In a Catholic Marriage, what is the woman's role?

I understand that the man has to be the head of the family, but how much power does the wife have over marital affairs and her children?
Does the wife have only enough power that the husband gives her?

What does the Church say about this?

I’m not married or anything. I’m just wondering. :smiley:

The word “power” does not belong in a discussion of Catholic marriage.

Here is what the Catechism teaches about it, and this is the position of the Church. It would be good to study it for yourself so you do not have any more misconceptions about the Sacrament and when and if you do marry you will be well informed, and not be subject to people giving you false information.

Hehe sorry for misusing the word “power” :smiley:
Thank you for the information! :thumbsup: :slight_smile:

You are welcome. Happy reading.

Marriage is a partnership…The two become one flesh…
Each partner’s job is to support the other, to be sensitive to the other and to work together to build a life together.
Being one flesh - if one hurts the other - they are hurting themselves.

Marriage should never be thought of in terms of “roles” or “power” but in terms of partnership and unity and responsibility. And hopefully a lot of joy and laughter.



I would call marriage a covenant, and the only way to get out of a covenant is if one of the persons die.

Agreed. The wife has equal say in the marriage in terms of every decision. The married couple must come to a compromise both can live with.

To put in simple terms… As once said by Mother Angelica of EWTN … The Husband is the head of the house… The Wife is the heart… What good is a head without a heart? No blood to the head, makes for a Dead Head.

I heard that the husband is the head, and the wife is the neck. :wink:

As a married Catholic woman, I view my marriage as my vocation in life. Through it all, I am called to be a selfless servant. This doesn’t mean that I am always happy about all that tends to fall upon me day in and day out. But when I am tempted to start keeping score, playing petty games and all the traps that we can fall in to, I remind myself of my vocation, and its within my control to make and keep a happy household. Its not easy, but still, its a pretty simple formula: choose to love.

Ephesians 5:21-33 contains instructions concerning marriage for wives and husbands.

As with so many other topics, we need to return to this one continually.

In the contraception age and “equal rights” culture that has developed in the last 40 years, a fresh look at marriage is needed.

Frankly, I believe many of the greatest sins of our culture have grown out of the fertile ground of a misunderstood “equality” that is popular in “Christianity” today.

In effect, women cannot do wrong and men cannot do enough right.

I know this is very simplistic, but in the Nanny State of Today, there is very little room for a Father-Husband-Leader. In fact, there is very little room for a male in-general, except as a mine for tax revenue.

A number of past encyclicals and such condemn the anarchist/socialist goal of the breaking down marriage, with woman/man relationships being promoted by anarchists being pretty much exactly what we call “modern marriage” today. What was predicted in the Evils of Socialism {1878} has become the culture of today.

Thus I believe most modern men and women, Catholics, too, have little understanding of marriage and the place of each partner in it; We are too overwhelmed by the popular culture.

My Grandfather was the gentlest of men, but my Grandmother would never have crossed his word. Today? Every decision is on the table for equal input and leadership is nil. Decision making in most marriages I see eventually falls on the woman both because she usurps the authority due the man and because the man, like Adam…lays around hoping she will take the reins.

I see little modelling of good marriage in the pagan culture of America or in the marriages of Catholic believers…

Thanks be to God, Pope Francis has called for a deep theology of woman to be developed. It is, of course, long overdue. When it gets written, it will undoubtedly examine the household codes contained in the epistles that reasserted both slavery and the submission of wives to their husbands, the “way things were done” in ancient Rome. We no longer live in ancient Roman and we (thankfully) have abandoned Roman notions about the propriety of slavery. Can the abandonment of Roman notions of submission of wives be far behind? While we await Francis’ “deep theology,” here is some useful reading: Let’s all pray for the Holy Spirit powerfully to guide the Pope in this important endeavor.


Here are some thoughts from Blessed John Paull ll

You speak as though the ideal for a Catholic marriage is for the wife to remain silent and never question her husband and always do what he says no matter what, and that this ideal must remain in place in all times and cultures. Since you refer to past Church documents I assume you would include Casti Conubii in this selection. In which case I suggest you re-read this encyclical, this time with a little more care. Casti Connubi not only does not condone a marriage where the wife has no input or say, it also explicitly says that both the manner and degree of submission of the wife to the husband will vary based on the people, place, and time in which they live. In other words, the manner and degree of submission of wife to husband in a Catholic marriage will vary not only because of defects in the husbands ability to perform his duties, but also according to the place and time (ie the culture) in which the married couple lives. It is simply not true that the Church calls for complete and one sided submission in marriage as you suggest.


The idea of a head-heart relationship as merely something mentioned in the epistles that can be explained away as a product of the culture or some such thing is actually false. It has since then been upheld as an official part of Church teaching that it is always and everywhere to be understood as being true. Read Casti Conubii and you will see what I mean. The thing is, though, that because of the language used in casti connubii (used because of the culture of the time it was written in) people often read more into what it actually says than is within the encyclical itself, sometimes even to the point of coming away from the encylical with ideas that are contradictory to the very words of the encyclical itself. Another problem is that since the encycilcal focuses so much on the idea of wifely submission people lose track of the fact that the way this is to be understood necessarily entails the complimentary submission of husband to wife as well. People read this encyclical and think it is about the husband having the power to have the last say, or to have the only say in a marriage, but that is not it at all. The encyclical makes it very clear that the point of the wifely submission is for the sake of upholding the unity of the household, that the wifes submission is limited, that the wife is not to be treated as a minor or a child, nor is she to be thought of as having a lesser reasoning power as though that were the reason for her submission. It also makes it very clear, as I mentioned in my previous post, that both the manner and degree of a wifes submission are dependant on the paritcular people involved, the place where they live and the time in which they live. The idea of a head/heart relationship is not the horrible woman-demeaning thing so many people believe it to be. As understood by the Catholic Church it is, in fact, perfectly compatible with JPII’s teachings of the mutual submission demanded within marriage, and speaking about the head/heart relationship (or the submission of the wife within the relationship) without also speaking about the importance of mutual submission within the relationship makes it all too easy to misinterpret it to mean something which is degrading to women, which is why the works of JPII are so important. But please understand that the idea of a wife submitting to her husband in marriage, as understood and promoted by the Catholic Church, is not in any way demeaning to women and, when understood correctly, is in fact, another way of speaking about the mutual submission demanded of husband and wife together in marriage.

Your suggestion is nonsense.

It is patently obvious in today’s culture that the entire concept of authority needs a very close study.

You immediately assume that leadership necessarily includes servitude, “one sided submission” and other ills in a marriage where a man embodies headship. This belief is really your problem, or, shall I say, the entire pagan culture’s problem, and thus, the problem of all.

Christ is bridegroom of a bride He died for. It doesn’t get more clear than that, but…

He demanded much of His bride, and it gets no more foggy than that in our world.

The fact that many individuals who claim to be Christians take Christ, His commands and example lightly is simply modeled in the trivializing of men that occurs in our culture. Hard not to, in light of the fact that most men in pop culture reflect almost no characteristics of Christ.

And…yes; I am saying that authority has no meaning whatsoever unless it is tested by disagreement, and its Word stands.


When I saw the thread title, even before I opened it, this was going to be my answer! :smiley:

Just a part of Casti, but a good summation just the same;

**Domestic society being confirmed, therefore, by this bond of love, there should flourish in it that “order of love,” as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commends in these words: “Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, and Christ is the head of the Church.”[29]

  1. This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; 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; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.**
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