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John Paul II Warned About Dangers of Secular Feminism But Accepted of Some of Its Ideas: A New Book — “Wojtyla’s Women” — Explores the Role of Women Who Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II, Supported His Concept of New Feminism, and Changed the Catholic Church
The future Pope John Paul II told Polish Catholics before becoming pope that “we cannot leave the affairs of the Kingdom of God to women” and that “social advancement of women has in it a little bit of truth but also a great deal of error.” But he also accepted many ideas embraced by feminists.
/24-7PressRelease/ – SAN FRANCISCO, CA, June 17, 2008 – 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” as an alternative 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.” 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. While John Paul II was successful in raising awareness of the moral aspects of abortion through his campaign of “culture of life versus culture of death,” Ted Lipien points out that he 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), Christopher Dodd (D), Rudolph Giuliani (R), Dennis Kucinich (D), Bill Richardson (D); only Senator Sam Brownback (R) and Alan Keyes (R) 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. John Paul II would have been disappointed that abortion has not emerged in the U.S. as a major presidential campaign issue in 2008. Wojtyla’s campaign to promote natural birth control methods for women has not succeeded in any country, including his native Poland.
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 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 closest friends and their attempts to manipulate media coverage of his papacy.
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 lives in San Francisco.
Reviews of Wojtyla’s Women
Extremely detailed research into a heretofore unexamined aspect of the beloved Pope John Paul II’s life. This book is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the personal network of highly influential women who shaped John Paul II’s attitudes, particularly on the debate of women’s roles. Dr. Nancy Snow, author of Information War
Ted Lipien has written an incisive and penetrating book on the role remarkable women, such as the Albanian-born nun and Nobel laureate Mother Teresa, played in shaping John Paul II’s outlook on important and controversial issues that defined his papacy. Much of the ground that Lipien covers in his meticulously documented book is not familiar to students of John Paul II’s papacy. He presents new information on the Pope’s enduring relationships with women who had an enormous impact on his life, offers original interpretations, and makes a significant contribution in advancing the theoretical discussion on John Paul II’s papacy. WOJTYLA’s WOMEN’s greatest strength lies in the author’s impassioned analysis of astonishingly complex issues and events. Lipien’s landmark book opens new paths for other scholars and is essential reading for specialists as well as the wider public. Dr. Elez Biberaj, author of Albania in Transition: The Rocky Road to Democracy
I read Ted Lipien’s important book with enormous interest. Few persons are as qualified as he is to enlighten readers about Pope John Paul II’s Polish roots — and the impact that they had on his views on women. Lipien provides a stimulating analysis of the Pope’s ideas on gender roles and how John Paul believed the Church should deal with sexual issues. While he does not agree with many of the Pope’s stands on women, Lipien makes a laudatory effort to understand — and explain — them. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the relationship between feminism and Catholicism, a key issue of our times. Dr. John H. Brown, former U.S. diplomat in Poland