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Contact: Christopher Heffron
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March 17, 2003     526 Words

Kathleen McChesney Uses Experience, Faith to Head Bishops' New Office

CINCINNATI—With the Church in the midst of a great crisis, most people would refuse a job cleaning house for the U.S. bishops. Former F.B.I. official Kathleen McChesney, however, embraces the challenge. As a lifelong Catholic, McChesney relishes the opportunity to use her experience in law enforcement to head the U.S. bishops’ new Office of Child and Youth Protection.

The remarkable life and career of Kathleen McChesney are featured in St. Anthony Messenger’s April cover story entitled “Kathleen McChesney: Helping the Bishops Get It Right,” by Assistant Editor John Bookser Feister. After March 18, the article will be found at: AmericanCatholic.org.

Born in Seattle, Washington, McChesney began working in law enforcement in the 1970s as a police officer in King County, Washington. She received a master's in public administration in 1976, and joined the F.B.I. in 1978. Once her foot was in the door, she rose in the ranks, being transferred to Washington, D.C., to the Undercover and Special Operations Unit.

Throughout the next years, McChesney headed field offices in Portland, Oregon, and in Chicago, and in 1987 received her Ph.D. in public administration. In early 2001, she was appointed assistant director of the F.B.I's training division, then, after September 11, executive assistant director for Law Enforcement Services. McChesney's experience and dedication made her an obvious choice for the Office of Child and Youth Protection.

As head of this department, McChesney faces enormous challenges. The office exists to ensure that last year's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is being implemented in every U.S. diocese. One of McChesney's chief responsibilities is to help a diocese establish standards and develop or locate abuse-prevention programs suited for the local situation. Other responsibilities include gathering the statistics of clergy accused of crimes, as well as the number and ages of victims. McChesney must also commission an academic study on the context and causes of child abuse in a Church setting.

These are no easy assignments, with constant travel to various dioceses and meet with bishops, parishes and victim advocates. McChesney praises the people with whom she works and is optimistic about these endeavors. "The people are very supportive of this program. This is a phenomenal initiative for the Church."

McChesney can't predict how long the crisis in the Church will continue, but stresses that the Church is ready to face whatever is next. "The sad fact is that there are still cases that need to be dealt with," she says. She asks that victims step forward and report any abuse, past or present, as soon as possible.

McChesney knows that results will not happen quickly, but feels confident that things will change for the better. She also feels lucky to have been given the chance to help fix what has been broken. "As intelligent, rational people, our obligation, because of our faith, is to try and fix those things, to make things right. It's a blessing to be able to do so."

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