Skip to comments.Mutual Submission of Spouses?
Posted on 06/16/2004 2:21:16 PM PDT by bonaventura
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Sandy, how about a female perspective?
Why have Catholic women the world over abandoned their traditional role? Does this teaching really seem all that harsh?
Catholic women have abandoned nothing.
It's Catholic men who understand that their wives are on the same moral, intellectual, and spiritual plane that they are, and that mutual respect must prevail.
I don't think most married couples, Catholic or otherwise, think in terms of "submission." I can tell you that we, my wife and I, have never had one single discussion on the subject in 28 years (including courtship). We come to decisions mutually, after considering pros and cons. If one of us has a vested interest in a particular issue, that person usually prevails.
I don't see why there's this insistence on some marital infrastructure that most couples don't even think about. I can tell you that the Pauline admonition is not part of any marriage preparation that I've been involved in, and I've been involved for over 20 years.
The parts of the body serve each other:
1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
>>Wives should be subordinate to your husbands if that truth was already covered in Eph 5:21's statement Be subordinate to one another? Would it not be superfluous and confusing to specify one of the spouses as having to be in subjection to the other in the very next verse?<<
Because he was talking to women when he said that. Ya gotta repeat yourself a lot! :^) *duck and cover*
Seriously, Men are instructed that they must follow Christ's example, which is to sacrifice their lives for their wives. His life is sworn to the protection and providence of hers, and in that role, she needs to obey him, just as the President obeys the secret service. Since his life is forfeit to hers as a Christian, and since he IS also elsewhere told that they must submit to each other, he shall not use this authority in any purpose but for that which it is given.
On the other hand, Christianity would quickly be identified as a religion of "women and slaves," who had few rights in the Roman Empire. It was a liberation movement, but did not seek liberation through social agitation. Women and slaves were to convert their husbands and masters, not revolt against them. Women were instruted to submit not only in the instances where there was *mutual* submission (which was plainly commanded!) but also where they were married to pagan men who were retaining their worldly power.
When people struggled for basic necessities, the issue of spousal dominance was less: People did what they needed to survive, and those men who did abuse their power suffered as a natural consequence to the dysfunction in their home. However, most of society was nominally, but only meagerly, Christian. And in times of affluence, men wielded their authority unjustly, and the basic *external* social structure needed to evolve to maintain the eternal inate social structure.
What the Pope is asserting then, is a response to a society which has neither the natural pressures towards a functional division of familial authorities, nor a strong inherent legal bias against women.
He is not, however, negating the natural and ordained differences between man and women. If you read the theology of the body, he does draw distinct differences between men and women in the areas of socialization, sexuality, spirituality and providence, which are in perfect accord with the roles presented in the Pauline letters.
What the author has done is found a place where the Pope is dealing with mutual submission, which is in the bible, and falsely presented it as missing the rest of the teachings.
How odd that Sungenis manages to overlook 1 Cor 7:4:
"For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does."
Some may quibble that this verse appears in the context of conjugal rights. I answer that conjugal acts lie at the heart of the marital mystery. The theology that informs them informs and is inseparable from Christian marriage and ecclesiology as a whole.
Marriage is iconic, which is why it doesn't exist in heaven. Husbandly primacy is a consequence of the Fall, not inherent in marriage at the beginning. With the Church (consisting of Christians who're a "new creation") reconciled to God in Christ (the New Adam), Christian marriage is an icon of the paschal good news that all things are to be made new in Christ. Apart from the logical point that marital "obligations" are the forseeable consequences of a free choice (every bride says in effect "fiat mihi"), the insistence on approaching Christian marriage as a juridical problem is -- frankly -- idiotic, reflecting notions of Judaic legalism or even Islamic bondage. The wife is perfected and made free in her husband, not subjected, just as the Church is perfected in Christ who sets her free because he's the Truth.
Christ is risen, bonavertura. This changes everything.
The fact that so many fathers, doctors, and popes have articulated this would seem to be evidence that it is nothing like Judaic legalism, nor islamic bondage, and especially not idiotic. Your last sentence fails to make the point you would have us believe. You say the wife is perfected, not subjected, as the Church is perfected in Christ. The point you seem to be missing is that the Church IS subject to Christ.
