Fall River Diocese list of clergy accused of sex abuse includes 5 former Wareham priests
By Frank Mulligan
Courier Sentinel via Wicked Local
January 09, 2021
A list of Diocese of Fall River clergy accused of committing sexual abuse of a minor has been published by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha and includes five priests who had been assigned to St. Patrick’s Church in Wareham, two to St. Margaret’s in Buzzards Bay, and one assigned to St. Rita in Marion.
The priests who had been assigned to St. Patrick’s in Wareham include Mark R. Hession, born in 1958, ordination in 1984, faculties - permission granted to clergy that enables them to practice public ministry within a certain diocese – suspended. He was also assigned to St. Joan of Arc, Orleans; Holy Name, Fall River; St. Mary, New Bedford; Charlton Memorial Hospital, Fall River; St. Joseph, Taunton; Holy Rosary, Fall River; St. Patrick, Falmouth; Our Lady of Victory, Centerville; Our Lady of the Assumption, Osterville; Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Seekonk; Holy Family East Taunton. Assignment dates were not listed.
On Dec. 11, 2020, Hession was indicted by a Barnstable County grand jury. While criminal proceedings continue, his faculties remain suspended and review by the Diocese is on hold, according to the diocesan website
Hession has been charged with rape and assault and battery and will be arraigned Jan. 11 in Barnstable Superior Court.
According to a Cape Cod Times report, a grand jury returned indictments Dec. 11 against Hession, who was the pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville from 2000 to 2014 and served at St. Joan of Arc Church in Orleans. He faces charges of two counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery on a child less than 14 and one count of intimidation of a witness.
Hession allegedly assaulted the victim with the “intent to commit rape and did commit rape upon such person” on multiple occasions between 2005 and 2008 in Barnstable County, according to the redacted indictments obtained by the Cape Cod Times.
The grand jury also stated that in May or June 2002, Hession committed an indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, according to the indictments.
On multiple occasions between 2005 and 2008 Hession also intimidated a witness, the indictments state.
In 2019, Hession allegedly sent inappropriate communications to several adult parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Seekonk, where he was serving.
The Diocese of Fall River then placed Hession on leave “because of conduct inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests," the diocese said at the time in a statement, according to the Cape Cod Times report.
Da Cunha stated in a Jan. 7 open letter prefacing the findings and list, “The scourge of clergy sexual abuse has deeply wounded so many people in our Church. It has touched every diocese worldwide and continues to affect us all – laity and clergy – in significant ways. Today, it is with a contrite heart and commitment to the healing process that I have published a list of clergy, diocesan and religious related to the Diocese of Fall River who have been credibly or publicly accused of committing sexual abuse of a minor.”
He added, “The review of Diocesan records, some going back 70 years, was incredibly arduous and time consuming. While this review has taken longer than first anticipated, it was crucial that we took the time needed to do it right.”
Bishop da Cunha announced the intention to publish a list of clergy against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor had been made in 2019.
The list contains the names of clergy “who have been incardinated or ministered in the Diocese of Fall River and have been credibly or publicly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Most of the allegations pertain to abuse alleged to have taken place many decades ago; approximately half of those on this list are deceased.”
It’s noted on the diocese website, “It is for the survivors of clergy sexual abuse that we publish this list. We know there has been grave damage done and that this is long overdue. It is the Diocese’s hope that publishing this list will help bring healing to the survivors and their families who have been so grievously harmed. The publication of this list is also an expression of our sincere commitment to transparency and accountability.”
There are three categories: credibly accused, publicly accused and cases in progress.
Credibly accused “includes priests, seminarians, and other religious against whom an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor was made that meets the semblance of truth standard … and who were incardinated in the Diocese of Fall River and/or assigned to public ministry in the Diocese of Fall River.”
Credibly accused included Cornelius J. Keliher, died in 1993, born in 2007, ordination in 1932, who had been assigned to St. Patrick’s in Wareham. He had also been assigned to Our Lady of the Assumption, Osterville; St. Louis, Fall River; Sts. Peter and Paul, Fall River; St. Mary, Hebronville.
Daniel W. Lacroix, born in 1959, ordination in 1988, faculties removed, had been assigned to St. Patrick’s in Wareham. He had also been assigned to St. Vincent de Paul Camp, Westport; Holy Name Church, New Bedford; Holy Redeemer, Chatham; St. Mary, Mansfield; St. Francis Xavier, Acushnet; St. Francis Xavier, Hyannis; Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Seekonk; St. Mary, New Bedford; St. Joseph-St. Theresa, New Bedford; Our Lady of Fatima, New Bedford.
Lacroix was put on administrative leave in 2019, according to the New Bedford Standard-Times. He has denied misconduct and the allegations were referred to the Bristol County and Cape & Islands District Attorney’s office, according to the Standard-Times.
