Page 2, 8th November 1957

8th November 1957
Page 2
Page 2, 8th November 1957 — OBEDIENCE WITHIN MARRIAGE

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Organisations: Church of En, Catholic Church
Locations: Oxford


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SIR,-1 am a bewildered convert of some six mOnths' standing, a university graduate, married, with four young children. Like " Twice-widowed," whose letter appeared recently in your columns. I too must admit that the Holy Father's recent pronouncements on the subject of women and marriage have raised a certain confusion in my mind. Like the members of the B.B.C. Brains Trust, condemned by Fr. J. P. Brady, I too, can feel only amazed incredulity when I consider the Holy Father's Statement that wives should be subject to their husbands. The attitude of the Brains Trust. though perhaps discourteously expressed, can surely not he regarded as specifically " un-Christian," for where did Our Lord Himself ever speak of the subjection of wives to their husbands ? "They are one flesh." He said, and, if this be so. they must surely be considered as a unity. and logically there can be no question of one being subject to the other.

My husband and I were married in the Church of England. I did not promise to obey him. nor did he wish that I should. Like our non-Catholic friends, we have always regarded marriage as a coequal partnership in which the husband organises the business side of the household, while the wife manages the domestic affairs, with either helping the other at need, and both participating fully in the care and upbringing of the children. We could not conceive of a happy marriage on any other basis. I know that St. Paul, himself something of a misogynist, asserts emphatically ; " Wives must obey their husbands as they would obey the Lord," but surely such an attitude towards women, designed for a semi-oriental community, where men received all the education there was, and most women could not even read or write, cannot be held valid in the world of today. where many wives, some educated to a high level, go out to work, and can earn nearly as much as their husbands do 7 And what of the husband who is weak, foolish, or in some way corrupt 7 Should his wife be subject to him just the same ? Where does one draw the line? In the final instance, what does being subject to one's husband actually mean? If taken literally, the Holy Father's words must surely prove a great stumblingblock to the conversion of educated women. accustomed to an independent way of thinking, and the idea of the equality of the sexes. They are already apt to consider that the Catholic Church is very hard on women.

Can it be that the normal Catholic attitude is definitely against higher education f r women 7 here were few Catholic girls at Oxford when 1 was there. If a Catholic girl is brought up with the specific idea that a wife's interests should be confined solely to the somewhat narrow sphere of home and motherhood, her mind, unaccustomed to questioning, may well accept the idea of a wife's subjection to her husband quite easily. To me, and others like me. the idea is almost soul-shaking. Perhaps some of your readers could help me to get the picture into proper focus.

Pamela Willoughby-Thomas. 66 Station Road,

Harrow, Middlesex.

It would be quite fantastic to derive from the Nuptial Mass epistle (Ephesians Y. 22-23) any idea that the Church is against higher education for women or any other natural and supernatural fulfilment of personality in women. Equally, St. Paul's words, while part of the revealed Word of God. must he interpreted in accordance with the customs of the times which do differ greatly today from those prevailing when the Apostle wrote. Surely the practical answer is Aar obedience should always he an intelligent act and within marriage all relationships depend for success on mutual cooperation and adjustment. Rut Catholic married partners recognise that there is special grace in accepting the divinely ordained relationship which, the more its spirit is accepted, the less in practice will it ever be invoked-and certainly not in a way derogatory to women or injurious to marital happiness on both sides.-Enrma "CH."

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