Archdiocese seeks leader for advocacy, child protection

| July 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is seeking a director to lead its enhanced victim advocacy and child protection in the new Office of Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards.

Primary among responsibilities are making certain that abuse victims can confide in the archdiocese for support, and preventing clergy misconduct from occurring in the first place.

Leading the search is Kinsale Management Consulting, the firm hired by the archdiocese in November 2013 to review all of its clergy files, an extensive task completed in April. Kathleen McChesney, the former No. 3 official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, leads the firm.

Kinsale Management Consulting will help select and screen qualified candidates for what archdiocesan officials consider a very important position.

“The purpose of the role is to serve — to make the programs and processes work so that the archdiocese can serve the faithful, particularly those who have been abused,” McChesney said. “And, also, it’s about the health and wellness, to a certain degree, of the clergy.”

McChesney stressed that the most important characteristic of the role is understanding the trauma people suffer when they’ve been abused — regardless of who it’s by — and the full scope of everyone affected — including the victim’s family members and friends, and the community.

The ideal candidate, McChesney continued, is a proven leader who understands how organizations — particularly the Catholic Church —function, who understands standards and ethics within an organization, and who has those qualities him- or herself. A bonus, she said, is a candidate’s understanding of Minnesota’s legal system — both criminal and civil. The director doesn’t have to be a lawyer, but a lay person is preferred.

“This person is someone who can deal with major issues, who’s a problem-solver and has good vision and creativity to develop this role,” McChesney said.

The position is posted at archspm.org. The archdiocese hopes to name a director in August.

Streamlining

The new office was established as a result of an independent task force’s recommendations to designate a point person to manage the various aspects of the archdiocese’s safe environment program, which includes the protection of vulnerable adults.

A report released in April from the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force identified problems with the archdiocese’s safe environment organizational structure, communication, record keeping regarding the performance and conduct of clergy, compliance auditing and complaint-reporting system.

“The creation of the [new office] and establishing the director’s position reinforces our commitment to provide care and support to survivors of clergy abuse, to prevent abuse and to make fuller use of the insights and experiences of lay professionals as we rebuild trust within our faith community,” said Dominican Father Reginald Whitt, whom Archbishop John Nienstedt appointed vicar in October 2013.

The new office will combine the existing Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the Promoter of Ministerial Standards program, and the Advocacy and Victim Assistance program. The director will report to the archbishop and guide and direct the people who manage the programs.

Implementing recommendations

Since the task force released its report, the archdiocese has been working to ramp up its abuse prevention measures as recommended. Among its efforts: planning to institute periodic background checks rather than the “one and done” practice, McChesney said.

According to Father Whitt, the archdiocese also has begun improving record-keeping procedures and how it educates the public about allegations of clergy misconduct. McChesney said new allegations of recent abuse across the nation are few.

“The numbers have gone down considerably,” she said. “But that does not mean that there aren’t a large number of victims from past years who continue to need help and support in different ways. The archdiocese is very committed through its victim advocacy program to making sure that those people are aware that that is in place.”

“We anticipate that the new director . . . will be able to guide us in fully implementing all of the recommendations the task force made,” Father Whitt said.

As those recommendations are implemented, the information will be posted at archspm.org and shared through news releases.

“This is a position that was recommended by the task force after much review of the processes that had been in place here,” McChesney added.

“The task force was very diligent about doing research and interviews in trying to figure out what would work best to make certain that all these pieces of the program were working efficiently and effectively. But also, they felt that having an individual in this position who has the perspective of a lay person would be greatly added value to what the archdiocese has already committed itself to — both in its policies and in its adherence to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People [issued by the USCCB in 2002]. There is a lot of good work going on for the protection of children, and that is the focus.”

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