Skip to comments.Essays for Lent: Marriage
Posted on 04/04/2012 8:26:59 PM PDT by Salvation
by Sebastian R. Fama
In recent years the institution of Marriage has increasingly come under attack. Some consider it to be an outdated relic from the past. Some think of it as an unnecessary formality while still others see it as something that "was created for the benefit of men at the expense of women."
Isnt it true, critics will ask, that women are required to vow blind obedience to their husbands? No they arent, at least not in the Catholic Church. To begin with the Church does not allow people to write their own vows. Marriage is an ecclesial affair, not a private or personal one. Vows are not to be reduced to subjective feelings or ideas but rather are objective formulae of revealed truth. While there may be some slight differences from country to country, Catholic vows essentially consist of the following:
I, _______, take you, _______, for my lawful husband / wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
The "blind obedience" objection is based on a misunderstanding of Ephesians 5:22 which reads in part: "Wives, be subject to your husbands." If we only focus on verse 22 the critics seem to have a case. However, if we look at the entire passage we come to a very different conclusion.
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives be subject to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one." This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Note that Paul starts off his comments with the words: "Be subject to one another" so a husband and wife are to submit to one another. However, the manner in which they are to submit to one another differs. In verses 22-24 Paul explains how a wife is to submit. In verses 25-30 he explains how a husband is to submit.
Now it is true that Scripture assigns the husband a leadership role. But this does not entitle him to be a dictator or taskmaster. Jesus makes it clear that to mistreat others is to mistreat Him (Matthew 25:40). The leadership role that God has in mind here is more along the lines of what the military would call a "Point Man." When soldiers go out on patrol in a war zone the point man literally leads the others. If they walk into an ambush he gets the brunt of the attack. It is a position that could require him to give his life for those he leads.
Keep in mind that the husband vows to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. And how did Christ love the Church? He healed the sick, fed the hungry and He even washed the feet of His apostles. In a final act of love and humility He willingly submitted to torture and death on a cross so that we, his bride, might have eternal life.
St. John Chrysostom advised husbands to "Love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church Take the same provident care for her as Christ takes for the Church. Yes, even if it should be necessary for you to give your life for her, yes, and to be cut into pieces ten thousand times and to endure and to undergo any suffering whatever do not refuse it" (Homily 20 on Ephesians circa 400 AD).
Jesus said in Matthew 20:28 that he came to serve and not to be served. Likewise, husbands are to be servants. You see the husband only gets to be the leader if he is a servant. God gives no man a license to abuse his wife in any way. Indeed the Vatican has proclaimed: "The battle of the sexes and, particularly, the subjugation of women is the result of original sin and not of God's original design for creation" (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World).
A husbands leadership also includes having the final say in instances where there is an unresolved disagreement. This is necessary to ensure harmony in the family and should present no problem as long as the husband follows Christs example as explained above. The husbands role is not a regal privilege but a necessary responsibility.
This sort of arrangement is not unique to marriage. Jesus sets the same standard for Church leaders. In Matthew 20:26-27 He tells His apostles: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave." Accordingly the popes have referred to themselves as the servant of the servants of God. All Christians are given a similar command in Philippians 2:3: "Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves." If a man is obligated to have this attitude toward strangers, think how much more this would apply to the woman he has committed his life to.
But what if a husband neglects his duties? In his encyclical entitled "On Christian Marriage," Pope Pius XI wrote the following: "If the husband neglects his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family" (no. 28).
What if the husband turns out to be a tyrant? Does the "for better, for worse" clause require a wife to accept her situation and make the best of it? The simple answer is no, of course not. The Church actually suggests that the two should separate. Once again Pope Pius XI: "For in certain circumstances imperfect separation of the parties is allowed in order to safeguard the education of the children and the well being of the family and to remove all those evils which threaten the married persons, the children and the state" (no. 89).
A note of warning: This essay addresses the question of marital responsibilities in general terms. It should not be used to justify any drastic action. Such decisions should be made only after speaking with a competent priest or counselor.
