Dear Archbishop Rozanski,
My name is Bishop Pat Buckley. I am well-known in the Republic of Ireland for my blog. You will, of course, legitimately wonder why you are the recipient of the present? I will set out my reasons for writing, hereinafter.
In the first instance, I wish to make it unequivocally clear that I am NOT accusing Fr. Michael [in religious life, “Hildebrand] Houser — who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri on May 24 2008 — of any misconduct, whatsoever. The only accusations that can be credibly levelled against Fr. Houser are those of naïveté and stupidity. Why do I make that observation? Fr. Houser decided to leave the Archdiocese of St. Louis to become a “monk” of Silverstream Priory, which is located in the County of Meath in the Republic of Ireland. The said Priory was founded by Fr. Mark Kirby.
Before, Fr. Kirby decided to reinvent himself as a conservative cleric devoted to the so-called “old mass”, he [Fr. Kirby] led a life of debauchery. And if those who are more knowledgeable in canon law than myself are to be believed, Fr. Kirby should be dismissed from the clerical state in light of his past behaviour.
Respectfully, I direct your attention to a letter written to the St. Joseph Young’s Priests Society, (a Dublin-based organisation that assists financially with the costs associated with priestly formation) by the former Ordinary of the Diocese of Meath, Bishop Michael Smith. The letter is dated July 24, 2017. The said letter was written five months after Silverstream was canonically erected as a priory of diocesan right. You will note that Bishop Smith, who holds a doctorate in Canon Law, confirms that the Priory “is of diocesan rite” with “three priests”. Importantly the letter records the following sentence: “Its priests are incardinated in to the Diocese” [of Meath].
At the time the letter was written, records indicate that the priests resident at Silverstream Priory were: the founder, Fr. Mark Kirby, Fr. Benedict Andersen, and Fr. Houser. From information available in the public domain, it is known that Fr. Houser made his simple monastic profession on August 6, 2018. Because, I started blogging about the scandals at Silverstream on my blog, I have reason to believe that Fr. Houser made solemn monastic profession in an understated way towards the latter end of 2021.
From a safeguarding perspective — who at this juncture is ultimately responsible for Fr. Houser?
At the time of his simple monastic profession at Silverstream Priory: was Fr. Houser incardinated in Archdiocese of St. Louis?
If that was the case, was Fr. Houser resident in the Diocese of Meath with the written permission of your predecessor, Archbishop R. Carlson? Did Archbishop Carlson envisage the return of Fr. Houser to the archdiocese if his quixotic pursuit of a “monastic vocation” at Silverstream did not work out?
Did the act of simple monastic profession canonically alter his relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Louis?
Alternatively, to pursue this vocation, did Fr. Houser formally sever his relationship with the Archdiocese of St. Louis? Was Fr. Houser by Decree incardinated into the Diocese of Meath by the then Ordinary, Bishop Michael Smith with the permission of Archbishop Carlson, when Fr. Houser’s application to become a monk of Silverstream Priory was accepted? Within the archives of the archdiocese, does a copy of that decree exist?
Is it possible that Bishop Michael Smith acted unilaterally and incardinated Fr. Houser into the Diocese of Meath without written permission of Archbishop Carlson and contrary to the dictates of canon law?
Because Silverstream Priory is an institute of diocesan right, it is incapable of incardinating clerics. Thus, at the time of this writing: is Fr. Houser a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, who received written permission to make solemn monastic profession at Silverstream Priory within the Diocese of Meath? Or is Fr. Houser a priest of the Diocese of Meath who has made solemn monastic profession in a monastery of diocesan right?
Again, I wish to be unequivocally clear, I am NOT accusing Fr. Houser of any misconduct civil or canonical. However, for the sake of the exposition within the present, if there was a safeguarding issue in the future: who is legally responsible for a tortious act(s) committed by Fr. Houser — the Diocese of Meath, or the Archdiocese of St. Louis, or both legal entities?
I would be grateful for a prompt acknowledgement of the present with answers to the questions posed herein.
Sincerely in Christ,
PS: I will post a copy of this correspondence and you reply on my blog, because I believe on-going transparency is a necessity for the renewal of the Church in Ireland.
Bishop Thomas Deenihan, Ordinary, Diocese of Meath.
Ms. Teresa Devlin, Chief Executive Officer, National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Ms. Marie O’Sullivan DLP and Ms. Marie Willoughby DLP, Safeguarding Officials, Diocese of Meath.
Ms. Sandra Price, Director of Safeguarding, Archdiocese of St. Louis.