Part 37 Obedience within Marriage?
There is a very important practical teaching that has woefully been neglected for over five decades. The Magisterium and Bishops and priests have been silent about this matter, much to the disruption of right order within the marriage.
The family is a society. It involves more than one rational agent. Plurality is part of the beauty of creation. But plurality is not good simply for its own sake, otherwise every example of plurality would be good. But chaos is an example of plurality. Ordered plurality is good; chaos is evil. A society without order is chaotic, tottering on collapse.
Order among rational agents requires genuine leadership. Thus, there must be genuine leadership in marriage. Leadership is not “bossing” or “abusing”. Leadership is actively envisioning the good of the community with all who can give sound counsel, communicating the vision to all according to their capacity, and working to achieve this vision. Leadership thus entails responsibility and authority. As in any society, so in marriage there must be authority for this leadership. As revelation teaches, so the Church teaches that the leadership in the marriage devolves upon the husband: “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Eph 5:23). Christ, who laid his life down for his bride the Church, gives husbands the model by which to lead. This is far from bossing, machismo, self-centered tyranny. This is servant leadership. But genuine leadership with genuine authority it is also.
Leadership also entails obedience. If society is chaotic without leadership, so is the family. If the societal leader must be obeyed, so must the head of the family be obeyed. This is why Paul teaches: “As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands” (Eph 5:24).
Paul’s teaching is simple and very practical. Because society must have order, the wife must be subject to her husband. Because society must be imbued with love, because love must reign, husbands must give their lives to the good of the family, laying down their day, their appetites, their time, their selves for their wives and then children. Thus, a tender and well ordered society grows.