Priest Who Preached Sermon At Ted Kennedy’s Funeral Suspended

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The parish priest who preached the sermon at U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s 2009 funeral Mass has been suspended by the Diocese of Fall River.

Bishop Edgar da Cunha placed Father Mark Hession on leave “based on complaints he received about inappropriate communications that Father Hession had sent to several adult parishioners” at a parish in Seekonk where he served as pastor, the diocese said in a written statement.

The statement doesn’t get into details, but refers to “conduct inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests in the Fall River Diocese.”

Hession served as pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk for about four years until August 2018, when he was abruptly assigned to the diocesan tribunal, which reviews requests for declarations of nullity in marriages and changing the canon-law status of churches, among other things. Hession is a canon-law lawyer.

But that assignment, too, has ended, now that Hession is suspended, which means he cannot exercise ministry or present himself as a priest in public. Hession has a right under canon law to appeal the suspension to Rome.

The diocese last year found that Hession had inappropriately used parish funds for “dining and personal expenses.” The bishop announced the suspension during weekend Masses at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Seekonk, according to the diocese.

Hession was the pastor of Our Lady of Victory in Centerville when Kennedy died in August 2009 at the Kennedy Compound in Osterville, not far away.

During the funeral Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (known as Mission Church) in Roxbury, Hession preached from the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.

Hession praised Kennedy, whose support for legal abortion and same-sex marriage put him publicly at odds with his Church.

“Our hope, our confident Christian hope, is that the fruits of his work as a political and public figure, have well prepared him for God’s kingdom,” Hession said of Kennedy during the funeral Mass.

At one point, Hession suggested certainty that Kennedy was in Heaven.

“Today, at this holy Eucharist, we pray, we are confident that Ted Kennedy has entered this new dwelling of God. For as the liturgy today inspires us, Lord, for your faithful people, life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven,” Hession said.

His sermon was criticized by an editorial in the weekly newspaper of Hession’s diocese, The Anchor.