Page 2, 22nd November 1957

22nd November 1957
Page 2
Page 2, 22nd November 1957 — OBEDIENCE WITHIN MARRIAGE

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MAY I suggest a line of thought that I hope will help Mrs. Willoughhy-Thomas and the many others who, no doubt, share her perplexity.

The design of Christ's Mystical liody. His marital union with the Church. governs the Christian significance and symbolism not only of marriage but also of the sexes in their respective roles. This princuple is so rooted in revelation that St. Paul's prejudices or the accidents of history are irrelevant. Man represents Christ. Woman the Church. This is why only men can be priests; this is why men expose their heads in church and women veil theirs. For the same reason, which indeed derives ultimately from the Fatherhood of the First Person (even though He conceives, and that is rather Motherhood). in marriage the husband is the head and the wife is his own body.

In this relationship and union of love. authority is not imposed. it is

shared. If one sees this as mere obedience in the wire. one might just as truly insist tlfat the Chureh

"obeys", is " subject", has no

authority of her own. Her only

authority is that of Christ which nhe shares by reason of her unity with Him. just as she shares His infallibility. His power of forgiving sins, of giving infinite honour and glory to the Father. So also is it with the authority which the wife enjoys and exercises. It is not her own; it is a share in her husband's. He does not derive it from himself hut from Christ whose vicar he is in the home. as the wife is the vicar of the Church.

Both together. husband and wife. re-present the Mystical Body in its union with Christ. The Christian home enshrines it in miniature but entire Christ and His members united conjugally; one of them His visible vicar. the other His visible church, and uniting them both vitally the Holy Ghost. In this context "obey" and "subjection" have a special meaning which is distorted by associations from other contexts. For Christian realities either new words must be invented or old ones transfigured: here. capture is also surrender. to rule is to serve, to serve is also to reign.

Vincent Wilkie, S.J. Chaplain: University of Liverpool Catholic Society. 49 Bedford Street North, Liverpool, 7.

SIR' Please let me applaud very heartily Mrs. WilloughbyThomas's letter, which expresses very well what greatly needed to be said. While I agree with her entirely, it may help-her, however. to remember that: 1. It is only in some countries that sex-equality has been definitely established. There are still many communities in the world where a husband is regarded legally and socially as responsible for everything his wife does or says, just as if she were a child in his charge. 2. In practice (whatever the theory may be !) it is in Catholic communities that women are by far the most powerful, domestically. 1 have never known a -Catholic family in which the wife was nol the unchallenged queen of the home. In Catholic countries, like Ireland and Spain, this is particularly noticeable. 3. Anyone who fears thpt the Catholic Church is "hard on women " will find that the great Dr. Johnson did not think so. On hearing that a lady of his acquaintance had " turned Papist," he declared: " I am not at all surprised at it, sir. The Roman religion is especially fitted to appeal to the feminine nature. Indeed. I often wonder that all women are not Papists; for the honouring of the Blessed Virgin tends inevitably to inculcate a greater respect for the female sex." N. T. Purgold 17, Ladbroke Road,

London, W.11.

SIR' It might help those folk who worry about the injunction of St. Paul that wives should obey their husbands, to reflect that Our Lord proclaimed during His earthly life that He had come down not to do His own will but the will of Him who had sent Him. And of Him St. Paul was to write: " He was made obedient unto death ..." If we see no incompatibility in the Son of God made man being obedient to His Father, and indeed subject to His Mother and fosterfather (both being His creatures and servants), I cannot sec what else than glory there can be for a wife to obey her husband, especially as it is crystal clear from the example of Christ that obedience is another name for love, and the purest manifestation thereof.

Patrick Rorke, S.J. Loyola Hall, Rainhill, nr. Liverpool, Lancs.

