What does husband headship mean, practically speaking?


#1

Assume we have a two parent/two Catholic family with children. There is a disagreement between the parents over some aspect relating to the household. I hesitate to provide any specific because my question relates to the relationship generally. Examples might be:

Do the children go to a Catholic or public school?
In which parish are the children baptized?
The extent and frequency of home Bible studies.

But, then again, examples might be secular in nature:

Do we take a new job in a different state?
Do we build a new house or stay put?
With whose family do we spend the holidays?

You get the idea. My question relates to the application of Ephesians 5:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

I have read and re-read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but (to my great surprise) I can find nothing specific as to the roles of husband and wife. Rather, I only see discussions on “parents” generically, without differentiation between them.

Of course we should pray, and of course we should seek guidence from our spiritual leaders. But at what point does Ephesians 5 turn from words on paper to action? What obligations does a husband have in this passage (I know what verses 25 ff. say)? Will he have to answer to God if he fails to be the head? What does it mean to be “the head”? What does “in everything” mean?


#2

Concerning the Catechism of the Catholic Church, you can find what the Catechism has to say on the marital relationship in paragraphs 1601-1666. However, the Christian relationship between husbands and wives is more fully developed in John Paul II’s apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, his Letter to Women, and his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

Basically, in the day-to-day reality of marriage, husbands and wives employ John Paul II’s themes of mutual service and mutual submission. Mutual service and mutual submission exclude a husband “rendering judgment,” so to speak, on various issues in such a way as to make clear that he presumes his wife to be his subordinate.

The goal of the decision-making process between a husband and wife should be to determine the highest good or service that the couple can render in their mutual pursuit of sanctity for themselves and for their children. If an idea is proposed that is obviously the higher good, that idea should be followed whether or not it was the husband’s idea to begin with. If it is a choice between two apparently equal goods, with no clear indication of which is better, then the wife may submit to the husband’s proposal, knowing that he would submit to hers if hers were the more obvious good.

Of course, in some families, either the husband or the wife may be incapable for some reason of sound judgment or leadership on certain issues. The partner with the ability to do the job should do it and the other partner should submit gracefully.

Recommended reading:

Spiritual Headship by Jimmy Akin
The Authority of Women by Monica Migliorino Miller


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