Dear Bishop Lucia,
On the occasion of your birthday, I extend to you best wishes and warm greetings from the island of Ireland as we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Patrick.
On January 17, 2023 Fr. Matthew Lyons, was accepted into the novitiate and clothed in the Benedictine habit at Silverstream Priory.
I presume he did so with your permission and approbation. The aforesaid Fr. Lyons was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 2017, at Holy Cross Church, DeWitt by your predecessor Bishop Robert Joseph Cunningham.
As a consequence of that sacramental and juridical act; it is appropriate that I now write to highlight known issues about Silverstream Priory and to ask you a number of pertinent questions, which any fair-minded and reasonable individual will recognise as legitimate for the greater good of the Church.
Bishop Lucia, are you aware that the founding superior of Silverstream Priory, Fr. Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB, was the subject of a number of credible allegations of sexual and financial misconduct? It is probable that you are unaware that Fr. Kirby has been embroiled in sexual scandal and controversy for most of his monastic and priestly life.
However, on this occasion Fr. Kirby’s luck ran out because the Bishop of Meath, Thomas Deenihan decided that the allegations against Fr. Kirby were sufficiently serious, so he [Bishop Deenihan] personally decided to refer the accusations against Fr. Kirby to the Irish police force, An Garda Síochána. Again, it is not unreasonable to presume that you are unaware that a detective from that police force spent over a year investigating Fr. Kirby. And upon the conclusion of the investigation the detective felt there was sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution and submitted a file of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions, [hereinafter, DPP] which in American parlance is the equivalent of the attorney general of the state of New York, ie, Letitia James.
For reasons that remain arcane, the DPP decided not to commence a criminal prosecution of Fr. Kirby. No doubt they were cognisant of the reality that the cult-like membership that constitutes the monastic community of Silverstream Priory, (who believe that Fr. Kirby is a mystic and to whom some believe Jesus speaks to [Fr. Kirby] from the tabernacle) would be unlikely to give evidence against Fr. Kirby in open court. Whilst, I am not an attorney, there was also a public interest issue that probably also underpinned the decision-making of the DPP not to prosecute. And Fr. Kirby does not enjoy good health; so, the outcome was not a vindication, it was more of a lucky escape.
However, the decision-making of the DPP does not mean that Fr. Kirby was canonically rehabilitated; his on-going absence from the community that he founded is a source of scandal and speculation. Moreover, for reasons that are inexplicable, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Meath is being deliberately obtuse about the location of Fr. Kirby. From the perspective of the experience of the American Church, (that appears to have learned the lessons that flow from safeguarding failures) it is inexcusable that Bishop Deenihan is unwilling/unable to apprise people if Fr. Kirby, who was incardinated into the Diocese of Meath by Decree is a priest in good standing with his Ordinary.
Using any yardstick, Fr. Kirby represents a significant safeguarding issue and the on-going failure of the Diocese of Meath to ameliorate the scandal is among a number of issues that will be brought to the personal attention of the Irish Minister for Justice in the not-so-distant future. That office-holder is a parliamentary representative for a constituency in Co. Meath.
Therefore, in light of the above, it is stupefying that Fr. Lyons has chosen to join such a scandal-ridden community. This act, however, has potential implications for the Diocese of Syracuse due to the expansive legal doctrine of vicarious liability within the courts of the British Isles.
The Canonical Status of Fr. Lyons.
Again, for the avoidance of any and all doubt, I asseverate in what I have written above that I am not making any allegation against Fr. Lyons; I wish to be unequivocally clear on that point. However, I do wish to obtain answers to the following legitimate questions that any organisation committed to transparency and safeguarding will have no difficulty in answering.
1) Is Fr. Matthew Lyons, a priest in good standing with his Ordinary, the Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse?
2) Did you give written permission permitting Fr. Matthew Lyons to discern his vocation within Silverstream Priory?
3) Did you give written permission permitting Fr. Matthew Lyons to begin his canonical novitiate in Silverstream Priory?
4) Does Fr. Lyons have your written permission, ie, a celebret that permits him to publicly celebrate the Eucharist in: a) Silverstream Priory; b) any church within the canonical territory of the Diocese of Meath, subject to the further written permission of the Ordinary of that diocese, Bishop Deenihan?
