Head of Bishops' Child Protection Office Plans to Resign in February

By Agostino Bono
National Catholic Reporter [Washington DC]
November 18, 2004

Kathleen McChesney, who set up the U.S. bishops' office to help dioceses implement child sex abuse prevention policies, plans to resign Feb. 25 after publication of the 2004 diocesan compliance audits.

Children are safer now under the church's policies but the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection will continue to function, McChesney said Nov. 15 to reporters covering the bishops' general fall meeting.

McChesney, 53, became the first executive director of the office Dec. 1, 2002. During her tenure she had disagreements with some bishops who opposed her idea that diocesan compliance audits should continue annually after the initial 2003 audit.

McChesney, a former FBI agent, said that as of yet she has no job plans for when she leaves her current post. She told reporters that her two-year contract called for her to set up the office, conduct a diocesan compliance audit and establish ongoing procedures to assure implementation of the bishops' policies.

These have been accomplished, she said, noting that she is staying beyond the term of her contract to finish the 2004 audits, which will be the second round of annual audits.

"I believe I've done what I was asked to do -- set up an office and adequate structures," she said.

"Now is the time for other people with other ideas -- and hopefully inspiration -- to come forward and continue because the work is important," she said.

Because of extensive church prevention programs put in place since the clergy sex abuse scandal broke in 2002, the church now has "lots of people with lots of knowledge" who can replace her, she said.

"I am only saddened by the fact that there are many victims still out there who are reluctant to come forward," she said. "There are people out there still suspicious about how the church will react."

At the same time more than 2,000 victims are receiving services through church outreach programs across the country, said McChesney.

"The outreach we provide is better than it has ever been," she said.

"The audits lead me to believe that most dioceses are implementing most of the charter," she said, referring to the 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which lays out the bishops' prevention policies.

In many cases, noncompliance results from a lack of resources and personnel in a diocese, problems which the child protection office tries to help resolve, she said.

McChesney said that the child protection office is called for in the charter and needs to continue because its work is growing.

One of the office's main tasks has been to help dioceses in determining how to set up programs and procedures mandated in the charter but not spelled out.

Before leaving, she said, she hopes to formalize the system of gathering of data to keep track of the number of new abuse cases being reported.

Msgr. Francis Maniscalco, the bishops' spokesman, told reporters that a search committee will seek a replacement for McChesney.

Earlier this year, McChesney's deputy, Sheila Horan, announced she was retiring at the end of 2004. McChesney said that she hopes to replace Horan by the end of December.

As part of her job, McChesney traveled around the country to visit diocesan programs and give talks.

In an Oct. 26 talk in Cincinnati, she said that the sex abuse crisis has eroded the moral authority of the church, demoralized lay and clerical church workers, and caused grave financial problems for many dioceses.

At the time of her hiring, McChesney was the FBI's executive assistant director for law enforcement services. She was the agency's highest-ranking woman and the No. 3 official at the bureau. She oversaw the work of 4,700 employees and controlled multiple budgets totaling more than $1.1 billion.


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