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Former FBI executive assistant director and victim advocate to receive Laetare Medal

| Sunday, March 22, 2020

Kathleen McChesney will recieve the University of Notre Dame’s 2020 Laetare Medal for her leadership in addressing the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal, the University announced in a press release on Sunday.

McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director, was recruited in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to begin its Office of Child Protection. Through her leadership, she helped implement the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” a set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

She also worked to release a study with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, which focused on the sexual abuse of children crisis in the Catholic Church. McChesney founded Kinsale Management Consulting, which she continues to lead in order to guide religious organizations around the world and protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse. 

McChesney joined the FBI in 1978, and eventually became executive assistant director for law enforcement services — the third-highest position within the bureau. 

According to the press release, the Laetare Medal is the oldest and most prestigious award given to an American Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

The award was established by Notre Dame in 1883 as the American equivalent to the papacy’s Golden Rose award. The Laetare Medal is announced every year on Laetare Sunday, or the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent. 

University President Fr. John Jenkins applauded McChesney for her courage and persistence in fighting for victims.

“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,” Jenkins said in the release. “Her example reminds us of Jesus’ words, ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.”

McChesney said in the press release that she sees the award as an opportunity to remain stedfast in her battle against abusers.

“I think there is a significant responsibility with such an honor that one has to live up to every day forward,” 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.”

McChesney will receive the Laetare Medal during Notre Dame’s 175th University Commencement Ceremony, as well as an honorary degree from the University. On March 18, Fr. Jenkins said in a statement to the campus the University still plans to hold its commencement on May 17, but the final decision is subject to change. 

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