IR, As a Catholic, I am quite bewildered at Pamela Willoughby-Thomas's letter in your last issue. That a wife owes obedience to her husband is not merely an Eastern attitude but one which has been accepted by almost all civilisation except our own egalitarian-crazy 20th century civilisation. To accept authority is not degrading to anyone. The soldier is not disgraced by his recognition of an officer's authority nor does it imply that he is inferior to the officer as a person. It is certainly strange that emancipated women should find it

soul-shaking " to admit the authorityof a husband whom they love and vet cheerfully accept the authority of their employers who are nearly always men. P. B. Norris M.A. (Cantab) 2. Bath Road. Southsea.

cl12, -I would like to suggest to " Mrs. Pamela Willoughby -Thomas. and others who may be confused by the Holy Father's recent words on this matter, that they should obtain a copy ol life Together " by Wingfield Hope. published by Messrs. Sheed & Ward. There is a chapter entitled "The Triumph of Subjection" which explains St. Paul's Epistle so well and there is a further chapter entitled " For Worse " which deals with the position of the wife whose husband is " weak, foolish or in some way corrupt."

Mary J. Beardsmore

25, Warwards Lane, Birmingham, 29. SIR,-I read with great sympathy the letter in your columns from Mrs. Willoughby-Thomas regarding obedience within marriage

This problem was one of the

things which. I, as a proud and independent woman could not. before my conversion, reconcile with my belief in God. My reconciliation to this profundity of St. Paul. was, I think, my greatest struggle. The fault I think with us, is, that we are used to looking carnally at these spiritual statements of St. Paul and the Holy Father, and thereby causing confusion in our minds. . After reading the letters of St. Paul and other spiritual writings on this subject of obedience in the spiritual life, I could not help but see that St. Paul was not the misogynist that people, especially nonCatholics, maintain. If he were. then we must say that he was a man-hater and child-hater too as he gives spiritual advice to these branches of society also. ,.Husbands, love your wife; children, obey your parents," etc. The difficulty for us wives, is to comprehend that we may be hearing the voice of God through the most humble requests of our husbands. Let's face it, it is more difficult for women to take orders than men, it is more difficult for men to love than women. Therefore, St. Paul gives us a guide by telling us that through the love of a husband for his wife, his requests will he kind and gentle, and through the carrying out of these requests by a wife, a wife shows reverence to her husband. Thereby, the sanctification of two souls may be fulfilled in marriage. Each see leading to the sanctification of the other. May I humbly suggest that Mrs. Willoughby-Thomas's letter rather bears this out, as while she cannot accept St. Paul's teaching in principle, she fundamentally knows this is true. In her own words: " We have always regarded marriage as a co-equal partnership in which the husband organises the business side of the household. while the wife manages the domestic affairs." Arc these not the words of St. Paul and the Holy Father brought into practical every day life? Obedience is not the human indignity that some would have us think, but is as practical today as it was in the days of St. Paul, Finally, 1 would recommend that your readers. who are in the same quandary. should read a very excellent book hy F. J. Sheed. called "Marriage and the Family," priced 3s. 6d., in which this subject has been given a full chapter.

V. J. Kiernan 23, St. Michael's Road, Bournemouth.


SIR' -I thank you for printing my letter and for your editorial note appended. It is God who gives us the opportunity to become •'partakers of the divine nature " (II Peter I:4); and it is this, of course, that we commemorate in the Offertory prayer, in the words Lila divinitatis esse ronsortes. My point is that only God can deify. We men can only hallow

our lives and works or rather. ask God to hallow them: We cannot deify anything Cuthbert Smith

There was nothing in the sentence criticised to suggest that man could achieve his own " deification."-Editor. C.H.

The Pope and the Cinema

SIR,-Those of us who have been working for many years to fulfil the directives expressed in the various Papal utterances with regard to promoting good motion pictures will be grateful to your correspondent. J. Drummond. for his appreciation of the difficulties involved. I feel sure, however, that he will, on reflection, agree that it is not altogether desirable to imply criticism of the methods of Catholic film action practised in countries other than our own. In particular it seems unwise to underestimate the importance of the work done by the American Catholic Legion of Decency which has played a major part in stemming the flood of unworthy motion pictures which from time to time threatens to pour from Hollywood. Vigilanti Cura envisaged the situation where a film might he regarded by different Catholic film centres with varying degrees of severity according to the differing psychological climate prevailing in each country. Though many of the European Catholic film centres do. in fact, vary in their approach to the question of film appreciation. this is not lc) say that the system prevailing in non-European countries is inferior. It depends on the local requirements.

