Fall River Diocese places priest on leave over alleged ‘inappropriate communications’

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SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — A Catholic priest in Southeastern Massachusetts has been placed on leave by the Fall River Diocese because of “conduct inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests,” according to a statement by the diocese.

This weekend, parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk were informed that Father Mark R. Hession had been placed on leave from active priestly ministry. 

The Fall River Diocese says Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha made the decision based on complaints he received about inappropriate communications that Father Hession had sent to several adult parishioners.

The diocese did not go into further detail about the allegations.

Hession was formerly assigned to Our Lady Mount Carmel Church until August 2018, when he was reassigned to duties in the Diocesan Tribunal, according to the diocese.

Last August, Bishop da Cunha said in a letter to parishioners that a diocesan “financial review did find excessive spending by Father Hession in areas such as dining and personal expenses that does not meet acceptable standards.”

da Cunha said the review found several factors contributed to the parish’s yearly deficit: increases in salary, decreases in offeratory, capital expenses and personal expenditures.

In his letter, da Cunha said he personally confronted Hession about the spending.

“He agreed with our findings and was remorseful, acknowledging that he did not comprehend the accumulated amount of these costs over four years,” the letter said. 

The diocese said they determined a plan for Hession to reimburse the church, though da Cunha did not disclose how much Hession was ordered to repay. 

Reached by phone on Monday, Hession referred Eyewitness News to his attorney, who declined to comment. 

Hession’s suspension from active ministry means he is not permitted to exercise public ministry nor present himself as a priest in a public setting, according to the diocese. 

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