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To:        Diocese of Easton Family

From:   Office of the Bishop

Date:    May 15, 2019

Re:        Communication regarding Heather Cook-Hansen Release

Our faith in Jesus and commitment to live into the values enshrined in our baptismal covenant commends and reaffirms our respect for the dignity and intrinsic sanctity, solemnity and reverential value of human life. The church, and by extension every Christian, is constantly mindful of our vocation to defend, protect and preserve human life. The tragic and horrific automobile accident, the consequence of the abuse of alcohol, took the life of a wonderful human soul, husband, father, brother and colleague to many. The Diocese of Easton Family continues to remember, grieve and pray with the family of Mr. Thomas Palermo. He was a good human being with much to offer life and loved ones.

The release from prison of Mrs. Heather Cook-Hansen, the perpetrator of this tragic act, is an event everyone knew would eventually take place. Mrs. Cook-Hansen is the spouse of Mr. Mark Hansen, Lay Pastor, St. Clement’s Parish, Massey, MD, since 2014.

The Vestry of St. Clement’s Parish has written to inform the bishop that Mark has communicated to the parish that his spouse is expected to serve her supervised probation in Kent County. Mark has been renting the parish rectory for a number of years beginning prior to his marriage to Heather. Also, the Vestry confirms that Heather became a lay member of the parish preceding her sentencing in October 2017, and maintained her membership while serving her prison term. I have reminded the Vestry that Heather has been deposed from the order of clergy, therefore, membership in the parish is confined to the lay order.

My beloved, I wish to remind us all, the Church is God’s embodiment of love, grace, mercy, compassion, restoration and reconciliation of all God’s people. The Church is not called to judge, rather to forgive, reconcile and redeem in Jesus’ name. This is our divine mandate and integral to our ministry as servants of Christ’s mission. Therefore, my expectation is for the parish to nurture and encourage Heather’s continual rehabilitation, healing and spiritual development. It is the prayer and hope of this church that integral to her amendment of life, she will devote and commit her life toward educating and promoting the destructive, impaired and harmful effects, and painful consequences of alcohol and substance abuse.

At the same time, I wish us all to be generous and gracious in our support and constant prayer for the Palermo family. As such, I strongly urge respect and compassion for everyone who is bearing the burden and ongoing effects of this enormous suffering on account of this tragic and reckless act.

Together in Christ’s service,

The Right Rev. Santosh K. Marray
XI Bishop of Easton