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Katie van Schaijik

Do husbands have authority over their wives?

Aug. 29 at 4:39pm

Here are three things we all agree on about marriage:

1) Men and women are different, and importantly so.  The sexes are not interchangeable.  The "genius" of masculiinity and feminity shape the roles of husband and wife.  Wives want their husbands to be men; men want their wives to be women.

2) Authority is not bad.  It does not imply metaphysical or moral superiority.  (The modernist rejection of all authority is the cause of much misery and moral confusion in the world.)

3) It's never okay to "Lord it over" another person, or to be domineering.  Whatever authority a person has should be exercised in a virtuous, Christilke way, viz., in service of others.

Here is what is in dispute:  Whether husbands have authority over their wives.  Clearly, they did historically.  Do they still?  I think the answer is no.  

To see better what I mean, consider the following examples of true authority:

I have authority over my young children.  If I tell them to do something, they ought to obey me, even if they don't understand or agree with my instructions.  They ought to obey me even I issue those instructions in an unloving, too-domineering way.

A soldier is responsible to obey his commanding officer, even if he thinks that officer's command is a bad idea, even if he thinks he will be killed doing it.  Unless what is being commanded is immoral or illegal, it is his duty to obey.

A religious sister has to obey her superior, even if she thinks her superior is in the wrong.  Suppose a nun thinks God wants her to write down her mystical experiences.  If her superior (who is maybe motivated by jealousy) tells her to instead undertake kitchen duties, then she must do as her superior tells her.  It is through that superior that God's will for her is revealed.

Is it similarly a wife's duty to obey her husabnd?  Is God's will for her revealed through his authority over her?  Suppose a wife wants to go to join a book club, or volunteer her time to do pro-life work, or spend some hours every day developing her talent for music or art.  Does she have to ask her husband's permission?  Would it be okay for him to forbid her to do any of these things?  

Suppose he even forbids it in a gentle, loving way:  "Even if you would enjoy those things, honey, I've decided that they wll take away too much time from your other duties, so, I'm sorry.  The answer is no."

What we would think of a man who talks to his wife that way?   Would we want to explain to the wife that even though she thinks her husband is wrong, she must obey him?  After all, Ephesians 5?  Or would we want rather to tell the husband he's got it all wrong.  He's his wife's husband, not her boss.  It's for him to love her as his life's companion, not to assign her duties.


 

Michael Healy

Whatever "headship" might mean--whether in Sheldon Vanauken's subtle sense of "an initiatory or leadership role" or something else--it won't do to offer obviously false authority parallels (parent-child, commanding officer-soldier, superior-religious sister, boss-employee) that would not be appropriate for husband and wife (and already rejected even in Casti Connibii), nor to erect straw-men based on obviously condescending examples (perhaps going back to superficial covenant community interpretations and ensuing resentments).

#1 - Aug. 29 at 10:34pm | quote

 

Rhett Segall

As a Roman Catholic I believe God speaks to us in the dialectic of Community, Scripture and Magisterium. Within the Magisterium there is the charism of infallibility, rarely called upon.

In the issue of marital authority as presented in Ephesians 5: 22  I am not aware of any definitive teaching of the Church.  I believe the matter does fall within the realm of the development of dogma.

I think the analogy of slavery is indeed relevant. "Slaves obey your master" is unequivocal. Nevertheless, such a principle would be abhorent to the contemporary Christian conscience.

What Paul did, I believe, was introduce the conjunction "as". Obey "as" Christ. Love "as" Christ. It was a conjunction that was to change everything! 

#2 - Aug. 30 at 8:52am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Michael, I am being completely sincere in trying to make clearer and more concrete why I reject (and think the Church rejects) the notion that a husband has authority over his wife.  

Nor am I being outrageous or charging at straw men.

That kind of authority and much heavier-handed kinds was, historically, exercised by husbands over wives.  This is exactly the kind of authority that was exercised in the Covenant Communities not very long ago.  

You were present at the same talk I was back in 1986 or 1987 when Steve Clark author of, Man and Woman in Christ, explained how in his community they what they call "active submission."  That means the wife is encouraged to give her input, before the husband makes the decisions. "Every team has to have a captain."

He based his theory on Ephesians 5.  It was embraced by thousands as God's plan for marriage.

We now recognize it as entirely unfitting.   Why is it unfitting?  That is what I'm trying to pinpoint.  These were good Catholic men.  They were not brutal; they understood themselves to be bound to love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

#3 - Aug. 30 at 9:42am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

If I am right that the Church has been undertaking a development of doctrine on this point, then it's no good to cite pre-couciliar documents or to amass, as Fr. Check does in his article, passages from saints and Christian thinkers from earlier eras.  (Keep the parallel with freedom of conscience in mind.)

