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Chapter 9: Marriage, Sexual Acts, and Family Life

Question D: What Are the Responsibilities of Spouses toward Each Other?

This question will articulate and explain the general principles of the mutual responsibilities of the spouses, as well as the specific norms for their relationship of friendship, their common domestic life, and their different, complementary roles as husband-father and wife-mother. The specific norms concerning marital sexual activity, having children, and raising them will be treated in subsequent questions (E.1–2 and F).

1. Each Couple Should Build a Unique Marital and Familial Communion

As has been explained, marriage is not a project, directed toward achieving some definite, limited goal or set of goals, but a form of human and Christian life, a vocation to lifelong love and the service of new life. No two couples bring to marriage and family life exactly the same gifts and limitations, the same opportunities and problems. Each husband and wife should work together creatively in the effort to build the best marriage and family they can. Moral norms provide only a necessary framework for this creative effort.

a) The divine design for marriage is not a detailed plan. While all good marriages are similar in essentials, each differs in details. Just as each person has a unique personal vocation, marked out by his or her special set of gifts, limitations, and opportunities, so each couple who share together the vocation of marriage and parenthood must accept and fulfill it in their own way. As John Paul II teaches:

God, who called the couple to marriage, continues to call them in marriage [note omitted]. In and through the events, problems, difficulties and circumstances of everyday life, God comes to them, revealing and presenting the concrete ‘demands’ of their sharing in the love of Christ for his Church in the particular family, social and ecclesial situation in which they find themselves.135
The couple should take into account both the opportunities and challenges of their whole sociocultural situation, and should make the most of their gifts to cooperate with God in creating their own, unique good marriage. In doing this, they of course should pray regularly, both individually and together, seeking light concerning God’s will for them and inspiration concerning how to fulfill it creatively.

b) Christian couples should not think of marriage as a joint project. Ignoring or rejecting God’s plan for marriage and family, many people consider marriage merely a joint project undertaken by a man and a woman to obtain some of the things they happen to want out of life. On this view, couples may decide for themselves, by mutual agreement, whether to have children, how long their relationship will last, and even whether it will allow for extramarital intimacies. This view errs not only by arbitrarily setting aside essential elements of the framework which God’s plan provides but by arbitrarily limiting the couple’s cooperation to a joint effort to achieve a limited set of definite goals. Having set such limits, a couple will look about for techniques for achieving a happy marriage, and, when seemingly insoluble problems arise, will be likely to conclude that their marriage has “broken down.” Christian couples, by contrast, should regard the problems which inevitably arise in marriage and family life as material they must use creatively to become what God calls them to be.

c) They should be cautious in following guidance, advice, and models. Christian couples can obtain helpful guidance from sources which accurately articulate God’s design for marriage and family life, and provide suggestions about some of the problems they are likely to encounter. A priest or other counselor working within a sound framework also may be able to help them to deal with difficulties. But many books and articles on marriage, as well as many psychologists and marriage counselors, presuppose the false view described above and embody it in their advice. Couples should be wary not only of guidance and advice clearly inconsistent with Christian moral norms, but of anything or anyone purporting to teach an art or set of techniques for a good marriage. Marriages are not machines, to be tuned up occasionally and repaired when broken, and anyone claiming to offer this kind of service for marriage should not be trusted.

Moreover, young people should not imitate too closely even virtuous and happily married Christian couples. While their example should be followed in essential matters, the details of their lives and ways of doing things may not be appropriate for others. Therefore, each married couple should try to understand the norms for marriage and family life, and think carefully and continually about how best to fulfill God’s design in their unique communion.

2. Papal Teachings on the Husband-Wife Relationship Are Consistent

Christian faith makes it clear that one member of a communion of persons can hold primacy without compromising the equal dignity of the others: the Father, being first in the Holy Trinity, sends the Son and the Spirit to carry out his plan for humankind, but the three persons are coequal in divinity and all its attributes. In accord with this model for interpersonal relationships, the New Testament and Christian tradition present marriage as a union of persons, equal in personal dignity and fundamental rights, but with complementary roles and a certain primacy for the husband.136

Until recently, papal teaching emphasized the wife’s duty of obedience; but John Paul II focuses on the spouses’ mutual submission. The rhetorical expressions of previous and present papal teachings of course reflect very different social contexts; but the propositions taught should be regarded, not as inconsistent, but as different elements of truth, to be integrated into a single, coherent view.

a) The New Testament suggests the complexity of the relationship. Some New Testament passages, dealing explicitly with the relationship between husbands and wives, indicate that husbands hold primacy, for example: “Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands” (Eph 5.24).137