5) Does Fr. Lyons have your written permission to hear sacramental confessions while he is resident OUTSIDE your canonical territory?
6) When Fr. Lyons was resident within your canonical territory — did he have the faculty to absolve from the delict of abortion?
Bishop Lucia, I note you have studied Canon Law at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the Angelicum). Therefore, you will be aware and accept the canonical reality that a sui juris monastery of diocesan right is incapable of incardinating clerics, i.e. deacons and priests, and is dependent on the Ordinary of the diocese where it is located. Consequently, this raises all sorts of interesting canonical and legal permutations about the priestly ministry of those clerics, i.e. priests who are professed monks of Silverstream Priory. I do, of course, appreciate it is not something that individuals devote a huge amount of time ruminating upon, however, when it presents intractable legal questions, it behoves careful consideration.
Do you accept that Fr. Lyons for the entirety of his observership/postulancy and for the period of his novitiate remained a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse? Of course, I do acknowledge the possibility that Fr. Lyons might have incardinated in the Diocese of Meath in a moment of madness to explore his monastic vocation. But for the sake of completeness, before the composition of the present, I checked the directory of the priests in the Diocese of Meath, and he [Fr. Matthew Lyons] is not listed, therein. Then, I checked the website of the Diocese of Syracuse where I learned that “Rev. Matthew T. Lyons” is the “Temporary Administrator, Christ our Hope @ St. Joseph Church”.
Do you further accept that Fr. Lyons if he survives the novitiate and is approved for simple/temporary monastic vows will remain canonically incardinated within the Diocese of Syracuse? If not, I would be curious to see the canonical contortions called upon to justify the proposition that he does not remain a cleric subject to your jurisdiction by virtue of his simple and monastic profession.
If and when, Fr. Lyons decides to make solemn monastic profession at Silverstream Priory, subject to the usual caveats what happens to his canonical status as a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse?
Will you be required to give your written permission permitting him to make solemn monastic profession? If so, by that juridical act, is it your understanding that Fr. Lyons within cease to enjoy a right of return to the Diocese of Syracuse? Will he be permanently removed from the payroll and health insurance benefits enjoyed by clerics within the diocese? Because Silverstream Priory is incapable of incardinating clerics, do you anticipate that he will be incardinated definitively and permanently into the Diocese of Meath? How do you understand the canonical and legal realities of solemn monastic profession for one of your priests? Is it something you have considered?
As we all know America is an extremely litigious society; therefore, you will accept, I trust, that you as the “Corporation Sole” for the Diocese of Syracuse have an on-going liability for any tortious act that Fr. Lyons may commit while a monk of Silverstream Priory. That is the harsh and hard legal reality. Of course, Bishop Deenihan may have signed a waiver assuming legal responsibility for Fr. Lyons while he is exploring his vocation at Silverstream Priory, but I think that is most unlikely.
Using any yardstick, Silverstream Priory is an absolute scandal; in due course, it will be suppressed, because it is the bastard child that nobody wants; its founding superior is infamous and the second superior has a known and publicly acknowledged addiction to gay pornography. Res ipsa loquitur.
Most respectfully, I would suggest you invoke Fr. Lyon’s vow of obedience and tell him to leave Silverstream Priory with all haste for the greater good of the Diocese of Syracuse. Nonetheless, if Fr. Lyons a sincere in his desire before God that he is called to live a traditional form of Benedictine life, he can consider Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. And if he wants something more authentic, he could learn French and explore the expression of the Benedictine charism in the French-based houses of the Solesmes Congregations. I would, of course, encourage you to discuss the present with your director of legal services.
In conclusion, I would be grateful for an initial acknowledgement of the present and answers to the questions posed herein within five (5) working days.
With prayerful best wishes,
PS: I believe on-going transparency is good for the church, so I will place a copy of this e-mail on my blog. However, in your reply, if you request that your answers are kept confidential; your request will be respected. I will, however, communicate to my readership that you have replied and provided satisfactory answers to the questions posed.
⁷His Excellency, Archbishop Montemayor, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to the Republic of Ireland.
Bishop Thomas Deenihan, Bishop of the Diocese of Meath.