What does head of the family mean?


I listen to Catholic radio a lot and often hear discussions about men being the “heads of their families” and of women being subservient to men (yes, I am aware of our late Holy Father’s statements about men & women being subservient to one another) and I’m confused about this issue. What exactly does “head of the family” mean? Does it mean the man makes the rules and/or has the final say in all important matters; such as finances and purchases, where to live, what to do and when to do it, child raising, etc? If this is the case, what if the wife is more intelligent and/or better educated? What if hubby is bad with money or has his priorities backwards? There are a numerous anecdotes about men who should NOT be the primary decision makers of their families because they lead them to financial or moral ruin; they just aren’t good at it. So is the wife supposed to just follow him quietly into this hole? Even if she goes kicking and screaming down the abyss due to his inept leadership, given the Church’s view of divorce, there seems to be no way out for the unfortunate wife of one of these “heads of the family”.

I’m trying to understand this because I hope to be married one day and follow what the Church teaches, but I’m a strong and intelligent woman who has no inclination to let someone else make important decisions for me no matter how much I love him.



These links should be helpful for understanding the concept of headship in marriage from a Catholic perspective. If you have any further questions or concerns that are not answered by these links, please contact Catholic Answers directly.

Recommended Reading:
What does husband headship mean, practically speaking?
How should wives submit to their husbands?
Is a wife culpable if husband doesn’t want kids?

Recommended Resources:
Spiritual Headship by Jimmy Akin
The Authority of Women by Monica Migliorino Miller
Feminism and Marriage by Mary Shivanandan

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