1. John Paul II’s Prescient 1995 Letter to Women: He wrote of ‘the long and degrading history . . . of violence against women in the area of sexuality.’

By Peggy Noonan, Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2017, Opinion

More men of the media have fallen in the reckoning over sexual abuse, most famously a bright, humorous, ratings-busting veteran anchorman, who reportedly had a switch on his desk that locked his office door so he could molest the women he’d trapped inside. He had no idea how to be a man.

Here is something to ground us in the good: Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Letter to Women, sent to the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing. As a document it has more or less fallen through history’s cracks. But it’s deeply pertinent to this moment and was written with pronounced warmth by a man who before he became a priest hoped to be a playwright. Here is what he said:

You would never be so low as to abuse women if you knew what they are and have been in the history of humanity: “Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage” in education and opportunity. Women have been “underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions.” Only a small part of their achievements have been documented, and yet humanity knows that it “owes a debt” to the “great, immense, feminine ‘tradition.’ ” But, John Paul exclaimed, “how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!”

And listen to this alarm—again, from 22 years ago: John Paul hit hard on “the long and degrading history . . . of violence against women in the area of sexuality”: “The time has come to condemn . . . the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object, and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence.”

There is more, and I urge you to read it, but it is a very modern document, a feminist statement in the best sense.

At the heart of the current scandals is a simple disrespect and disregard for women, and an inability to love them.

A few things on my mind as the scandals progress: Friends, especially of my generation, fear that things will get carried away—innocent men will be railroaded, the workplace will be swept with some crazy new Puritanism.

This would be bad. America takes place in the office, and anywhere America takes place there will be the drama of men and women. It is not wrong to fear it will become a dry, repressed, politically correct zone, no longer human.

But the way I see it, what’s happening is a housecleaning that’s long overdue.

Deep down you know what abuse is: You can tell when someone’s taking or demanding what isn’t his. By adulthood you should also know what friendliness, appreciation and attraction are. But it comes down to whether someone is taking or demanding what isn’t his.

So far, American journalists have been sober and sophisticated, and pursued justice without looking for scalps. Human-resources departments will have to operate in the same way—with seriousness and knowledge of human nature.


2. Pope uses word Rohingya in addressing refugees in Bangladesh in departure from his approach in Myanmar.

By Associated Press, December 1, 2017, 7:44 AM

Pope uses word Rohingya in addressing refugees in Bangladesh in departure from his approach in Myanmar.


3. Pope Francis’ Problem From Hell: The pontiff can help Myanmar’s Muslims, but the best way is behind the scenes. 

By Robert P. George, Mr. George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, was chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom between 2013 and 2016, The Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2017, Pg. A21, Opinion

Pope Francis was in Myanmar this week spreading the Word of God. Many observers wondered if he would use a specific word: Rohingya. Barring an unforeseen statement—always possible on the papal plane home—it appears the Holy Father won’t, though he alluded to the crisis the word evokes.

Rohingya is the name of a persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the nation once known as Burma, where about 88% of people practice the Theravada Buddhist religion. The Rohingya are Muslims loathed and feared by those who insist on calling them “Bengalis,” as if they were foreigners in their own country. They are also targets of various forms of legally sanctioned discrimination and humiliation. Recently Myanmar’s military authorities have subjected them to ethnic cleansing. This has left between 600,000 and 900,000 of Myanmar’s 2.2 million Rohingya as refugees in bordering Bangladesh.

When I served as chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, my colleagues and I spoke out forcefully for the Rohingya—always referring to them by name. We urged government officials to do the same. I still believe it was the right strategy.

Yet my experience helped me appreciate that sometimes speaking indirectly in public is advisable, and the best place to defend the persecuted forcefully is behind the scenes. Pope Francis and his advisers had to struggle over whether a more confrontational approach to the Myanmar government—one in which he would defiantly refer to the Rohingya by name—would backfire. It could lead to retaliation against the country’s even smaller Catholic minority and a deepening of the persecution of the Rohingya themselves.

Yielding a talking point to the regime had to be weighed against the risk of retaliation against the Catholic minority—or even deepening human-rights abuses against the Rohingya themselves. There is room to debate whether Pope Francis should have gambled on a more confrontational strategy. But no one should call him unreasonable for being cautious, especially when thousands of lives are at stake.


4. Iraqi Christians tell UN Christian presence is key to regional stability.

By Christopher White, Crux, December 1, 2017

In the midst of the U.S. bishops’ “Solidarity in Suffering” campaign, designed as a Week of Awareness and Education for Persecuted Christians, leaders from Iraq on Thursday urged the United Nations and the international community to recognize Christians as key to stabilizing the Middle East.

The Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations, the Knights of Columbus, and the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee on Thursday co-sponsored a UN panel called “Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region,” a discussion focused on improving the conditions for minority communities who have been previously driven out of the region and establishing a framework to allow them to return, settle, and prosper. 

In 2014, the Islamic State pillaged the Nineveh Plains, a region in northeast Iraq that has historically been inhabited predominantly by Christian communities. While ISIS has now been driven out and defeated, the situation remains fragile with many ethnic and religious minorities unsure whether they should risk returning and current residents considering if the worst is still to come.


5. Pro-Life Advocate Gabriella Gambino Joins Cardinal Farrell’s Vatican Team: A Vatican source describes the mother of five, who is a professor at the John Paul II Theological Institute in Rome, as ‘very competent, strongly pro-life and in line with the magisterium.’.

By Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, November 30, 2017

One of the two laywomen Pope Francis appointed Nov. 7 as undersecretaries of the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life is seen as a strong critic of “feminist-emancipationist” and gender ideologies, as well as a staunch defender of pro-life issues. 

Gabriella Gambino, associate professor of the philosophy of law at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, is known to be orthodox and competent, and this year she edited a book on how to overcome the crisis of identity — in particular, gender identity — affecting postmodern societies today.

The Holy Father’s appointment of Gambino to the dicastery’s section on life is the latest step in filling the leadership positions of the dicastery that was established Sept. 1 last year.

Already known at the Vatican, having assisted the previous Pontifical Council for the Laity on women’s issues, Gambino also specializes in bioethics, having obtained a doctorate in the subject at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome in 2000. She gained a degree in political science at the University of Milan in 1995.

Undersecretary Role

Gambino’s new position as undersecretary of the section dedicated to life issues will involve working with the secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Father Alexandre Awi Mello, to assist dicastery head Cardinal Kevin Farrell in managing the dicastery’s business as well as its human resources.

The dicastery, which replaced the Pontifical Council for the Laity and Pontifical Council for the Family, is responsible for projects relating to the apostolate of laity, families and the institution of marriage. It is also charged with organizing events, such as the World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Dublin in August 2018.

How much influence Gambino will have on its pro-life area will therefore be dependent on the head of the dicastery, as well as her own personal initiative, but she is expected to have an influence that will help keep the section on life focused on upholding Church teachings.