Bruce M. Neylon, born in 1948, ordination in 1975, faculties removed, had been assigned to St. Patrick’s in Wareham. He had also been assigned to St. Mary, Mansfield; Holy Name, Fall River; Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro; St. John, Attleboro; St. Mary, Seekonk; St. Stanislaus, Fall River; Holy Trinity, Fall River.
William W. Norton, died in 2004, born in 1941, ordination in 1967, had been assigned to St. Patrick’s in Wareham. He had also been assigned to Sacred Heart, Taunton; St. Kilian, New Bedford; Cathedral Camp, East Freetown; Bishop Stang High School, Dartmouth; St. Mary’s Home, New Bedford; Holy Name, New Bedford; St. Mary, New Bedford; St. Patrick, Fall River; St. Joseph, Woods Hole; Our Lady of Lourdes, Wellfleet; Our Lady of Victory, Centerville; St. Anne, Fall River; St. Anne’s Hospital, Fall River.
Frank Genevive, died in 2004, born in 1956, ordination in 1983 in the Orders of Friars Minor, removed from ministry, had been assigned to St. Margaret’s in Buzzards Bay.
Justin J. Quinn, died in 1996, born in 1926, ordination in 1953, had been assigned to St. Rita in Marion. He was also assigned to St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River; St. Kilian, New Bedford; St. Thomas More, Somerset; St. Lawrence, New Bedford; St. Elizabeth, Edgardtown; Immaculate Conception, Fall River; St. Anne, Fall River; St. Mary’s Home, New Bedford; Madonna Manor, Attleboro; Sacred Heart, North Attleboro.
Publicly accused “includes priests, seminarians, or other religious who were either incardinated in the Diocese of Fall River or who were assigned to public ministry in the Diocese of Fall River, and have been publicly named in media reports, third party lists prepared by advocacy groups and/or other dioceses and religious orders, as having allegations against them involving sexual abuse of a minor. The individuals included are clergy or other religious against whom a publicized accusation was made, but for whom the Diocese lacks sufficient information at this time to make its own determination whether the accusation was credible. In some cases, a religious order or other diocese may have determined that the priest was credibly accused after investigation or upon admission of the priest.
It is important to note that just because a name appears on the publicly accused list, that does not necessarily mean that the individual was accused of abusing a child in the Diocese of Fall River. For example, a priest may have been publicly accused of abuse in another diocese or may appear on a credibly accused list for a religious order for allegations unrelated to the Diocese of Fall River. If we were able to confirm that the priest also worked in the Diocese of Fall River at some point in his career, we have included the priest on the publicly accused list even if the Diocese did not itself receive an allegation regarding that priest.”
Hession is included in the publicly accused list; born in 1958, ordination in 1984, faculties suspended.
Cases in progress “includes living priests of the Diocese of Fall River who have been publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor, but the canonical and/or civil proceedings involving these priests have not yet been resolved. There has not yet been a determination either under canon (Church) or civil law regarding whether the allegations against clergy listed here are credible. Consistent with the principles of the American justice system and Church law, these individuals are afforded a presumption of innocence. The priests in this section are prohibited from engaging in public ministry while their cases are in process.”
That list includes James F. Buckley, born in 1931, ordination in 1959, faculties suspended, who had been assigned to St. Margaret’s in Buzzards Bay. He had also been assigned to St. Mary Cathedral, Fall River; Sacred Heart, Fall River; Immaculate Conception, Fall River; St. Joan of Arc, Orleans; St. Augustine, Vineyard Haven; Holy Redeemer, Chatham.
The diocesan website states the files were scattered, unorganized and undigitalized, and were initially evaluated by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director William Gavin of The Gavin Group. The diocese also hired Kinsale Management Consulting, under the leadership of Kathleen McChesney, former executive assistant director for the FBI and former head of the Office of Child Protection of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Kinsale provided expertise on prevention and response to allegations of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, and in this case conducted a detailed file review to identify allegations against individual priests,” according to the website.
The diocese also hired the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP to assist it in creating and publishing this list. “Ropes & Gray conducted a further investigation and review of Diocesan records and legal files and, at the conclusion of its review, provided a summary of its findings to a core advisory group from the Diocese.”
The Edward Davis Company then conducted a third-party review. Led by former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, The Edward Davis Company is comprised of a team of former law enforcement officials with deep knowledge of investigations and experience in protecting victims of crime, according to the website.
Da Cunha added in the open letter to the diocese, “To all survivors of child sexual abuse, I am deeply sorry. We as a Church failed when you were most vulnerable. I firmly resolve to do all we can to help you heal, make certain we are accountable, and protect our children so that no other child suffers as you have.”
He also added, “If you, or anyone you know, have suffered abuse by a priest or someone affiliated with the Diocese of Fall River, I urge you to call our Victim Assistance Coordinator at 508-985-6508 or visit our website. You have my assurance that your voice will be heard.”