Other passages, dealing not with marriage but with the relationship between man and woman in general, point to their equal dignity. While there are differences, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God” (1 Cor 11.11–12). Again: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3.28).138

b) Past papal teaching emphasized the wife’s subordination. For example, facing emergent feminism, Pius XI used Ephesians 5.22–23 to reaffirm that marriage rightly “includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience.”139 He criticized “false teachers” who

do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man. Many of them even go further and assert that such a subjection of one party to the other is unworthy of human dignity, that the rights of husband and wife are equal; wherefore, they boldly proclaim the emancipation of women has been or ought to be effected.140

c) John Paul II emphasizes the mutual subjection of the spouses. Commenting on Ephesians 5.21–33, John Paul II states that the exhortation to husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church calls not only on husbands but on all men to adopt Jesus’ style in dealing with women. He then goes on:

 The author of the Letter to the Ephesians sees no contradiction between an exhortation formulated in this way and the words: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife” (5.22–23). The author knows that this way of speaking, so profoundly rooted in the customs and religious tradition of the time, is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a “mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ” (cf. Eph 5.21). This is especially true because the husband is called the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give “himself up for her” (Eph 5.25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the “subjection” is not one-sided but mutual.141
John Paul goes on to argue that the mutual subjection of the spouses is a gospel innovation which definitively challenges succeeding generations: “Saint Paul not only wrote: ‘In Christ Jesus . . . there is no more man or woman’, but also wrote: ‘There is no more slave or freeman’. Yet how many generations were needed for such a principle to be realized in the history of humanity through the abolition of slavery!”142

John Paul’s interpretation of Ephesians makes it clear that the latter is neither countenancing male domination nor imposing a one-sided subjection of wives to husbands. The sacred writer’s intention, rather, is to call Christian spouses to live their marriage relationship in mutual self-sacrifice, following Jesus’ example. This responsibility differs for the spouses only insofar as their characteristic temptations are different: men are tempted to abuse and neglect their wives, and so are admonished to love and care for them; women are tempted to respond to their husbands’ shortcomings by rebelling against them and acting autonomously, and so are admonished to obey.

d) It should not be supposed that John Paul II rejects the tradition. Because the popes, assisted by the Holy Spirit, try to articulate the same faith, in the absence of compelling evidence new teaching should not be thought to contradict old. Thus, if possible, the different papal teachings should be understood as compatible, and a careful reading shows that they can be.

Pius XI, in his doctrinal encyclical on marriage, makes it clear that a husband should respect his wife’s equal personal dignity and should not dominate her. Subjection “does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman” as a human person; it does not imply that she has the status of a minor; it requires her to obey as a companion equal in dignity, not as an inferior.143 Thus, the husband’s headship in the family no more demeans his wife than Christ’s headship in the new covenant community demeans the Church.

John Paul II, in his apostolic letter offered as a meditation on the dignity of woman, points out that male domination of women is due to their vulnerability and is a product of original sin. At the same time, he insists on “the specific diversity and personal originality of man and woman.” Women rightly resist being dominated, John Paul argues, but that just resistance “must not under any condition lead to the ‘masculinization’ of women. In the name of liberation from male ‘domination’, women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine ‘originality’.”144

This affirmation of the difference between men and women implies the legitimacy of sexually differentiated roles in marriage. John Paul does not spell out that implication, but it is hardly reasonable to suppose that he should have done so, since the document deals with the spouses’ roles only insofar as that subject is relevant to woman’s dignity. Moreover, John Paul treats the different roles of the spouses in his apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family.145

Therefore, one cannot read into John Paul’s teaching the denial of a wife’s duty to obey her husband without supposing him to be saying that wives need not be subject to their husbands. However, the Pope does not say this, even when he compares male domination to slavery.146 Rather, emphasizing that a husband should love his wife in a self-sacrificing way, he asserts that the subjection should be mutual. The unstated implication is that while a wife need not submit to her husband’s selfish domination, she remains subject to his rightly exercised authority.

3. Marriage Itself Has Two Aspects Which Must Be Harmonized

Much of the new emphasis in John Paul II’s teaching can be explained by his concern to vindicate the dignity of women against male domination. When a man dominates his wife, his abuse of his role upsets the harmony between two essential aspects of marriage: (i) communion of two persons alike in dignity and rights, and (ii) collaboration of two bodily persons complementary in capacities and functions. When the couple subject themselves to each other out of reverence for Christ, these two aspects are entirely harmonious.

a) Marriage should be a communion of persons equal in dignity. Although essentially different from any other human relationship, marriage is like friendship: the spouses enter it freely and as equals, and undertake to form an open-ended communion and to cooperate in mutually fulfilling activities. Each therefore is entitled to the other’s respect, love, support, and availability for the interpersonal relationship. Pius XI teaches that the spouses’ equality “must indeed be recognised in those rights which belong to the dignity of the human soul and which are proper to the marriage contract and inseparably bound up with wedlock. In such things undoubtedly both parties enjoy the same rights and are bound by the same obligations.”147 In this equality, conjugal rights are included, as St. Paul teaches: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Cor 7.4). Moreover, consent to marriage includes a commitment to friendship, because the spouses should unselfishly will each other’s personal good in every respect.

