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Priest who gave Sen. Ted Kennedy’s funeral homily charged in sex assault case

A Catholic priest who delivered the funeral homily for Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 2009 has been indicted on charges alleging rape and indecent assault of a minor.

A Barnstable Superior Court grand jury on Friday indicted the Rev. Mark R. Hession, 62, on two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery of a person under 14, and one count of witness intimidation, court records show.

An arraignment date will be set in January, a spokesperson for the Cape and Islands district attorney’s office said. It wasn’t clear who was representing Hession, and information on the dates and locations of the alleged rapes and assault wasn’t immediately available.

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The Diocese of Fall River said Hession has been suspended from active priestly ministry since last year.

“A priest on leave is not permitted to exercise public ministry nor present himself as a priest in public settings,” the diocese said in a statement.

The diocese said it learned of the criminal investigation after Hession was placed on leave in March 2019 for sending what church officials described as “inappropriate communications” to several adult parishioners.

Hession had previously served as pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk before being appointed in 2018 to the same position at Holy Family Parish in Taunton, according to the diocese’s website. He was also the pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville and Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Osterville.

In 2009, the Globe described Hession as the Kennedys’ “family priest on Cape Cod.” During Kennedy’s funeral Mass, Hession said, “We bring with us treasured memories” of the lawmaker.

“Memories not only of a national leader and a master legislator, but of a beloved husband, a great father, a terrific grandfather, a sweet uncle, a dear friend, a trusted colleague, a wise mentor,” Hession told the congregation.

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He knew “Ted and Vicki and their family as their parish priest. My sources of reflection are the scriptures and the pastoral experience of ministering to Ted and his family,” he said. “As a priest, I saw him treasure and draw strength from his family.”

In 2002, during the initial fallout from the clergy sex abuse scandal, Hession told the Cape Cod Times he didn’t feel priests who had been accused of wrongdoing should be named publicly in the absence of criminal charges.

“The law allows for a certain exercise of discretion to make settlements with confidentiality,” Hession told the newspaper. “I don’t think it’s the best policy to publish the names if there is no indictment. It just enlarges the circle of the crisis.”

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.