John A. V. Burke, Advisory Council. Pontifical Film Commission,

Cardinal's Error

SIR' I am most interested in your reference to our " Cardinal's Error" sign at Tonbridge. You may care to know the name has an even more precise local significance.

The ancient Priory at Tonbridge. one of the best known in the whole country. was suppressed by Wolsey. just when at the peak of his power.

Indeed. so proud and certain was he of that power. when local citizens protested at this action, he straightway undertook persona Its to provide a great grammar school in its place. This was "The Cardinal's Error " so far as Tonbridge was concerned. Pride deserves its high place among the Seven Deadly Sins. With his fall shortly after. Wolsey lost his Cardinal's Hat, and Tonbridge lost both Priory and promised substitute school. Incidentally. since your reference. one of your readers has been to see the sign for himself. and has suggested when next it is repainted. the obverse should show "a cradle in a cloister " John Marchants, Managing Director, Fredk. Leney &Sons Ltd. SIR' In reply to your corres pondent, Mrs. Pamela Willoughby-Thomas, I would suggest. that in order to find the real meaning of " Wives must obey their husbands . . ," one must study the passage in its full context. St. Paul shows an understanding of the complementary natures of man and woman that is in my opinion, unsurpassed. Our natures are different and were created so by God. The submission of the wife to her husband, which seems to trouble your correspondent so much, is surely implicit in their relationship and no change of custom or degree of education can utter this; it is fundamental. Even so, to quote from your editorial comment, the more its spirit is accepted, the less in practice %sill it ever be invoked. It is not presumptuous, but part of the Church's doctrine, to see in this relationship a reflection of God's relationship with man. ..The man is the head to which the woman's body is united just as Christ is the head of the Church and women must owe obedience at all points to their husbands as the Church does to Christ." The husband, in turn. must love her if she were his own body." The tenderness in the passage directly preceding this latter quotation surely refutes any suggestion that St. Paul was of all things, a misogynist. To serve is not only a woman's right, but her special privilege. This ,,subjection " is ordained by God and as such is treasured by Catholic wives. And if a husband is " weak, foolish or in some way corrupt," are not we all ? The lives of many of the married saints throw light on how to deal with this problem and help us to view our failings as aids to sanctity. Margaret Heron Myrtle House, Mickleton. Chipping Campelen, Glos.


SIR' Dr. K. F. McMurtrle, Obi., 0.S.B., suggests in your number of November 8 last the use by Catholics in Church of " Vespers in English." I am French, I have travelled in Russia. Great Britain, Belgium and Flanders. and in Spain; I speak neither Russian nor Flemish, andindifferent Spanish. Still I felt immediately at home when entering a Catholic church and hearing the office in Latin-though T could certainly not speak Latin fluently. Spaniards. Flemings, Britons and French do not pronounce Latin the same way. It still is however the language of the Church universal, and it would be a pity to erect,

practically, separate national churches by an ever increasing use of the vernacular.

Moreover, who is to choose the 9 translation and give authority to this one or that one ? " Traduttore traditore" says the Italian. I have attended " Vespers in English " in Portsmouth two years ago; for me. a foreigner, it was perfectly unintelligible: I felt out of the congregation. not a member of it. •' Vespers in English " for the English if' You like: hut what of the non-English speaking members of the congregation ?

Cte. Alfred de Curzon, Consul General for France. 23 Whitwell Road. Southsea. Portsmouth, Hants.

In any given country the number of worshippers who do not speak that country's tongue is likely to be very stnall. Meanwhile the best should be done for the great majority. many of whom may not know Latin.-EntroR, "C.H."

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