I believe Chesterton is trying to say that the husband is the figurative head of a household. Theoretically he has the final say over what is done in the home. But in reality he only has as much control over his wife and the household as she is willing to grant him. And wives often have a way of persuading husbands to do things their way.
If I know Chesterton, he has a comical way of stating the truth. He didn’t normally say stuff that he didn’t mean. Plus he was also very orthodox in his faith.
Therefore if he stated that the man has the authority he did not mean it in a figurative sense. Chesterton likely meant that the husband *really is *the authority. This would be more along the lines of the Church’s thinking at least what I understand from Casti Connubi. The husband is not a symbolic head, his authority is real.
also, authority means that you can give the order but power means that you can execute it.
I think this is the best way that I can understand it. (Although comparing the wife to a painful neck really helped illustrate things too ) When discussing this with my own wife I think the best way I resolved it was to compare it to the Church. The Pope, Bishops, and priests are the “head” of the church, but the laity have the power. The Church authority can tell us that abortion is evil, but they can’t make us stop. We have to engage our own free will to follow their authority.
Perhaps understanding a difference between submission and subjection would help. Submission is an act done from the person’s free will - they choose to submit. Subjection is an act that one person forces upon another against their will. A tyrant would subject his followers.
If a wife submits to her husband, she does so out of her own free will. This is the same way a football player submits to the coaches authority. In many cases, if the football player wanted to, he could stomp the coach handily. Thus the football player has the power, but the coach has the authority. (although this doesn’t seem to be the physical reality in marriages)
If a husband subjects his wife, he forces her to yield to his authority. This would be against her will, and of course doesn’t make for the best marriages.
I think Chesterton was spot on. My Dad says “I wear the pants in this family…but my wife lays them out.”
See, I don’t quite think this is what Chesterton was getting at. This type of relationship seems to suggest that the husbands authority is only symbolic - he’s nothing more than a puppet. I don’t believe that is what Casti Connubi intended when it stated that the husband is the head of the wife.
Headship is real. The authority is real. For this to be true then there will be real consequences when the authority is mocked.