My brother bishop, Phonsie,

As you are aware, I have long-standing connections with the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore: I was a seminarian at St John’s College: I was ordained to the priesthood in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, by one of your predecessors, Bishop Michael Russell; and I maintained a long-standing friendship with the late Monsignor John Shine.

Recently, I have received information from a priest of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, who was categorical that he had seen the former Abbot and Ordinary of Mount Melleray Abbey, Fr Richard Purcell, OCSO walking around the monastery, during a visit to the abbey for a period of prayer and reflection.

As the Ordinary of the canonical territory in which Mount Melleray Abbey is located: are you in a position to deny or confirm the presence of Fr Purcell at the abbey? Of course, I appreciate you have no jurisdiction over Mount Melleray Abbey, a monastery of Pontifical Right. However, your jurisdiction extends to whether a priest of that abbey can exercise priestly ministry within your canonical territory — that is not in dispute; it is a well-established principle of canon law.

In any event, I direct your attention to the photographs that evidence the presence of Fr Purcell at Mount Melleray Abbey. These photographs appeared in the Dungarvan Leader on February 24, 2023. I trust you will not be obtuse to suggest they have been “photoshopped”. Instead, I hope you will deal with the substantive questions that arise from the presence of Fr Richard Purcell in one of the most venerable of the Irish Cistercian houses.

His notorious and infamous activities in Dublin-based gay saunas and the fact that his sexual activity within the confines of Roscrea-based Mount Saint Joseph Abbey was known to and acknowledged by the former Abbot General, Dom Eamon Fitzgerald OCSO is scandalous. Fr Purcell’s despicable and deplorable behaviour has brought shame and scandal to his monastery and order in Ireland and internationally.

Moreover, that Dom Eamon Fitzgerald, OCSO, was aware of Fr. Purcell’s proclivities in sexual activity evidences what is negatively systemic in the Order and a culture of sustained cover-up. This is the harsh and ugly reality of the Irish Cistercians.

Yesterday, a commentator on my blog highlighted that Fr Purcell does have the right to return to the monastery by virtue of the transfer of his monastic stability from Mount Saint Joseph Abbey to Mount Melleray Abbey following his election as the abbot. I have no knowledge of canon law or the law proper of the Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, however, it does seem that it is permissible for Fr Purcell to return to his abbey. But the fact that Fr Purcell resigned in sexual scandal means his return to Mount Melleray Abbey is an act of extraordinary imprudence. It is also a deeply ill-judged act that will beget fresh scandal for the Irish Cistercians.

For reasons that are self-evident it is now appropriate and salutary for the greater good of the Irish Cistercians and the local church that is the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore to ask the following legitimate questions.

When did Fr Richard Purcell return to Mount Melleray Abbey? Is it possible that you were not alerted to the proposed return of Fr Purcell to abbey? Is it possible that Fr Purcell was only making a brief visit to the abbey? However, if Fr Purcell has returned to Mount Melleray Abbey on a permanent basis — the further following questions spontaneously arise.

When did you receive notification of Fr Purcell’s proposed return to Mount Melleray Abbey? If so; from which individual did you learn of Fr. Purcell’s proposed return? Was it from Fr Rufus Pound, OCSO, the Monastic Commissary appointed by the General Chapter or from the Abbot General, Dom Bernardus Peeters, OCSO who conducted the so-called Apostolic Visitation of Mount Melleray Abbey to ascertain whether it was true that Fr Richard Purcell was whoring around gay saunas in Dublin?

Did you welcome the return of the scandal-ridden Fr Purcell to your canonical territory or did you roll your eyes in disbelief at this act of unprecedented asininity?

Could it be possible that you decided to exercise the pastoral prerogative of mercy by indicating that you would welcome his return and in an act of misguided charity — spontaneously offered Fr Purcell priestly faculties with immediate effect to minister publicly within the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore?

At the time of this writing, does Fr Purcell have faculties from his superior to celebrate the Eucharist publicly at Mount Melleray Abbey and to celebrate Mass in any church within the canonical territory of your diocese?

Does Fr Purcell have your written permission to hear confessions at Mount Melleray Abbey? Does Fr Purcell have faculties to hear confessions in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore? If so; have you granted him a faculty to absolve from the delict of abortion?

Out of respect for Mount Melleray Abbey, I have not published my extremely detailed affidavit outlining the past allegations that I made against Fr Purcell on my blog: however, I may do so in the not-so-distant future.

I would be grateful for a prompt acknowledgement of the present with the answers to the legitimate questions contained, herein.

Because I believe transparency is good for Mount Melleray Abbey and for the Irish Church, I will publish this correspondence on my blog.

+ Pat Buckley



His Excellency, Archbishop Luis Mariano Montemayor, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the Republic of Ireland.
Dom Bernardus Peeters, OCSO, Abbot General, Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Fr Eamon Fitzgerald, OCSO, Emeritus Abbot General, Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Fr Rufus Pound, OCSO, Monastic Commissary.