Letters to the editor March 3

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Vatican summit on sex abuse

As a survivor in my childhood of clergy sex abuse in California and, as a survivor in my adulthood of clergy power abuse while working as an independent advocate for other survivors over the past 26 years, I’d like to clarify a few points for Catholic-Christians in the valley who, for whatever reason, did not avail themselves of the excellent, totally transparent, online access to last week’s abuse summit presentations and beautiful, penitential service at the Vatican. The 190 bishops and religious officials present were themselves extraordinary in that they are the archbishops/religious leaders in their appointed locale and have arguable authority over ordinary bishops in their specific regions of our nation and other countries of the world. I believe that Archbishop Sample of Portland, a native of Kalispell, is the leader in our region.

The Associated Press article said that Pope Francis “failed to offer a concrete action plan to hold bishops accountable when they failed to protect their flocks from predators.“ On the contrary! Indeed he did! Among his many, very solid proposals was a preventative one encouraging the above archbishops from each region to buck up and gather with neighboring bishops to foster an atmosphere of trust, ongoing fraternal correction among themselves as well as, together, addressing future child abuse accusations with the use of transparent disciplines that include laity as well as local law enforcement. Informed Catholics already know that bishops accused of prior egregious, cover-up charges continue to be shamefully exposed and are being dealt with justly and incrementally. Informed Catholics also know that their names join those of all credibly accused bishops, priests and religious on the huge list at bishopaccountability.org

Since 2002, the bishop-formulated Dallas Charter for the Protection of Young People (that became a model for zero tolerance of child abuse in the Catholic Church), child abuse within Catholic institutions in the U.S. has been almost eradicated. This is an exemplary achievement! While continuing to be vigilant, survivors, dedicated clergy and watchdog members of the laity alike must take heart from the great strides that have been made in confronting this evil. As for those Catholics who are not so involved, but wish to have access to the abuse summit texts and YouTube presentations as well as future church issues, we encourage them to access them at the Vatican News website or the National Catholic Reporter website; the award winning, free, online, independent, religious newspaper that has led all journalistic efforts throughout the world in courageously exposing clergy power abuse over the past 30 years.

—Nancy McGunagle, Kalispell

Continue Medicaid expansion

Medicaid supports the health care of one in 10 Montanans. I am one of those Montanans. Medicaid was my sole health coverage from 2016 to 2018 while I was in graduate school at the University of Montana and working seasonally to help pay for school. I studied land-use planning in the geography department in pursuit of a master’s of science degree. During the summers I worked on a farm and a ranch in the Flathead Valley. Montana is my home and I attended graduate school here so that I would have the skills to help the people and communities of this state.

Being covered by expanded Medicaid while in graduate school meant that I could be a full-time student without a part-time job and avoid debilitating debt. For this reason, I directly oppose any changes that would add work and reporting requirements to Medicaid. These changes are punitive and only serve to kick people off of their health care. Rather than using state resources to help people access work, these requirements waste taxpayer money tracking hours people are already working.

Such requirements would have disqualified me because I spent months at a time working in corners of Montana that don’t have access to the internet nor cell service. It is impractical to expect people to do online reporting each month to maintain their health coverage. When I was in school full-time, I wanted to dedicate my full attention to my studies, my grades, and my next opportunity as a Fulbright Scholar. I shouldn’t be tasked with tracking my hours of work and school – I had enough on my plate.

Montana Medicaid already contains work and accountability components. I know, I’m on Medicaid. Let’s continue Medicaid expansion the way it is because it’s working.

— Jedd Sankar-Gorton, Whitefish

Children matter

In response to the letters concerning animal abuse and abortions being apples and oranges, I’d like to throw in my opinion.

Today in the United States approximately seven children will die of abuse. The actual rate is approximately 12 children. More than half of children who die, die of maltreatment but it’s much easier to label an autopsy with “undetermined.” I guess it’s because “sometimes kids just die” or “it’s just a kid” or family doesn’t want an autopsy as it may point to them as being neglectful. Once that undetermined cause and manner of death is branded on that autopsy, it’s impossible to change it in my experience.

Montana used to have one of the lowest child abuse death rates in the country and now is among the highest. My grandchildren Darby and Kiera died in 2010 after several calls to Children’s Services, but they did not feel the need to investigate those reports. The injuries my grandchildren had on their bodies include blunt force trauma, broken ribs, massive bruises and abrasions (on both), hair missing, pneumonia, brain edema (on both), choke marks around the neck and cigarette burns. Their autopsies still read “undetermined.”

The suspects in their deaths are in county jail in Oklahoma on felony charges for drugs and weapons. I have worked for nearly nine years to get justice for my grandchildren and those old statistics are burned in my memory.

Children have rights. The same as adults in this country, but they are denied those rights thousands of times a day by their caretakers, government entities, medical examiners, media and the average citizen.

Why is this happening? We have become a disposable society whose needs and wants are put ahead of little ones who need us to give them loving and caring childhoods raising children to become good citizens someday who will in turn raise their own children.

It’s hard. It’s really hard. Of course the greater part of parents are fantastic. But children need to be treated well as they are the future, and if a society cares more about pets than its own children, we will last but not live up to the potential we have.

If my grandson’s death had been properly investigated and tried his sister may still be alive.

It’s an ugly subject this abusing kids and easily ignored but these are different times. Children matter. We need to watch over them, even it they aren’t ours. Judge that person who abuses a child in a parking lot, as it’s sure to be worse for them at home. Report abuse. Report until something is done to help. Report by calling 911, and if nothing is done keep doing it. It is a good feeling to save the life of a child or making another little life better. It is our duty as human beings.

—Cheryl Hodges, Ledger

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