It's not sufficient to stress that a husband ought not to be domineering or self-serving, but loving and self-sacrificing in his way of exercising leadership.

The question on the table is whether he in fact, as a matter of divine design, does have authority over his wife, such that she ought to be subject to him.

I say no. I say that a new appreciation of the dignity of women, the "original unity" of man and woman, and the nature of marriage have changed the Church's perspective in the modern era.  I say it's not just "sensitivity" to "modern ears" that has caused the Church to drop "obey" from the wedding vows, but a recognition that the previous understanding was not fully adequate to the mystery.

#4 - Aug. 30 at 9:54am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

Michael Healy, Aug. 29 at 9:34pm

Whatever "headship" might mean--whether in Sheldon Vanauken's subtle sense of "an initiatory or leadership role" or something else--it won't do to offer obviously false authority parallels...

I agree.  Authority in the context of a marriage need not mean a husband assigning duties to his wife, or issuing commands; or a wife needing to go to her husband for "permission"; or the husband serving as something of an oracle for his wife regarding God's will for her. 

This post seems to me to be framed around a false dilemma.

Further, it is a big claim to suggest that, for all practical purposes, there is really no meaning for us in the distinction that Paul made (husbands loving, wives submitting); that what he wrote is timebound and culturebound.  I'm not saying that's flat-out false, but that's it's a major claim that I don't think has been proven here sufficiently. 

I also do not think the Church, nor JPII himself, was saying that.  However he developed the teaching - and I agree that he has - I do not think he has done so by diminishing what the pre-couciliar Church taught, just as Fr. Check argued. 

#5 - Aug. 30 at 10:07am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn

Authority in the context of a marriage need not mean a husband assigning duties to his wife, or issuing commands; or a wife needing to go to her husband for "permission"; or the husband serving as something of an oracle for his wife regarding God's will for her. 

Then can you say what you think it does mean, Patrick?  Can you give examples of authority that do not involve or even permit the assignment of duties?  

I do not think he has done so by diminishing what the pre-couciliar Church taught, just as Fr. Check argued. 

Well, okay. We agree (I think) that developments in doctrine never imply a rejection of previous teaching, though sometimes they involve a revearsal of previous understanding and dramatic changes in culture and practice (as in the case of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion and "slaves obey your masters".)

I am a wife.  I've studied this question.  I've pondered it for decades. I want to be a faithful daughter of the Church.  

I nowhere find the Church instructing me to recognize my husband as having authority over me.  On the contrary, I find her explaining that he doesn't.

#6 - Aug. 30 at 10:20am | quote

 

bookworm1116

If I may comment, as a member of a covenant community I am very happy to see this discussion.  I have seen many difficulties occur in marriages where Ephesians 5 is misunderstood and misinterpretated.  My greatest sadness is seeing women who believe that their holiness comes from being obedient to their husbands, and the more obedient you are, the holier you are. Unfortunately, these teachings are still alive and well in the minds of the leaders and members of these communities. They emphatically state that the theology of the body is not magisterial teaching and say that the Wednesday audiences are John Paul's personal reflections. I have been told that we have two great minds here, John Paul II and Steve Clark.  My response, "As a Catholic woman, who do you think I will choose to listen to?" Any discussion I have had with leadership has been very disappointing.  Katie, you are so on target with your concerns and your comments.  You might wonder why I remain as a member of the community.  It is because there are relationships here that have been built over many years that are very valuable to me.  However, I'm not sure what the future holds.

#7 - Aug. 30 at 10:53am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn

Further, it is a big claim to suggest that, for all practical purposes, there is really no meaning for us in the distinction that Paul made (husbands loving, wives submitting); that what he wrote is timebound and culturebound. 

I don't claim that there is no practical meaning in the distinction. My claim is only that it does not mean that husbands have authority over their wives.  That aspect of it, I believe (following JP II) is timebound.  It no longer obtains.

What remains is an implicit appreciation of the natural differences between the masculine and the feminine.  The way a man "subjects himself" to a wife is different from the way a wife "subjects herself" to her husband.  And here, as I've said more than once before, the head/heart analogy is a good one.

In a rightly developed human person, "the head" (i.e. reason) isn't "in charge" of "the heart" (i.e. affectivity).  The two work together in harmonious and complementary ways.  Sometimes reason leads the affections; sometimes it is the affections (rightly understood) that lead.

#8 - Aug. 30 at 11:24am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

bookworm1116, Aug. 30 at 9:53am

I have seen many difficulties occur in marriages where Ephesians 5 is misunderstood and misinterpretated.  My greatest sadness is seeing women who believe that their holiness comes from being obedient to their husbands, and the more obedient you are, the holier you are. Unfortunately, these teachings are still alive and well in the minds of the leaders and members of these communities. 

