenihan, would be happy to cooperate.
With every good wish for Christmas.
Safeguarding Co-Ordinator Diocese of Meath
Cc: Bishop Thomas Deenihan
Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the Republic of Ireland
Damien English TD
Johnny Guirke TD
Peadar Tóibín TD
Thomas Byrne TD
Darren O’Rourke TD