Yesterday, America Magazine published an interview of Kathleen McChesney by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh. The interview notes that McChesney, a former executive of the FBI, served as the director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People. The interview does not directly mention Kinsale Management Consulting, the company currently led by McChesney, which was hired by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to conduct its clergy file review late last year.

Most of the interview appears to me to be unremarkable, comprised more or less of the same platitudes that are generally used to respond to questions regarding the Catholic Church's commitment to addressing the problem of sexual abuse of minors. McChesney is supportive of the efforts of Pope Francis and his Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, praises the 'dedicated collaboration of the laity', and notes '
the vast majority of the bishops and other religious leaders followed the mandates of the Charter'.

Where the interview becomes interesting, in my opinion, is when McChesney is asked to reflect on what she has learned during the fourteen years she has been engaged in this work on behalf of the Catholic Church. As former director of the Secretariat, one might expect McChesney to reiterate the 'company line' that sexual abuse is tragic but occurs in all elements of society, not just the Church, or that no organization has done as much as the Catholic Church to address this issue. But she doesn't. Instead, she provides what I would consider to be the most accurate critique to date of what continues to be wrong with the Church's handling of misconduct by clergy. Here is her response, as published online at americamagazine.org:

    'I have learned several things. Among them are the fact that the 
    universal church does not yet fully understand the magnitude and
    types of abuse that occurs within its ministries; that the church is
    addressing symptoms of the problem of sexual abuse rather than
    recognizing and dealing with its root causes; that additional training
    and procedures are required in dealing with boundary violations and
    “red-flag” behaviors; and that reconciliation and the restoration of
    trust will not occur where there is no public accountability.'

I was never contacted by Kinsale Management regarding its file review in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, so my only information as to its determinations have come from what appeared in news reports. With that caveat, I must admit that the decisions that so far have been made public have been, in my opinion, disappointing. These comments by McChesney, on the other hand, suggest to me that her work led her to reach many of the same conclusions that I did, especially regarding the lack of understanding of
'the magnitude and types of abuse' that is taking place, the root causes, and the need to deal more effectively with boundary violations and troubling behavior before such conduct escalates to the crime of sexual abuse.

I am also intrigued that someone who so recently was engaged with the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was willing to state on the record that there is a need for public accountability. Perhaps one way that the Archdiocese could demonstrate such accountability and promote reconciliation and the restoration of trust is by allowing McChesney to speak freely about her work in Saint Paul and Minneapolis.




 


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    Author

    Jennifer Haselberger is a canon lawyer who served as the Chancellor for Canonical Affairs in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis until April of 2013, when she resigned in protest of the Archdiocese's handling of sexual misconduct by clergy.

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