I think many undersestimate how alive the problem is, and how it affects women to hear men, even now, even post-JP II, claiming authority over their wives.

One of the things that John Paul has convinced me of is that women ought not to permit themselves to be treated as anything less than fully self-standing persons. Like men, as persons, they are called to make a sincere gift of themselves in love.  They are not called to be subordinate.

#9 - Aug. 30 at 11:29am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

It’s difficult to explain, but let me try it this way: the sense I get from reading your example of a ‘no authority’ marriage via a wife wanting to join a book club, etc., but her husband objecting, implies (at least in my reading of you) a sense of separation or distance or non-intimacy that I reject and that eats away at the mutual deference that Paul spoke of.  Though we remain individuals of course, and though we have, in a sense, “our own lives” even when married, the two are now one, and so the considerations given about the wife and husband trying to work out their own way is at least potentially false.  The consideration ought to be not what I am allowed to do or what I allow another to do, but how am I going to love and lay down my life for the other.  The entire mindset could become self-serving otherwise.

...

#10 - Aug. 30 at 11:47am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

A caveat: if we take the stance implied above, then I think a wife could easily exert her own ‘authority’ so as to at least potentially get her ‘own way’ by an appeal to the ‘no authority in marriage’ view—“Since he can’t tell me what to do, I get to do what I want to do.” But the other side of that coin is not, “Yes, well if the husband has authority, then he will get his own way,” but that it isn’t about “authority” at all at the core of it. It is about love, mutual deference out of love, Christ loving His Church without reserve and His Church in turn loving Him.

Paul was not trying to establish the social ranking in the home, or prescribe the blueprint for how a marriage ought to look, but an ideal for how a husband and wife ought to relate to one another in response to their particular call, which is to mirror that relationship between Christ and the Church.  He speaks about a great mystery, not a rule of life or code of behavior.  Specifically, concretely, each couple needs to integrate and actualize that ideal, but the ideal remains nonetheless.

#11 - Aug. 30 at 11:49am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

[My post got posted out of order, so I'm deleting this entry...]

#12 - Aug. 30 at 11:50am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

If a couple has truly actualized the spirit of what Paul is saying (ex. the man is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church), then there will be no division or no brutal lordship, egoism or superior-underling dictating of ‘God’s will’, but instead that “veiled and loving headship,” which is only possible if both husband and wife love in the way Paul explains.  (Any attempt to discuss the text that bypasses that contingency is flawed.)

And, to that point, the principal responsibility here falls upon the husband—it is part of his authority.  It is part of the reason why he has given the specific charge to “love” (both should “love” of course).  He ought to be worthy of the “submission” that his wife is called to render to him just as the Church ‘owes’ Christ submission because His love ‘merits’ our respect and devotion.  It is a blessing to be ‘under’ a Lord so loving and good, not a burden. 

...

#13 - Aug. 30 at 11:51am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

There is something intrinsic to, and inherently good about, the distinction between husband and wife that Paul notes. I cannot pretend to spell out every implication of the mystery that Paul writes of, in part because of a personalist insight, if you will, that we are each unique and each marriage is unique, and so there is mold for how this is to be realized apart from the more abstract ideal Paul teaches.

I suppose the image of the "the head" (i.e. reason) and the "the heart" (i.e. affectivity) could be helpful, depending on how it is understood, though it also could lead into the kind of thinking you were trying to avoid before: that of assigning “roles” that a husband and wife ought to fulfill.  And that’s not what I (nor, I don’t think, Paul) meant.  And it’s more than sometimes “reason leading the affections; sometimes it is the affections leading reason”—how is that determined, after all?  Is it arbitrary?  What if there is disagreement over who even decides how to be led?

...

#14 - Aug. 30 at 11:51am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

I also don’t want to appeal merely to the “every tribe needs a chief” mentality, because that is the pragmatic and social ranking thinking that I’ve argued against, but it does warrant some consideration in its own right.

Still, it’s important to speak always from Paul’s point: he is concerned about conversion, about imaging the perfect Image of God, Christ, and His love.

#15 - Aug. 30 at 11:52am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick, to my way of understanding, authority as such implies social ranking.  I don't see any way of getting around that.

And just as a husband may (in the example I gave) understand himself to be exercising his authority not to get his own way, but in love, and for the good of his wife, so a wife may stand up to an assertion of authority not rebelliously, not to get her own way, but to stand on her own dignity.

Bishop Wojtyla once told young retreatants something I agree with entirely: Even revolution may be licit, provided it aims at establishing real truths and values, rather than simply tearing down the existing order.

Feminism goes wrong when it merely rebels against men; it's does well when it stands up for feminine dignity.

