- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

U.S. Catholic bishops yesterday tapped the FBI's top-ranking woman and third in command at the bureau to head an office monitoring the hierarchy's new sexual-abuse policy in the nation's dioceses.

Kathleen McChesney, a director for law enforcement services at the FBI, will head the Office for Child and Youth Protection set up by the bishops.

"Even one case of child abuse is intolerable," Miss McChesney, a Catholic, said at a news conference at the bishops' headquarters.

"I hope to create safe environments throughout the dioceses," the 24-year FBI veteran said. "Most important, I hope to restore trust," she said, adding that any organization can "suffer from the acts of a few" as happened with spies caught in the FBI.

Miss McChesney was chosen from among 50 candidates and will work with an annual church budget of $800,000 to $1 million to make sure bishops in 96 dioceses implement new norms and use lay review boards to curtail any cases of sexual abuse by priests.

Her primary tool of oversight will be an annual report on each bishop, she said.

"She's had tremendous experience in a large organization ensuring compliance of rules and regulations," said lawyer Robert S. Bennett, chairman of the bishops' National Review Board.

The bishops set up the board and youth protection office to turn around a sexual-abuse scandal, which has led to the suspension of 300 priests this year.

Some victims' groups have called the 13-member review board a rubber stamp for the bishops, but Mr. Bennett said it will "not be averse to criticizing" the hierarchy.

"This board is not a bunch of shrinking violets," he said.

After the sexual-abuse scandal became public in January, the U.S. bishops met in Dallas in June to adopt norms for policing sexual abuse and to set up the review board and youth office.

Last month, the Vatican required revision of the norms to protect the rights of accused priests. Those changes will be discussed and voted on by U.S. bishops here beginning Monday as part of their annual meeting.

The revisions do not affect the youth office but require a 10-year statute of limitations and an accused priest's name to remain secret until he is charged. They also require the right for a church tribunal and appeals to Rome.

The Catholic lay organization Voice of the Faithful has protested the Vatican's changes as weakening local diocesan review boards, giving them only an "advising" rather than the power of "assessment of allegations."

The Rev. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils, yesterday said the appointment of a skilled law officer doesn't conflict with U.S. priests' concerns for due process in the face of accusations.

"I don't think they are incompatible," Father Silva said in an interview, noting that clergy "lean to a more lenient or pastoral" way of dealing with wrongdoers.

"Good law enforcement is good justice," he said.

Miss McChesney said she believes in a "balance" between punishing wrongdoers and helping them change. "There is a rehabilitation process that we believe in that is part of our criminal justice system," she said. "You have a sense of punishment that fits the crime."

A Virginia resident, Miss McChesney said she resigned the prestigious FBI post to help her church resolve the crisis. "The important part is protecting young people," she said. She expects her office to start showing results in six months.

In December she was appointed to the FBI post, created to coordinate federal and local law enforcement after the September 11 attacks.

"I feel that I've contributed," said the agent, who began her career in San Francisco in 1978. She became special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office in 1999 and last year went to Quantico, Va., as assistant director of the agency's training division.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide