A New Book About Pope John Paul II and Feminism Also Deals with Cold War Spying at the Vatican and Attempts to Influence Reporting by RFE/RL and VOA
FreeMediaOnline.org, August 24, 2008, San Francisco — I included here more information about Wojtyla’s Women, my book on Pope John Paul II and feminism. In the book, I discuss at some length the attempts of the Polish communist secret police and the KGB to recruit agents among Pope John Paul II’s friends, as well as their attempts to influence the reporting of journalists working at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America. Some of these efforts were successful. Considering what has happened to the independent media under Mr. Putin’s leadership, there is little doubt that his secret police, the FSB, is just as busy now as they were when they were still Mr. Putin’s old employer, the KGB. (Mr. Putin is an ex-KGB operative.)
Some of the brave radio station owners in Russia told me in confidence that they had visits from the FSB officers who forced them to stop rebroadcasting VOA and RFE/RL programs. They were courageous to tell me about these visits because they could be prosecuted for revealing state secrets. Still, the Broadcasting Board of Governors cavalierly shuts down Voice of America radio broadcasts to Russia originating from Washington and thinks it is safe to do radio broadcasting from Moscow. RFE/RL journalists, many of whom are Russian citizens living in Russia with their families, are vulnerable to intimidation from the FSB.
Certainly, RFE/RL has many courageous journalists. During the Cold War, surrogate broadcasting was done from the West. But many journalists working within the Soviet Bloc became agents of the secret police and the majority were forced to write stories in support of the local regimes. The communist intelligence services even managed to recruit some agents who later worked for U.S. international broadcasters, although their number was very small. Any journalists and U.S. broadcasting resources placed within easy reach of Mr. Putin’s secret police are far more vulnerable than U.S.-based broadcasting and Voice of America journalists working in the U.S.
The BBG staff, some of whom know Russia quite well, should have advised the BBG members about these threats before shutting down VOA radio to Russia. It is also amazing that neither the BBG staff nor the Senate staff of Senator Biden did not see the implications of ending the VOA Russian radio broadcast in terms of political symbolism and U.S. ability to communicate quickly with the Russian people in any future crisis. It is also amazing that they did not see that such a crisis would come sooner rather than later. It did 12 days after they shut down VOA Russian radio.
My guess is that they did know about these risks, while some BBG members may have not, but their desire to take resources from VOA in order to boost RFE/RL was just too great for them to resist.
I believe RFE/RL is a great institution and should be supported. RFE/RL broadcasting to Russia has some advantages over VOA broadcasting, just as VOA broadcasting to Russia has some advantages over RFE/RL broadcasting. At this time, however, due to the BBG decisions from the era of Mr. Pattiz and his consultants, RFE/RL has been put in a very dangerous position in Russia. My understanding, based on conversations with various sources, is that the current RFE/RL president, Jeff Gedmin, is trying to repair some of this damage, but he has not yet developed a new concept of safe surrogate broadcasting to countries like Russia, where the secret police are basically in charge of the media.
Wojtyla’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church, a book about Pope John Paul II and feminism by international journalist Ted Lipien who had interviewed Karol Wojtyla, offers a unique perspective on the late Pope’s views on women and American society.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, June 24, 2008 — John Paul II warned about the dangers of secular feminism but accepted some of its ideas. A new book — Wojtyla’s Women — explores the role of remarkable women who shaped the life of Pope John Paul II, supported his concept of “New Feminism,” and changed the Catholic Church.
Ted Lipien’s new book, Wojtyla’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church, published this month by the UK publisher O-Books and available on Amazon, reveals for the first time the role of remarkable women in the life of Karol Wojtyla and their impact on his papacy and the Catholic Church. The book also explores John Paul II’s views on feminism, gender roles, love, sex, abortion, and contraception in the context of unprecedented threats against human dignity during his lifetime, from pre-World War II anti-Semitism to the Holocaust, Nazi medical experiments on women prisoners, and communist dictatorship.