To be concrete:

If you agree that a husband may not assign duties to his wife or issue commands to his wife or veto his wife's decisions or lay down the law (all things that in normal understand belong to the role of authority), then just what does it mean to say he has authority over his wife?

#16 - Aug. 30 at 12:01pm | quote

 

atardiff

Katie, I'm glad we're talking about this. It has been a non-issue in my own marriage--I mean it just never comes up. But I'm wondering if I'm missing something. 

If I wanted to participate in an activity that my husband thought would take away from my duties, he would tell me what he thought, and I'd tell him how important it was to me, and we'd come to an agreement. The exact same thing would happen if he wanted to participate in an activity that I thought would take away from his duties. Both of us would ask the other before making a decision that affected the whole family. It's a matter of submission on both sides, but not of obedience. 

But it occurs to me  that this may not be enough. St. Paul makes it clear that married couples are supposed to be living symbols of the relationship between Christ and the Church. When I ask myself if our relationship is doing that, I have a sort of vague sense that it is, but I can't put my finger on specifics. This vagueness seems to indicate a failure. Shouldn't a living symbol be crystal-clear and radical?

#17 - Aug. 30 at 12:33pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn

 And it’s more than sometimes “reason leading the affections; sometimes it is the affections leading reason”—how is that determined, after all?  Is it arbitrary?  

Not infrequently, an individual experiences a dilemma.  My head says do this, my heart says do that.  

If the answer were given ahead of time: Always follow your heart, or always follow your head, we wouldn't have a dilemma, just a temptation.

In fact, we find that such dilemmas call for discernment.  Sometimes we end by deciding it's a "follow your heart" moment; sometimes it's a moment to silence the emotions and go with what reason dictates.

It is similar in marriage.  Disagreements invite the couple to deeper discernment, deeper sharing, closer listening to one another, deeper reliance on the grace of their sacrament.

In our marriage, both us recognize two things:

1) Jules is more level-headed, practical, and unflappable

2) I am more sensitive and inuitive

We appreciate these differences.  In a practical conflict (we have very few!), we discern, together.  Is this a moment where I rely on his steadiness and objectivity, or where he relies on my intution?

Sometimes it goes one way, sometimes the other.

#18 - Aug. 30 at 12:53pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

  Abby, so great to "see" you here!  

atardiff

It has been a non-issue in my own marriage--I mean it just never comes up. 

This is further evidence of a point I made earlier, viz. that "JP II marriages" are not lived in a hierarchical way.

It came up once very early on in our marriage, when we were both still under the influence of community teachings.  We were both so miserable afterwards, and so sure that the whole thing was wrong, that it's never come up again.

atardiff

St. Paul makes it clear that married couples are supposed to be living symbols of the relationship between Christ and the Church...Shouldn't a living symbol be crystal-clear and radical?

I suspect the vagueness you feel is a natural consequence of the fact that we're in a period of shifting ethos.  We're experiencing the cultural confusion that naturally surrounds the development of doctrine.

More than Christ and Church, JP II emphasized that spouses are a living icon of the self-giving union and communion of the Holy Trinity.  In that image, while the distinctness of persons remains, the "ontological gap" between divine and human doesn't.  They are consubstantial.

#19 - Aug. 30 at 1:04pm | quote

 

atardiff

Katie,

That's very helpful! What was disturbing me was that the way I understand and live Christian marriage doesn't reflect the hierachical nature of the cosmos (that sounds a bit silly when I put it that way, but there it is). But I see that although the cosmos is indeed hierarchical, everything is unified in the Incarnation...and it's specifically the relationship between Christ and the Church (and not, for example, more generally between God and man) that marriage is supposed to symbolize. 

Abby (sorry, I meant to sign my name last time)

#20 - Aug. 30 at 1:39pm | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

Katie van Schaijik, Aug. 30 at 11:01am

To be concrete:

If you agree that a husband may not assign duties to his wife or issue commands to his wife or veto his wife's decisions or lay down the law (all things that in normal understand belong to the role of authority), then just what does it mean to say he has authority over his wife?

I said above: "Specifically, concretely, each couple needs to integrate and actualize that ideal [that Paul writes of]...."

And: "I cannot pretend to spell out every implication of the mystery that Paul writes of...."

I then offered some additional points.  I do not know what it means, fully, for a husband to have authority (or "headship," if you will), though I have maintained that, whatever it means, it must be understood in light of Paul's call to love, and that we cannot expect to extract from the text something that it does not intend to offer: some recipe for social rank in marriage and a blueprint for how that ought to look in 'real life', apart from the more spiritual considerations Paul offered. 

...

