Is the Husband the Head of the House or Not?

I swear you folks confuse me. Some Catholics, especially the more traditional ones, say that the husband is the head of the household. Looking at the responses on the Family Life forum, one would think that concept is alien to Catholicism.

Should the husband be the head of the house? Should he love his wife as Christ loved the Church and should his wife lovingly submit to him?

I did a quick search on CAF and found a post that I cut and pasted which has quotes stating that at least at some point in Catholicism, men were considered the head of the household…

The Catholic Church has always understood Scripture (including Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, and 1 Cor. 11) to say, clearly and unambiguously, that the husband should be the head of the family. Here are some examples of this teaching, from the Church Fathers and papal documents.

Nor can it be doubted, that it is more consonant with the order of nature that men should bear rule over women, than women over men. It is with this principle in view that the apostle says, “The head of the woman is the man;” and, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” So also the Apostle Peter writes: “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.”

St. Augustine, On Marriage and Concupiscence

The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. 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. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For “the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things.”

Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum

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.”

Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii

In this context, the modern emphasis on “mutual submission” seems to mean something like this:

  • The husband submits by leading the family with sacrificial love. He’s called to serve his wife unselfishly, putting his own desires last. This is a tall order…quite the opposite of “bossing her around for his own benefit.” (As C.S. Lewis puts it, the husband’s crown is a crown of thorns.)
  • The wife submits by obeying her husband. This is relatively straightforward, but it’s not easy. Especially for the poor woman who’s saddled with a husband as imperfect as she is.

Of course, neither spouse can demand that the other fulfill his or her God-given role. It has to be a free gift. Each spouse can only do his or her own part…and pray. (Judging by the posts in this thread, there are at least as many wives praying for their husbands to lead, as there are husbands praying for their wives to obey. )

Some say that the man is the spiritual head. Well, what does that mean?

Do you believe ideally the husband should be the head of the house?

The correct answer is women like to let men think we are the head of the household. It’s like humoring the wee ones when they play at been grown ups :slight_smile:

I see it as a very equal partnership because growing up in my Catholic school it was always explained to me that marriage is an expression of Christ and his Church. Christ is higher than his Church, but Christ also humbled himself to the point that he died for his Church. Wives are called to serve husbands, but husbands are also called to give everything they are to their wives and to basically see to it that the wife is cared for as best as he can. That has always sounded like a beautiful expression of each person basically focused more on the other’s happiness than their own. If both husband and wife really live out what they are called to do as spouses you don’t really end up with a “head”. You end up with one solid unit working for the betterment of each other.

I figure that even in the days when man as head of the house was pretty much a given, lots of men would half jokingly say, referring to their wives, “She’s the boss” or “She wears the pants.”

That will always be the case as some men are more passive and would prefer for the woman to make most of the decisions, but spiritually, they would still be the head.

Well in my case, I like to think that I am. The question then is what does being ‘Head of the House’ mean

It means that I submit to my family. I put their needs before mine. I work so my wife can stay at home and take care of our children. It means that if my family falls from the faith, it is my fault. It means that I submit my time, sweat, blood to do what I can so my family can prosper and know that I love them and will sacrifice myself for them as I know that Jesus did the same for all of us.
We all have roles to play, some chosen, some not. I became head of my house when our first one was born. I did not want my wife to worry about day to day work or miss our daughter’s first words, steps, and other milestones. I work 50+ hours a week, some weekends, and out of town at times so she can be at home. I will admit that it is a balancing act sometimes but it is worth it to come home to a family that loves me as well.

I will say that this setup works for us. However every couple is different.

Depends on the husband.

Not in my house!:smiley:

I believe that Pope Benedict XVI recently made the statement that the man is the head of the house, while the woman is the heart of the house.

Are you the husband, wife or other?:smiley:

I said yes, but I’m not really sure what that means. I guess as a society we’ve lost track of what the role of a father is.

I do know that as I have become stronger and more active in my faith so have my wife and kids.

I do know that if I had not wanted to deepen my faith and my wife had wanted to, and if she had wanted to read scripture after supper to the kids etc, I could have killed that initiative.

tongue in cheek IIIIII AM!


Well said, sir.

Studies in Europe showed that men have much greater pull over the future faith of their children than do women. So, spiritually, yes.

Thank you

It depends on the man. I would not consider my husband the head of the household. I am the spiritual leader. He makes all the major financial decisions which has not been good. I make all the decisions concerning the children with some input from him.

I do wish that I had a husband that would take the lead spiritual. I have 4 teenagers. 3 Boys and 1 girl. The boys especially needed spiritual guidance from him. It is not the same coming from the mother. But he is a cafeteria Catholic and does not agree or even know most of what the Catholic Church believes.

My circumstances are a little different because I do not have children,
so the only “family” we have is me & the hubby.
For us there is no “head of the family”, we are in a partnership.

If I let him be the “spiritual head” of our family,
neither of us would practice the faith.

As far as all other decisions, for the most part we have our own “spending money” and do not have to justify to each other how we spend it.
All major purchaces/decisions are made jointly. As far as “chores” hubby is better at some things, so he does them, I do the things I am good at.
We have our own friends and own intertests that we pursue, and we have things that we enjoy doing together.
We’ve been together for over 20 years, so we must be doing something right!:stuck_out_tongue:

As far as what would happen if we had children (still a possibility if God so chooses to grace us)
we have often said we will feel sorry for our children because they will not be able to pull anything over on us- we’ve “been there, done that”
and we’ve had the benefit of seeing all the mistakes our friends/family have made. :smiley:

Not in my household. We have a true partnership. Both of us have areas that we’re more adept at handling, but in our family, the parents are the head of the home - not one parent over the other.

My husband is the head of our household. I like that my husband will ask my opinion on many decisions to be made, and will leave many decisions for me to make (because they’re things that I can handle well). Just because I make decisions doesn’t take away his headship.

It’s something that needs to be worked at - allowing the husband to be the head. I say allowing, but that doesn’t take away his position, it’s more a reflection of my own attitude towards him. We are a more peaceful family when we can recognise and embrace our status in the family. I love having a protector, and someone who leads the family through this life.

I do go through times when I start to assert my authority a bit too much, and my husband starts to get nervous about doing things because I might get annoyed at him. I need to rethink how I treat him, and allow him to be my husband (not micro manage him).

Head of the family doesn’t mean autocrat. It means leader and guide and protector. A big job, but with God’s graces, it is do-able and something for a man to be proud of. And something for a wife to be proud of for her husband.

I wouldn’t want any man to use those scriptures to be a bully to his wife and children. He is to lead by example. He can take his children to confession and go himself, but he can’t ‘force’ them to go to confession. He can discuss that he might like his wife to wear a veil in church, but the decision is up to his wife whether or not she will wear it. She is an adult and can choose such matters that refer to her own spirituality.

As a personal preference, I would like to see more men serving in Church. We can see that there are a lot of women doing many duties in a parish. I wish the men would volunteer and bring their sons with them when they do so.

I was attending a daily Mass at a parish and I was approached by someone asking if I would like to do the readings. I asked if the men who attended had already declined. They looked quite surprised and said that they hadn’t been asked. I declined politely.

Yes, but it’s a qualified yes, because the husband has to be a Catholic Christian and have his whole heart, mind, and will focused on God. Then the woman will have no problems submitting herself to him, as she will see that her husband is looking out for her and the children.

Yes, I totally agree.

That would be a given for me.

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