Notre Dame's Laetare Medal to be awarded to expert on Catholic sex abuse crisis
South Bend Tribune
March 22, 2020
The University of Notre Dame’s 2020 Laetare Medal will be awarded to Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director and a leading expert in the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis.
The medal, which was first awarded in 1883 to honor a Catholic who embodies the church’s ideals, will be given to McChesney at Notre Dame’s commencement, currently scheduled for May 17, though the university has acknowledged it may have to change its plans based on developments related to the coronavirus.
“It is often the Church’s darkest moments that call forth great faith and courage,” the university’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said in a statement. “In awarding Dr. McChesney the Laetare Medal, we recognize her courage, tenacity and love for the Church in a tireless pursuit of justice for victims, accountability for abusers and measures that prevent this crisis from continuing. Her example reminds us of Jesus’ words, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.’”
McChesney’s law enforcement career began as a police officer in Washington state before she joined the FBI in 1978. She eventually was promoted to the third-highest position at the FBI, as executive assistant director for law enforcement services.
In 2002, McChesney established the Office of Child Protection for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She helped draft the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” and established protocols to respond to abuse allegations and for prevention of abuse.
McChesney also partnered with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for a 2004 study on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
McChesney has “emphasized the necessity of listening to victim-survivors, independent and professional investigations of abuse, transparency regarding cases of abuse and offenders, and thorough screening for clergy and laypeople involved in Catholic ministries,” the university said.
In a statement, McChesney said, “The Laetare Medal will inspire me to work harder, more effectively and with greater compassion on behalf of those who have been wounded by persons in Catholic ministries.”