#21 - Aug. 30 at 4:16pm | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

In terms of the remark about the Holy Trinity being the more central focus for spouses than Christ and the Church, in his talk from 8/11/82, JPII, commenting on Ephesians 5, said:

"The entire text of the Letter to the Ephesians in 5:21-33 is completely permeated with the same analogy. That is to say, the mutual relationship between the spouses, husband and wife, is to be understood by Christians in the light of the relationship between Christ and the Church."

Prior to this, in the same talk, he said:

"The author of the Letter to the Ephesians does not fear to accept those concepts which were characteristic of the mentality and customs of the times. He does not fear to speak of the subjection of the wife to the husband. He does not fear (also in the last verse of the text quoted by us) to recommend to the wife that "she respect her husband" (5:33). It is certain that when the husband and wife are subject to one another "out of reverence for Christ," a just balance will be established, such as to correspond to their Christian vocation in the mystery of Christ."

...

#22 - Aug. 30 at 4:19pm | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

"Nowadays our contemporary sensitivity is certainly different. Our mentality and customs are quite different, too, as is the social position of women in regard to men. Nevertheless, the fundamental moral principle which we find in the Letter to the Ephesians remains the same and produces the same results."

But more importantly, a few talks later, I think he gives an insight into what "authority" or "headship" may mean in marriage.  Building on the notion that husbands are to love their wives as Christ does His Church, JPII focuses on sanctification, and charges, I believe - gives authority to - the husband to sanctify his wife.  The husband is addressed specifically in the Scripture text - JPII says:

"The expression "to present to himself" seems to indicate that moment of the wedding in which the bride is led to the groom, already clothed in the bridal dress and adorned for the wedding. The text quoted indicates that the Christ-spouse himself takes care to adorn the spouse-Church. He is concerned that she should be beautiful with the beauty of grace, beautiful by virtue of the gift of salvation in its fullness, already granted from the moment of the sacrament of baptism."

#23 - Aug. 30 at 4:33pm | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

This is in conjunction, I believe, with what I wrote earlier in comment #13. 

JPII would write later, "Love obliges the bridegroom-husband to be solicitous for the welfare of the bride-wife. It commits him to desire her beauty and at the same time to appreciate this beauty and to care for it."

This again is an implication of that loving authority that the husband is charged with (Why aren't wives addressed in this manner if there is nothing intrinsically and forever distinct about the husband's charge?).

It is false to try to understand the notion we've been discussing in isolation, or to establish some ready-made, practical formula from the text.  Whatever that intrinsic difference in this "mystery" Paul writes about means, it is concerned with, as is the whole of Ephesians 5 (beyond the marital verses), sanctification and it is built upon Christ specifically - His love for the Church.

#24 - Aug. 30 at 4:39pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn, Aug. 30 at 3:39pm

This again is an implication of that loving authority that the husband is charged with (Why aren't wives addressed in this manner if there is nothing intrinsically and forever distinct about the husband's charge?).

Patrick, you here assume the very point in dispute, viz, that the husband has authority over his wife.

I have said and say again that I agree completely with the Pope and all here that the husband's role is distinct from the wife's role. 

What I deny is that he has authority over her. 

#25 - Aug. 30 at 7:13pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn

I said above: "Specifically, concretely, each couple needs to integrate and actualize that ideal [that Paul writes of]...."

And: "I cannot pretend to spell out every implication of the mystery that Paul writes of...."

I then offered some additional points.  I do not know what it means, fully, for a husband to have authority (or "headship," if you will)

What I'd like to see is some general principles and/or examples that show better what you have in mind.

#26 - Aug. 30 at 7:15pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn

In terms of the remark about the Holy Trinity being the more central focus for spouses than Christ and the Church, in his talk from 8/11/82, JPII, commenting on Ephesians 5, said:

"The entire text... in the light of the relationship between Christ and the Church."

Here he is commenting to the passage in Ephesians.  I had referred to his overall teaching on man and woman, as given in Theology of the Body

"The author of the Letter to the Ephesians does not fear to accept those concepts which were characteristic of the mentality and customs of the times. He does not fear to speak of the subjection of the wife to the husband. He does not fear (also in the last verse of the text quoted by us) to recommend to the wife that "she respect her husband" (5:33). It is certain that when the husband and wife are subject to one another "out of reverence for Christ," a just balance will be established, such as to correspond to their Christian vocation in the mystery of Christ."

 My understanding of this passage is different from yours. I take him to be making my case. :)

#27 - Aug. 30 at 7:22pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

I read JP II, in the above quote, to be attributing the "imbalance" (i.e. that only the wife is explicitly called by Paul to subject herself) to "the mentality and customs of the times".  The balance will come over time, in two ways: in the individual couple, and in cultural and society.

