Prominent Priest in Massachusetts Indicted on Rape Charges, SNAP Calls for Outreach
Last March, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Fall River who had delivered the homily at the funeral of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was placed on leave. Today that man has been indicted on multiple charges including rape, assault of a child under 14, and witness intimidation. We are grateful that the police and prosecutors were not intimidated by the cleric's connections and instead worked diligently to obtain this indictment. Now, we call on Diocesan officials in Fall River to use every resource at their disposal to ensure parents and parishioners are aware of the allegations so that other, possibly hidden, victims can be encouraged to come forward.
The case against Fr. Mark Hession would no doubt never have been prosecuted if it were not for the parishioners at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel who spoke out about the inappropriate behavior they witnessed. We applaud these parishioners for using their voices to draw attention to a dangerous situation. Were it not for them, we worry that this abuser would still be hidden and more children would be at risk.
Now that Fr. Hession has been formally indicted, we call on Bishop Edgar Moreira da Cunha to pull out all the stops in doing outreach to anyone who may have suffered, seen, or suspected abuse at the priest’s hands. The bishop should use the diocesan website, parish bulletins, and pulpit announcements. He should also personally visit each parish where Fr. Hession worked to ensure that parents and parishioners are informed and that victims are encouraged to come forward and seek help.
By our count, Fr. Hession is the 24th Catholic priest or staffer arrested this year for sexual abuse. Clearly, the issue of sexual abuse is not a thing of the past as Church officials often claim. If this scandal is ever to truly end, it will be because of secular intervention combined with active parishioners using their voices to speak up about wrongdoing and to stand up against institutional indifference. We hope that this story will resonate with parishioners across the country and will inspire them to be vigilant and outspoken.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)