Forgotten Doctrines

Part 1

We have quite forgotten the Church’s teaching, grounded in revelation itself, on the subjection of the wife to the husband. This is most unfortunate, for precisely in our time is this truth called into doubt. Thus, domestic tranquility is disturbed, for good men and women fail to find this truth presented to them clearly and unambiguously. It simply goes without saying that this headship of the husband is one for the sake of service. Real headship it nonetheless is. But no one nowadays wants to take leadership. Society trains everyone away from it, except the usurping kind of leadership that undermines all natural right.

In any multitude, there must be order. Now, “consensus” can work much of the time, when there is perfect practical harmony. However, it is nearly impossible for there to be perfect practical harmony all of the time. Compromise and dialogue are virtues often enough. But none of these can guarantee that stability in which the matrimonial state flourishes. For the stability of the matrimonial state, it is then necessary for there to be one ultimate authority. And this authority, revelation and the order of nature indicate to be the husbands.

For the husband is less determined by his bodily fluctuations than is the wife, whose very closeness to her bodily fluctuations is also a strength for her, since by it she is uniquely attentive to the needs of the children and to concrete persons. The husband’s glance is far off, providing for the long range needs and plans of the family. Thus, the husband has his eye on the comprehensive factors affecting the family, and the wife on the real and urgent needs of the day. Since the comprehensive factors are architectonic, are overarching, these are the principles of rule; whereas the concrete matters are determined in light of the prudential supremacy of these principles. Hence, it is natural that the husband serve as ruler of the family, with gentleness, diplomacy, for the sake of the good, and yet really with authority.

There is ample Magisterial teaching on the headship of the husband, although for the past 50 years or more, there has been an unfortunate silence, a silence not even corrected by John Paul II. Thus, in our next post, a set of Magisterial teachings on the subject.