#28 - Aug. 31 at 8:46am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

Katie van Schaijik, Aug. 30 at 11:01am

And just as a husband may (in the example I gave) understand himself to be exercising his authority not to get his own way, but in love, and for the good of his wife, so a wife may stand up to an assertion of authority not rebelliously, not to get her own way, but to stand on her own dignity.

If a husband is truly acting in love, which is what Paul is principally charging him to do, then there would be no threat to his wife's dignity.  I'll just say again that Paul is writing about an 'ideal' (within the context of a great mystery), for lack of a better phrase.  The entire dynamic he speaks about for a husband and wife is contingent upon understanding the primary notion of loving as Christ loves His Church.  "Love never fails."

I see that Scott Johnston has (I believe anyway), in Michael's latest post, made the point I've been making here, so I'll leave things be. 

#29 - Sep. 1 at 7:39am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn, Sep. 1 at 6:39am

If a husband is truly acting in love, which is what Paul is principally charging him to do, then there would be no threat to his wife's dignity.  

Love doesn't threaten her dignity; an assertion of authority over her does, no matter how lovingly it's done.  

Authority has no place in the spousal relation.

#30 - Sep. 1 at 7:54am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

I hesitate to ask, are we talking of authority with regard to the relation between husband and wife in their "marriage" or with regard to father as mother in their "family"?  Is there a difference between husband as "head" of the marriage and husband as "head" of the family?  I think I understand that in the case of "authority" the individual cannot speak in his own name, but by virtue of an office (munus, gift) or, in modern jargon, of a "role." In the case of husband and wife in their marriage, each speaks in their own name, whether to each other or "as one" to third parties, but still in their "own name." In the case of the family, the father speaks "in the name of God" when he speaks as "head of the family;" so too the mother when she speaks as "its heart."

I have this on the authority of my wife.

Best,

Damian 

#31 - Sep. 4 at 10:45pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Damian, you are always welcome here.

I don't quite see how the distintion you draw resolves the issue.  Like von Hildebrand's between the order of life and the order of love, and Michael's above between the I/Thou and the We Communion aspects of marriage, this distinction seems to aim at preserving an element of the tradition that has been subsumed by the deeper vision of JP II.

It also seems somewhat artificial.  I don't see how a husband can be understood to be the authority in a family without also and at the same time having authority over his wife.

Children are of course under the authority of their parents.  And mothers and fathers generally exercise their authority in different and complementary ways.  

#32 - Sep. 5 at 8:25am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Oh wait.  I think Michael made the distinction this other thread.

#33 - Sep. 5 at 8:46am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Thank you for your response, Katie.

My hesitation has grown to trepidation and prudence dictates that I withrdaw my question, since it was only a question intent on a distinction and not the intention of preserving an "element" of the tradition. Perhaps there was an implied intention fo situating the "element" in its proper place precisely because it seems to have been misplaced.

As in approaching a porcupine I tentatively and cautiously propose, in the form of a question, does 'subjection' in love to a spouse imply the subjection to an 'authority'? Can the one to whom "subjection" is given demand the self-giving? Or, does the one who says, "Thine,"  the 'word' of subjection speak in his [yes, "his"] own name?  Do parents who speak "with authority," -  speak in their own names, or only "in" and "from" the office that is granted in an act of God distinct from the one in which he gives each of us the dignity of being persons and thus in each case "my own"?

I too am against artificial concepts. One of these is the sundering of what God has put together, authority and love, in the creative Word, "Thine" as both imperative and imprecative.

#34 - Sep. 5 at 10:50am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

How can you compare mild-mannered me to a porcupine?!  And why so circumspect, dear Damian?  If you think I have misunderstood something or misplaced something, do kindly tell me right out.

If I understand you, I agree that authority and love go together.  And when spouses give themselves to each other in marriage, they do place themselves under authority (each other's and God's).  

I don't understand JP II to be denying that a husband has authority over his wife so much as to be revealing that she also has authority over him.  It is not that she is no longer subject to her husband, but rather that he is also subject to her.

What is established in the vision he unfolds is not the abolition of authority in love, but rather the perfect reciprocity of spousal love and the equal dignity of man and woman. He is no more over her than she is over him; she is no more subject to him than he is subject to her.  

What is abolished is the former hierarchical order.  

No one may demand self-giving of anyone else, though marriage, as such, demands it. Parenthood is an office under God, yes.

#35 - Sep. 5 at 11:30am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Or, better, both motherhood and fatherhood can be understood as offices.

#36 - Sep. 5 at 11:42am | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Because porcupines are mild mannered and beautiful and they think for themselves.

