Published: September 17, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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In Friday’s commentary (Right Message, Wrong Moment), I sided with Serena Williams’s point about a double standard that women are held more accountable for their bad behavior than men. I was wrong.

Near the end of this year’s women’s U.S. Open final, Williams was fined $17,000 for three code violations in the finals against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, her first Grand Slam win.

“The tournament referee’s office Sunday docked Williams $10,000 for ‘verbal abuse’ of chair umpire Carlos Ramos, $4,000 for being warned for coaching, and $3,000 for breaking her racket,” the Associated Press reports.

At the post-match press conference, Williams said, “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’ ”

However, as Saturday’s New York Times story makes clear “…figures, obtained by The New York Times, show that from 1998 to 2018 at the four Grand Slam events, men have been fined for misbehavior with much more frequency than women with one significant exception: coaching violations. …

“Men have been fined 646 times for racket abuse and 287 times for unsportsmanlike conduct. Women have been fined 99 times for racket abuse and 67 times for unsportsmanlike conduct during that span.

“The disparities are similar for audible obscenity fines (344 for the men, 140 for the women) and, most relevant to Williams’s complaint, verbal abuse (62 for the men, 16 for the women). …

“That does not apply to coaching,” The Times points out, “for which women have received 152 fines over the 20-year span, compared with 87 for men.”

Williams’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, admitted to using hand signals, but wasn’t sure she saw them.

In last Wednesday’s commentary (Thou Shalt Not…), I discussed the mounting pressure on Pope Francis to act after the release of a devastating Pennsylvania grand jury report which said, in part, “All of [the victims] were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all. Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible not only did nothing: They hid it all.”

Religion News Service reported (Sept. 13), that Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. … asked Pope Francis to accept his resignation…

“The cardinal has been under heavy pressure to resign ever since the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released in August, in which Wuerl was criticized for his handling of abusive priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh (1988-2006). He is the first U.S. cardinal to resign his archdiocese as a result of the abuse crisis since Cardinal Bernard Law did so in 2002 for his failure to deal with abusive priests in Boston.”

Additionally, The New York Times reported (Sept. 12), that “Pope Francis summoned bishops from around the world to Rome for an unprecedented meeting focused on protecting minors. …

“News of the pope’s summons came as a study commissioned by the church in Germany revealed the abuse of thousands of children by more than a thousand clergymen there for decades. The study was due to be published later this month, but was leaked,” The Times writes. “Now, with cases of priests sexually abusing children emerging in Chile and the Philippines, the Vatican may finally be adopting an international approach.”

The extraordinary conference will take place from February 21 to the 24, 2019.

“ ‘It’s a crucial decision by the pope because the conferences play a crucial role in implementing all the prevention measures to protect against sexual abuse in the church,’ said Prof. Ernesto Caffo, a member of the pope’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“Professor Caffo said the conference would focus on training bishops to spot abuse, hold one another accountable and to intervene. They will also be taught to listen to victims. …

“On Thursday, the pope is to meet at the Vatican with a group of leading bishops from the United States who are seeking an investigation into why one of their most prominent colleagues was allowed to ascend to a top position in the American church, despite allegations that he had sexually abused seminarians.

“Reports of misconduct by that prelate, Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., led to his resignation as cardinal.”

Will the conference lead to the necessary reforms millions of Catholics and some Church leaders have called for?

Will Francis regain his momentum of compassionate leadership that he promised?

Will his actions help regain the trust of millions of Catholics?

We’ll see.


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