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Former local FBI chief seeks to get laity to speak up about church scandal

Kathleen McChesney, left, and Justice Anne Burke in 2004. | AP file photo

Sneed is told Chicago’s former FBI chief Kathleen McChesney, who led the office of Child Protection under the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops until 2005, hits town October 1 to urge the laity to speak up in the midst of the latest sexual abuse scandal to hit the Catholic Church.

“The laity [church members] must be more vocal and insist on accountability and transparency from their bishops on the way they handled reports of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults,” McChesney told Sneed.

McChesney — along with Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and legendary attorney Bob Bennett, a former federal prosecutor, will speak on stage at the City Club of Chicago on Oct. 1 to discuss the crisis in the church.

“I remember Cardinal Francis George telling us years ago he thought the National Review Board (the lay board commissioned by the Bishops Conference to investigate the clerical sexual abuse scandal in 2002) could destroy the Catholic Church,” said McChesney. “I was stunned,” she said.

OPINION

McChesney’s comment was backed up by Burke, who was a former interim head of the National Review lay board, and former lay board member Leon Panetta, the former head of the CIA and former U.S. defense secretary — who both told Sneed the same story.

“We were there when he said it,” Panetta told Sneed recently.

“I’ll never forget it,” said Burke.

“We were never given the power to investigate the bishops,” Burke told Sneed. “We need to know why bishops and others rose in their ecclesiastical careers when troubling facts regarding sexual abuse were known by the hierarchy which promoted them.”

Burke’s former lay board is now awaiting word from the Holy See on their written request to be reappointed to probe the church hierarchy. No word has yet been received from the Bishops Conference chief, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who has acknowledged receiving the letter and recently met with Pope Francis.

The acceptance of the letter by the U.S. Conference of Bishops followed a Sun-Times report several weeks ago that Bishop Raymond Goedert — who acknowledged in a 2007 deposition that he knew of 25 priests who had molested children but had never told the police — has been allowed to live at the cardinal’s mansion on the Gold Coast with permission of Chicago’s last three Cardinals dating back to the 1990s. Goedert retired in 2003.

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Toni’s team . . .

Sneed exclusive: In advance of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s official announcement of her mayoral bid Thursday comes word she has chosen a controversial campaign manager.

• To wit: Preckwinkle, who is head of the Cook County Democratic Party, has picked Mario Lopez, the campaign manager for Preckwinkle’s old friend, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios — who was the previous head of the Cook County Democratic Party until she took over the job after Berrios’ defeat.

Berrios, who lost his bid for re-election to political newcomer Fritz Kaegi, suffered an ignominious defeat stemming from massive complaints about the unfair way of how property assessments were done in Cook County.

Sneed is told that when Preckwinkle announces Thursday, she will standing with the support of Aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), Leslie Hairston (5th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), and David Moore (17th).

Ah, politics.

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Melting, Melania?

Hmm.

We know first lady Melania Trump loves making fashion statements.

But a wool ensemble in 80 degree weather?

• Wool wardrobe: Trump sported a $4,000 Gucci white wool coat Tuesday in the muggy Washington, D.C., weather to welcome Polish President Andrzej Duda and his wife, first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda to the White House.

Is Lady Trumpster just used to feeling the heat?

 Sneedlings . . .

Congrats to Lee Stern, owner/founder of Chicago Sting soccer — and the longest-tenured trader at the Chicago Board of Trade — who will be inducted into a new North American Soccer Hall of Fame in Dallas on Oct. 19. . . . Get-well wishes to Doug Kucia, former chief of staff at Tollway, CTA and CPS, a speedy recovery from major surgery. . . . I spy: Former Bear Brandon Marshall spotted at Harry Caray’s on Kinzie on Sunday night. . . . Today’s birthdays: Sophia Loren, 84; Phillip Phillips, 28; and John Tavares, 28.