#37 - Sep. 5 at 12:47pm | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

Rushing in where Damian fears to tread ;-)

Katie van Schaijik, Sep. 5 at 10:30am

I don't understand JP II to be denying that a husband has authority over his wife so much as to be revealing that she also has authority over him. It is not that she is no longer subject to her husband, but rather that he is also subject to her.

I don't think the word "authority" still applies in this case. At least not in the ordinary sense which implies an inequality not present between the spouses.

#38 - Sep. 5 at 1:14pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Jules van Schaijik, Sep. 5 at 12:14pm

Rushing in where Damian fears to tread ;-)

Katie van Schaijik, Sep. 5 at 10:30am

I don't understand JP II to be denying that a husband has authority over his wife so much as to be revealing that she also has authority over him. It is not that she is no longer subject to her husband, but rather that he is also subject to her.

I don't think the word "authority" still applies in this case. At least not in the ordinary sense which implies an inequality not present between the spouses.

True, the sense of authority is fundamentally changed.  Wojtyla/JP II speaks (if I remember rightly) of the way, in marriage, I transfer my self, my "I" to my spouse.  I no longer belong to myself—at least in a sense—but to him (I mean to you, Jules.)  I am responsible for him and to him.  And he is likewise responsible for me and to me.

This view of conjugal love is fundamentally opposed to that of the secular feminists who view marriage as a kind of business contract.

#39 - Sep. 5 at 1:38pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

He who fights and runs away ....

I reserve a right to return to the fray on a future day

In the meantime, to raise another hesitant question - in view of the fact that a certain theme - authority - was mentioned but not respected:

From the perspective of a man, does not the state of "being husband" constituted by the state of "belonging to" and thus being "property" of the woman, and thus excluding his authority "over" her since she is now the "sovereign owner" - I will not rever to the antedeluvian word, - "his queen"? Does this status invovle his choice? Her choice?

From the perspective of the child: is not the status of "being subject" to its parents a function of their being placed in the office of parent and entrusted with a task charged by the "sovereign owner" of the child? His choice; her choice? Or God's choice and therefore "His authority?" What is authority, anyway?

Lest hidden intentions be attributed: whom do we complain to when the automobile does not function as made? The passengers? The owner , who does not follow maintenance schedules? Or the driver who takes us for a ride?

#40 - Sep. 5 at 3:24pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Katie van Schaijik, Aug. 30 at 8:42am

That kind of authority and much heavier-handed kinds was, historically, exercised by husbands over wives.  This is exactly the kind of authority that was exercised in the Covenant Communities not very long ago.  

....

We now recognize it as entirely unfitting.   Why is it unfitting?  That is what I'm trying to pinpoint.  

 That "kind" of authority.... this is exactly the "kind of authority"?

Is it an instance of authority at all, not to speak of a "kind" of authority. What other "kind" is there? A discussion of the species presupposes the genus. A simple designation of "one kind" as bad and another as good tells us nothing about authority, much less what makes it bad or good.

Do I have it right,  that Christ "spoke with authority"?  Does this change even if it is considered, in its conemporary jargon, as "imposing his opinions on others" or "lording it over them"? I just wonder whether a loving husband can "speak with authority" to his dearly beloved wife? If so, does it involve mutuality with regard to the matter spoken of?

Please note the questions.... I am not taking sides, Jules!

#41 - Sep. 5 at 3:42pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

* This is a repsonse to comment #40

I can't quite follow your meaning, Damian.  Can you spell it out a little more fully?

Surely there's no question that we choose our spouses, while we don't choose our parents.  You must be driving at something else (speaking of cars), something I'm not getting.

And meanwhile, let me ask you something too: Do you think the Church teaches that husbands have an office of authority over their wives?

#42 - Sep. 5 at 3:43pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Damian P. Fedoryka, Sep. 5 at 2:42pm

 That "kind" of authority.... this is exactly the "kind of authority"?

The kind indicated in my example.  The kind that comes from having an office of responsibility. 

There is another kind.  The kind that is a quality of a person.  For instance, a person who has acquired deep and broad knowledge in a given field might be considered an authority in that field.  I remember the nearly overwhelming impression of moral authority that attended Solzhenitsyn when he came to speak in Liechtenstein.  

Then there is the all-important difference between human authority and divine authority.

I just wonder whether a loving husband can "speak with authority" to his dearly beloved wife? If so, does it involve mutuality with regard to the matter spoken of?

A loving husband can certainly speak with authority (in the second sense) to his wife, just as she can to him.  

Again, I in no way deny that the one who loves acquires authority for the one he loves.

What I deny is that the office of husband is over the office of wife.

#43 - Sep. 5 at 4:08pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

Katie van Schaijik, Sep. 5 at 2:43pm

Iwe choose our spouses, while we don't choose our parents.  You must be driving at something else (speaking of cars), something I'm not getting.