Marriage requires a great deal of work and dedication. That is why Jesus raised marriage to the level of a sacrament. In the sacrament of matrimony the couple receives graces which specifically enable them to live the married life. "I can do all things in Him [Jesus] who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).
Some are of the opinion that couples who live together can be just as committed as married couples? Surely everyone is entitled to an opinion. But opinions dont change reality. And reality is where we live. On average, couples who live together (cohabitation) fare much worse than married couples do. Sixty percent of cohabiting couples will eventually marry. Unfortunately, the probability of divorce for cohabiters is 200% greater than those who did not cohabit prior to marriage (Family Institute, Duquesne University). Furthermore, a study following more than 11,000 British children from birth through age thirty-three concluded that "a parental divorce during childhood or adolescence continues to have a negative effect [on mental health] when a person is in his or her twenties or thirties" (Andrew J. Cherlin, P. L. Chase-Lansdale, C. McRae, "Effects of Parental Divorce on Mental Health Throughout the Life Course," American Sociological Review 63 (1998), 239-249).
Marriage is an essential part of a stable society. Married fathers are, on average, more committed to their children than are unmarried fathers. Studies show that marriage contributes positively to the emotional, physical and economic health of men, women and children and thus to the culture as a whole.
Cohabiters [who eventually marry] exhibit lower levels of marital interaction and higher levels of marital discord and instability than non-Cohabiters. Drug and alcohol abuse was more likely to appear among Cohabiters than among non-Cohabiters. Physical aggression is more prevalent among Cohabiters. Cohabiters are three times more likely to engage in extramarital affairs. Economically, cohabitation appears to reinforce discrimination on the basis of gender since recent studies indicate that women contribute between 65-70% of the financial resources in these unions. Additionally, women Cohabiters indicate that they undertake an undue proportion of the duties and responsibilities necessary to maintain these households (Family Institute, Duquesne University).
Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience. When we consider all of the facts we can see that cohabitation and not marriage "was created for the benefit of men at the expense of women."
Copyright © 2004 StayCatholic.com
For Further Study
Books - Life-Giving Love by Kimberly Hahn and A Catholic Handbook for Engaged and Newly Married Couples by Frederick W. Marks, PhD and Marriage by William May and For Better Forever by Gregory K. Popcak
DVD - God's Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage by Christopher West
**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**
An interesting discussion here.
Actually, that's what cohabitation does. Women bear the brunt of the consequences of sexual liberation, abortion, and the decline of marriage. Anyone care to guess what percentage of single-parent families are in poverty?
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Essays for Lent: The Mass
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Essays for Lent: Justification
Essays for Lent: Tradition
Essays for Lent: Scripture Alone
Essays for Lent: The Canon of Scripture
Essays for Lent: Papal Infallibility
Essays for Lent: The Pope
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Percentage of families below poverty level that are female-headed is over 80%, iirc.
thanks. I’m going to use that for my new tagline
My wife and I didn't do that and I can't understand people who say "we need to try out living with the person" -- what do they mean by "try"? Everyone has got their quirks and habits that the other dislikes.
if co-habitation is a 'trial period' then one can always find SOMETHING to dislike ("oooh, she eats her boiled eggs large side up, I'm leaving...."). Marriage on the other hand is permanent, 'til death do us part. We don't believe that there is an out, hence you work at it and I believe that marriage is something both partners (yes PARTNERS) need to work at, each day.
You are so right.
I am very distressed to see how shacking up has come to be viewed so casually even by many who consider themselves conservatives.
Among my children’s generation, GenX, it is no big deal. They are the same about homosexual “marriage”.
I am just astounded by the rapidity with which both of these concepts have gained acceptance, even among people of my generation. Positively mind boggling.
well, I'm a Gen X'er --> 34 y.o. but you are right that it seems to be ok. I blame the acceptance on television programmes that we were so fond of like Friends etc. Also, once you accept shacking up as normal, then accepting gay marriage is no biggie...
Of course, it was largely the TV programs, as well as movies. I now realize that all of this was done deliberately, all part of a larger plan of those intent upon undermining our society’s Judeo-Christian underpinnings in order to destroy our republic.