The book shows how John Paul II, the most charismatic and influential Pope in centuries, reshaped many facets of Catholic thought. Yet, as Ted Lipien demonstrates, Church policy on women during John Paul II’s papacy remained deeply resistant to popular modern ideas on gender roles. Wojtyla’s Women explores John Paul II’s views on women, marriage, family, and sexual ethics from both feminist and conservative Christian perspectives. Previously untapped sources reveal the influence of his upbringing in Poland at the outset of the Twentieth Century, a time when deeply rooted traditions collided with rapid social change and new ideas, against a backdrop of war, genocide, and political oppression.
As the book reveals, Polish women were a remarkable and unexpected influence on John Paul’s understanding of gender issues and the Catholic Church’s theology. They were also the main force behind his advancement of New Feminism and Theology of the Body as alternatives to the Sexual Revolution and to radical and Marxist feminism in the West and in the communist world.
The future Pope John Paul II told Polish Catholics before becoming pope that “the affairs of the Kingdom of God” cannot be left only to women and that “social advancement of women has in it a little bit of truth but also a great deal of error.” John Paul II was strongly opposed to ordaining women priests.
But while he could not reach an understanding with liberal Western women because of vast differences in how he and they were shaped by culture and history, Karol Wojtyla nevertheless supported many ideas embraced by secular feminists and broke with many misogynist Christian traditions.
Wojtyla’s Women also analyzes the considerable impact of John Paul II’s views and papacy on the abortion debate in the United States and his conflict with the Clinton Administration over U.S. policies on birth control programs and abortion in the Third World. Lipien writes in his book that John Paul II was successful in raising awareness of the moral aspects of abortion through his campaign of “the culture of life versus the culture of death.”The book demonstrates, however, that Wojtyla’s campaign to promote natural birth control methods for women has not succeeded in any country, including his native Poland.
The author points out that John Paul II would have been appalled that the majority of U.S. presidential contenders in 2008 have been pro-choice, including the majority of those who are Roman Catholic: Joe Biden (D) who is now Barak Obama’s vice-presidential running mate, Christopher Dodd (D), Rudolph Giuliani (R), Dennis Kucinich (D), Bill Richardson (D); only Senator Sam Brownback (R) and Alan Keyes (R), among former candidates who are Catholic, are pro-life.
Barak Obama (D), Hillary Clinton (D), and Senator McCain (R) belong to Protestant Christian Churches. Both Obama and Clinton are strongly pro-choice, while McCain is pro-life.
Ted Lipien reports in his book that Senator Joe Biden, who is a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, had said that he is prepared to accept the Catholic Church teachings that life begins at conception. Ted Lipien points out that John Paul II would have been gravely disappointed that abortion has not emerged in the U.S. as a major presidential campaign issue in 2008.
Ted Lipien’s book also reveals Pope John Paul II’s deep mistrust of Western liberalism and his condemnation of the United States as “a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption.” In addition to abortion, he was particularly troubled by the growing support among Americans for the ordination of women priests and social and legal acceptance of gay marriages.
John Paul II doubted that the emergence of the United States at the end of the Cold War as the only superpower was good for the rest of the world and he strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Ted Lipien also reveals in his book how the KGB and the Polish communist security service recruited spies among John Paul II’s closest friends and their attempts to manipulate media coverage of his papacy. This part of Lipien’s book was cited in a recent news story about Senator Biden’s staff and the shutting down of the Voice of America radio broadcasts to Russia by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, BBG, shortly before the Russian attack on Georgia in early August. To see the news story, please visit www.TedLipien.com, Pope John Paul II and Women Blog, http://tedlipien.com/WojtylaWomen/, www.FreeMediaOnline.org, and Free Media Online Blog, https://freemediaonline.org/freemediaonlineblog/.
Ted Lipien is a former director of the Polish Service of the Voice of America and a journalist with more than 30 years of reporting and writing about politics, society, women’s issues, and the Catholic Church in Poland. He interviewed Karol Wojtyla shortly before the Polish cardinal became pope. Ted Lipien is also president and founder of FreeMediaOnline.org, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization supporting media freedom worldwide. He lives in San Francisco.
For more information, please visit his website: www.TedLipien.com.
Wojtyla’s Women is available for purchase on Amazon.