 I driving at: we don't choose who has authority over us.

Thus, speaking of cars, we complain to their "sovereign maker" ... if there is an authority at all in the human dimension it is only "by authority" of God, who shared his "dominion" with us. 

Illustration:  I dont' need a distinct act of authorization to defend myself. . A distinct - and separate authority - is required for punishment of the aggressor. An "office".

Does it follow that IF a "father" has authority over the family and threfore over the children and the "mother" that he can punish them after the fact of "disobedience"?

Katie van Schaijik, Sep. 5 at 2:43pm

And meanwhile, let me ask you something too: Do you think the Church teaches that husbands have an office of authority over their wives?

 I will answer only if you are ready to accept the teaching blindly, on faith ... on authority.

#44 - Sep. 5 at 4:10pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Damian P. Fedoryka, Sep. 5 at 3:10pm

I driving at: we don't choose who has authority over us.

Humanly speaking, sometimes we don't, sometimes we do.  That all human authority derives from God I of course don't dispute.  But neither do I see how it's to the point.

 

Katie van Schaijik, Sep. 5 at 2:43pm

And meanwhile, let me ask you something too: Do you think the Church teaches that husbands have an office of authority over their wives?

 I will answer only if you are ready to accept the teaching blindly, on faith ... on authority.

 Here at the PP, we believe with Newman that the truth emerges from "clash of mind with mind" and with Wojtyla that "love comes from collision".

I consider frankness a courtesy.  Coyness is maddening.  (Watch out for my quills!)

#45 - Sep. 5 at 4:22pm | quote

 

Damian P. Fedoryka

To be frank, in one sense, there seems to have been neither clash nor collision. If there is an "office" of head of family, - not of wife - it would not be something exercised by the husband in his own name as husband; it would have to be in the name of God, by the authority of God. If there is an "office" of heart of family, it would not be something exercised by the wife in her own name as wife but on the authority of God.

The reason I think no real clash of :"mind with mind" has occured is that what I have proposed in the form of question dealt with the authority that belongs to the office of "father's authority" over the family has been consistently retranslated and understood as the "husband's authority" over the wife. In that sense, my question was ignored. I have not proposed an answer. Nor have I given any direct or indirect indication of appealing to Church teachings "that husbands have an office of authority over their wives."

No discourtesy was intended. I do take responsibility for the for the impression of coyness and apologize for it.

#46 - Sep. 5 at 5:03pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Well, it's hard to clash with someone who won't say what he holds. You can't say I haven't done my part! :)

The reason I think no real clash...has occured is that what I have proposed in the form of question dealt with the authority that belongs to the office of "father's authority" over the family has been consistently retranslated and understood as the "husband's authority" over the wife. 

I wouldn't say I ignored it. I said that I don't see how the husband can be considered the head of the family without also being the head of his wife. I also said (I think) that I find it—like DvH's distinction between the order of love and the order of life—unsatisfying in comparison with both the vision given in JP II, and in the experience of marriage. 

And, after all, the question I raise in my post—about the relation between the spouses—is the one you are declining to answer.  You are of course perfectly free not to answer it.  But it is frustrating to have my views questioned and challenged by someone who apparently doesn't want to reveal his own.  

I say it all with respect and affection.

#47 - Sep. 5 at 7:44pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

I've also said in several places (I can't remember whether on this thread or the other or both) that I like very much the head/heart analogy for husband and wife, provided it's interpreted with a von Hildebrandian appreciation of the heart as on an equal spiritual rank with the intellect, and as reflecting the natural differences and complementarity between man and woman, and as not suggesting that the husband has authority over his wife, except in the sense that she also has authority over him.

The head has powers and excellences that the heart lacks and vice versa.  

Both parents equally have authority over their children.

#48 - Sep. 5 at 7:57pm | quote

 

WebGreg

Similar questions around my marriage have brought me here. I must agree with only those who see the Godhead of authority as the best family model. The creator knew what would work best; that a husband and wife be accountable to each other, and maintain a purity - that exposes the world's ever-indescent appitites. A husband must give himself for his wife's every need - with understanding - but also with firmness of logical leadership, not tyranny. A wife should depend on her husband's leadership, not tyranny, leadership and avert any struggle for the wheel - thus causing confusion and rebellion. By all means - choose your husbands well. Choose your wives well and trust God before and after the occasional argument. Even our Lord Jesus Christ pointed every man and woman to the leadership of God the Father - for our salvation. He had authority solely because He Himself was under authority! And let us not forget that Satan only recognizes order and a godly standard - not loose-fitted partnerships -- that can fail to compromise. Thus, the principal stands - a head cannot live without a body and a body cannnot function without it's head. 

#49 - Oct. 26 at 8:39pm | quote

 

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