Conferral of the 2020 Laetare Medal
The Laetare Medal, considered the most prestigious award in American Catholicism, is normally awarded each year at commencement. As the pandemic caused the University to move the 2020 commencement online, this tradition moved to a virtual setting for the conferral of the 2020 award on Kathleen McChesney by University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., by the chairman of the board of trustees John J. Brennan. The conferral is preceded by a short history of the Laetare Medal provided by Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism.
Kathleen McChesney’s myriad law enforcement achievements began in the 1970s as a police officer in King County, Washington. As a detective, she investigated sex crimes and homicides, including the case involving the notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. McChesney joined the FBI in 1978 as a special agent, eventually reaching the third-highest position within the bureau as executive assistant director for law enforcement services.
In 2002, McChesney was recruited by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to establish and lead its Office of Child Protection, where she helped the nation’s 195 dioceses and eparchies implement the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” She established protocols for responses to allegations of abuse, prevention of abuse, transparency and accountability. Over the course of three years, McChesney also worked with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to develop an unprecedented study of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, which was released in 2004. She is the founder of Kinsale Management Consulting, through which she continues to serve dioceses, religious organizations, and others around the world in the protection of children and vulnerable adults and in preventing ministerial misconduct and abuse.
Throughout her work with 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. In Sept. 2019, McChesney spoke on some of these themes as a guest panelist in “The Church Crisis: Where Are We Now?’, which launched the 2019-2020 Notre Dame Forum, “Rebuild My Church: Crisis and Response.”