- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield (Mass.), July 9, 2014

It’s impossible to justify the Catholic Church’s decision to cover up the allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members that exploded like a July 4 firecracker several years ago. Sexual abuse in any form is a heinous act and has long-lasting repercussions for the victims. Church officials did not handle the scandal or its fallout well, and the higher-up officials have never held some of the perpetrators responsible.

Given that history and those circumstances, Pope Francis deserves credit for trying to deal with the situation in his own unorthodox way. Not only did he meet with six of the victims, he begged for their forgiveness and vowed to hold bishops accountable for their handling of pedophile priests.

Do the pope’s actions change what happened? No. In his remarks, the pope made no mention of the countless victims or their families around the world, or whether bishops and other prelates involved in the cover-up would be fired or demoted. But it is a start. Asking for forgiveness is one of the first steps in the long process of healing. Through his words and his actions, the leader of the Catholic Church has acknowledged that this traumatic situation took place, and that those involved will be held responsible. Again, that is an important first step. And, it is another example of the willingness that Pope Francis has shown to address difficult situations that the Church appeared to sidestep or avoid before he became the Church’s spiritual leader.

Hopefully, Pope Francis’ actions in all these situations signify a change in the old order, something that the Catholic Church desperately needs. He’s far from perfect; humans are imperfect. But the pope is willing to address challenges, not just sweep them under the rug. For that we should all be thankful.

The Times Record of Brunswick, Maine, July 10, 2014

Not a day goes by that the newsroom doesn’t hear something on our police scanner about another dog being left in a hot vehicle and being distressed by heat.

That we’re hearing such things is perhaps good news. People are more tuned in to the dangers of leaving a pet in a stifling car, where the temperature can rapidly rise to more than 130 degrees, than they were a few years ago. Concerned citizens are calling the police, and saving innocent lives.

Most of the calls come from shopping areas, especially places with large asphalt parking lots and little shade. Imagine sitting in a parked car with the window perhaps down an inch or two and waiting for someone to do his or her shopping.

Now imagine you don’t have access to water, and you can’t open the door if it gets too hot.

We know we want to spend every free minute with our pets, but please, no matter how much they beg to go with you, leave them at home rather than in a hot car, even for a few minutes.

Dogs can and should be left at home in the summer. Children, however, cannot be left at home.

There have been tragedies involving small children left in hot cars in recent months, too. The latest victim was a 15-month-old boy who had been left in a car for an extended period of time in Connecticut. He was just the most recent victim in a string of cases in which children have been left in cars, either accidentally or for convenience (or in one case, allegedly as a homicide) in which the children succumbed to heat stroke.

Heat stroke occurs when a child’s internal body temperature hits 104-105 degrees. The smaller the child, the more quickly it can happen.

In 2013, 44 children died nationwide from heat stroke from being left in a hot car.

About this time last year, a Maine father of four was arrested for leaving his children in a sweltering car while he went into a Family Dollar Store in Franklin, New Hampshire, with the intent to shoplift.

A Farmington woman left a 20- month old baby in a parked car in mid-August of last year while she shopped at Walmart.

In June of 2013, a Thomaston mother was charged with leaving her infant in a car while shopping.

The Maine children have been lucky - so far. None have died or been left with serious injuries. But in each case, the children were rescued by alert passers-by and police, and their parents face stiff fines or jail time. It could have easily gone the other way.

It is difficult to imagine accidentally forgetting a child in a car seat, but those things have happened, sometimes with tragic consequences. To avoid honestly forgetting a child, leave your purse, cellphone or wallet (or even your left shoe!) in the back seat when you strap the child in.

Never, ever, leave a small child alone in a car, not even for a few minutes, not even when you can see the car out the window the whole time. If you don’t want to wake your child, go home and do your errand at another time. Or trade child care with a neighbor so you can do your shopping alone while your child is being cared for.

And at home, lock your car to prevent a child from playing in it and being overcome.

Keep Maine children and pets safe this summer.

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