"Christ is risen, bonavertura. This changes everything"
Christ was risen when Peter, Paul, Augustine, Clement of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, Origen, St. John Chrysostom, Theodoret, Tertullian, Ignatius of Antioch, Leo XIII, and Pius XI were writing on the subject as well. This seems to imply that everything is not, in fact, changed. So, your hypothesis about husbandly primacy being only a result of the fall doesn't seem to hold. This was also addressed in the article, though, so I will not rehash it.
"For the man is the head of the woman in perfect order when Christ who is the Wisdom of God is the head of the man"
"nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife"
Both you and Sungenis gloss over the point made repeatedly -- from Augustine through Pius XI -- that wifely obligation is entirely qualified by a corresponding husbandly duty. The wife's ordering to her husband is an icon of the Church's ordering to Christ. But what's essential here -- what both you and Sungenis glibly overlook -- is that the wife's duty is grounded in her husband's duty to be an authentic icon of Christ.
Christian wives are no more ordered to unchristian husbands than the Church is ordered to antichrists. In such cases, wifely obediance is reduced to little more than an act of martyrdom. In fact, as the Pauline Privilege (also strangely unmentioned in this analysis) explicitly provides, there's no bond of marriage when the unbelieving spouse systematically rejects the grace of the sacrament.
I'm sorry about your seeming obsession with marriage as legalistic and defined by power, rather than existential and informed by love. I'm especially sorry that you seem to have mounted this hobby horse to register your contempt for the present pope, but it just goes to highlight the way disordered views of marriage relate to disordered ecclesiology.
Your failure to respond over 1 Cor 7 noted, btw.
I hate to agree with you, but I finally do. This is the point I had been making since I started this thread. I have repeatedly pointed out that I do not see the marriage obedience issue as the husband lording over a wife who is silently shaking her head yes to his every whim (I have clarified this in several emails now as well).
My point was that the issue is rightly seen in the context of the husband being the image of Christ in the family, the wife being the image of the Church. With that imagery, I do not see how "mutual submission" can be applied, because in this "icon" as you call it, the submission is not obligated from both sides. This was the crux of the entire debate. It isn't a matter of whether both sides owe the other respect, charity, love, etc. They most certainly do, and I never claimed otherwise.
In your response now, you have laid it out clearly, and this largely, I think, because you dropped the mutual submission line.
Throughout, though, people have accused me of taking the position of the muslems, et al. This is absurd. It is also absurd that this opinion is reducing marriage to some legalistic power play rather than a sacrament which is an image of Christs love. If that is the way you reduce the last quote in the article from St. John Chrysostom, though, so be it. I think it is a beautiful outline for marriage, and would have to say is a perfect summary of my view (expressed more clearly than I am capable of, obviously).
"Observe again that Paul has exhorted husbands and wives to reciprocity...To love therefore, is the husbands part, to yield pertains to the other side. If, then, each one contributes his own part, all stand firm. From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield. (Homilies on Colossians, NPNF1 13:304)
I will not address your last paragraph, I think it is a clear misrepresentation of what I have been saying, and a fairly petty insult. Oh well, I've heard much worse.
Also note that I don't recall a reference to 1 Cor 7, though I will go back in the thread and look for educational purposes. Given how this has deteriorated, I'm not going to try to go back and repeat the same things over and over, though. No amount of my commentary will make things more clear, so none more will be provided. If your comment on 1 Cor 7 makes a good point, then consider the point taken.
Here's His Holiness Pope Leo XIII's statement on this subject:
"The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity."
Then by all means let me pick it up again.
Mutual submission in marriage is real and derives from the mutual consent of the spouses that, when it's authentic and made manifest in consummation, gives each spouse power over the other's body.
Look at it this way: if there were no mutual submission, a husband would be at liberty to divorce his wife at will. The Church of course maintains that he has no power to do so, having given himself to an irrevocable covenant. The image of submission is driven home by the very latinity of conjugium, which derives from jugum, meaning a yoke or collar for draft animals, and plainly expresses the idea that spouses are in harness together. I realise that you're arguing for a hierarchy of authority in marriage that images Christ's authority over the Church, and in a perfect marriage of unreserved obedience reciprocated by unstinted love you might have a case. I'll cheerfully concede in the case of the marriage of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. But most of us fall somewhat short of the awe and devotion Joseph had for his wife. Can you imagine him pulling rank on her? I can't. I really can't.
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