Pair Play Key Roles in Church Sex-Abuse Inquiries

By Janet I. Tu
Seattle Times [Seattle WA]
Downloaded May 27, 2003

Two prominent Roman Catholics with deep local roots are heading efforts - one nationally, the other locally - to ensure the church keeps promises that were made after the national sexual-abuse scandal involving priests broke last year.

Kathleen McChesney, who rose through the ranks of the King County Sheriff's Office and most recently served as the highest-ranking woman in the history of the FBI, was appointed last year to head the national bishops conference's Office of Child and Youth Protection.

She's here this week to meet with bishops and diocese staff from the Northwest to see where they are in carrying out a policy passed last year to deal with the problem.

Terrence Carroll, a retired King County Superior Court judge, is heading the Seattle Archdiocese's review board, which recommends to the archbishop what the church should do with accused local priests.

Many lay Catholics are watching McChesney, Carroll and those in similar roles, saying the real test of the church's credibility rests in whether they have enough independence to succeed at their jobs.

David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), thinks people like McChesney and Carroll are facing "extraordinarily daunting, if not impossible" tasks. The problem, he says, is that their jobs depend "on the cooperation of the very people who got us into this crisis."

"All across the country, we have people on these review boards with impressive résumés," Clohessy said. "But if they don't have the data, and the bishops won't share it, then we're essentially back at square one. And conscientious lay people end up feeling frustrated and used."

For both Carroll and McChesney, their new tasks also take on a personal dimension. In a sense, they embody the very tension the church is facing: how to hold onto the core values of the church while pushing the institution to openly address a very grievous problem within it.

McChesney, who attended Holy Family Parish in Auburn and Washington State University, Seattle University and Gonzaga University, has spent much of her life working within entrenched, male-dominated institutions.

In the King County Sheriff's Office, she was the first female police officer to go on patrol in Washington state. She investigated sex crimes and worked on the Ted Bundy case for several years. In 1978 she joined the FBI, where she had a stellar career, becoming the bureau's highest-ranking female field agent in 1994 and the first woman to head a major FBI field office - in Chicago - in 1999.

Before she accepted the church job at the end of 2002, she served as one of the FBI's 14 assistant directors, coordinating between the bureau and the nation's 18,000 law-enforcement operations.

She took the job heading the church's Office of Child and Youth Protection, she said, "because of the importance of making certain that churches are places where people feel their children will be able to worship and play and learn in safety."

She acknowledges that her audits will depend on information supplied by the bishops themselves, and that her office is funded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But the victims are her main concern. "About 40 or so years ago, nobody thought churches were anything but places of safety," she said. "I believe they are today. But that doesn't mean that more things can't be done."

Carroll said his main concern is the truth. He acknowledges there may be information, in sealed court documents for instance, that is off-limits to panel members. The board relies on an investigator to unearth information on the accusations. And the board is still working on the procedures to follow when reviewing the cases of the 13 living diocesan priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors.

"My hope is that the process will be as transparent as we can make it," Carroll said.

Those who know Carroll praise his appointment, saying his integrity will help ensure a thorough review.

"Having someone like Terry head this up makes it easier for the rest of us on the committee to do our work," said former U.S. Attorney Mike McKay, a member of the review panel. "He's the chair, running the meetings, rather than someone from the chancery."

McKay worked with Carroll in the past when Carroll was civilian auditor for the Seattle Police Department and McKay served on a panel looking into the department's internal policing system after the disclosure that a detective had allegedly stolen money from a homicide victim.

Carroll spent 11 years as a trial-court judge, forming a reputation as a leader in juvenile-justice reforms. He now works as a mediator with the private Judicial Dispute Resolution firm in Seattle.

It was in part the values of civic responsibility and critical thinking, formed by his years at Catholic schools - St. Mary's Grade School, O'Dea High School, Seattle University and Georgetown University Law Center - that led him to accept the request from Archbishop Alex Brunett to head the review panel, he said.

He said he felt deeply betrayed, as a Catholic and a member of the community, when he learned about abusive priests and bishops who shuffled them around.

"I thought it was important to the life of the church that this be dealt with."

He loves the church for the good works it does in the community, for its liturgy, for its many good members. "I don't want to see that go the way of history," he said. "It's an institution that went haywire. How do we make it right?"

In addition to Carroll and McKay, also on the board are attorney Rebecca Roe, church-law expert Linda Robitaille, the Rev. John Madigan, psychologists Robert Wheeler and Ellen McAtee, therapist Tim Smith and former King County Superior Court Judge Charles V. Johnson.

The board plans to meet monthly to decide on the credibility of the accusations against the 13 priests, and then decide punishment for those credibly accused.

For those who question the independence of the board, Carroll said: "Look at the people on the board - the wealth of experience and independence. Put to rest any idea that this is somehow some in-house group that's going to do the church's bidding. Far from it. We're going to do what's right."

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or


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