b) Marriage unites a man and a woman precisely as such. If two persons of different races become friends, that difference need not shape their relationship; eventually they may not even think about it. But two persons can become one flesh in marriage only because they are a male and a female who can join together as a single principle of reproduction. In this relationship, then, the biological realities, including the fact that only the wife can bear and nurse babies, belong not only to the order of nature but to the moral order, for they are part of the capacity of human persons to act for and share in a human good. This good, the marital union itself, is most fully realized in the emergence of children. Therefore, the biologically necessary differentiation of roles in bearing and caring for children serves the good of marriage. Moreover, the biological differences between woman and man lead to differences in other characteristics, which, though often only a matter of degree, are important. Hence, spouses’ complementary sexuality does shape their relationship.148

c) The spouses’ equality and differences can be harmonized. If marriage is considered instrumental to procreation, as much Catholic theology considered it until recently, the functional difference between the spouses seems more important than their mutual communion, which presupposes their equal personal dignity. On the other hand, if marriage is considered a merely consensual relationship similar to other friendships, as it is by many feminists, the spouses’ equality seems more important than their complementarity, and may even seem to require that their functional differences be minimized as much as possible. Traditional theology does more justice to equal personal dignity than feminism does to complementarity, but both views subordinate one aspect of marriage to the other.

However, if marriage is understood as Vatican II and John Paul II understand it, it is seen to be a unique kind of communion and form of cooperation. The spouses establish their marriage by mutual, free consent, but in consummating it they truly become one flesh, that is, they form as it were one new person, and so they are perfected in their communion as they cooperate in the service of new life. The two aspects of marriage, distinguished at the beginning of this section, are harmonized, for the spouses’ complementarity as coprinciples in procreation is part of their very being as two persons joined in one flesh.

4. Both Spouses Should Maintain and Perfect Their Marital Love

Although the two aspects of marriage are inseparable, each entails specific responsibilities. Insofar as marriage is a communion of persons equal in dignity and rights, both spouses have exactly the same responsibilities: to maintain and increase unselfish love. Neither should use the other as a mere means to selfish ends, and each should faithfully serve the common good even when the other fails to do so.

a) The will to be married to this person is central to marital love. Someone whose expectations in making a choice are disappointed usually does nothing wrong in wishing he or she had not made it. But the choices a couple make in consenting to marriage are different, because, once they have consummated their union, its reality no longer depends on their wills and acts. Since only death can part them, the couple should conform their wills to the reality of their union, and love each other unwaveringly. Although conjugal love has other aspects, it is primarily the couple’s intention in marrying to share together in the good of marriage. The first responsibility of both spouses, therefore, is to maintain their will to be married to each other.

Directly contrary to that will is any wish not to be married or not to be married to this person. Even though such wishes come spontaneously to mind when marital disappointments and difficulties occur, spouses should recognize them as the primary temptation against conjugal love, and reject them as bad thoughts (see CMP, 15.E–F).

Intentionally to entertain such thoughts seems to be a grave matter. For, although classical moralists failed to identify this kind of sin, it is clear that any married person’s wish not to be married or not to be married to his or her spouse seriously damages marital love. In fact, it is likely to lead to adultery and is certainly the first step in any attempt to dissolve a marriage by divorce. Like any other sin, of course, this one is not mortal unless, aware of a grave obligation not to entertain such wishes, one nevertheless chooses to do so; but even if the sin is only venial, it paves the way for infidelity and divorce.

b) Marital love requires the will to be friends, not just partners. Business partners cooperate in pursuing at least one common good: the profits they hope to divide. They need be interested in one another only to the extent necessary to collaborate in their limited enterprise; they should will to be fair to one another, but their obligations extend no further. By contrast, the common good of friends is their friendship itself; each finds personal fulfillment in being a friend and having a friend. Interested in one another as complete persons, they desire their mutual perfection in all the goods of both. Their mutual self-giving must go beyond fairness, to a generosity that does not count costs and benefits (see 6.C.2.c–d).

The good of marriage is the spouses’ very communion. Husband and wife should seek their personal fulfillment in being good spouses and parents. They should desire each other’s complete good. Like other friends, spouses should measure their responsibilities to their common life, not by requirements of fairness, but by their capacity to benefit each other. So, they should not reduce their communion to mere partnership by demanding rights or by withholding marital affection and service in order to enforce claims. Nor should they try to divide their responsibilities according to a strict formula. Rather, they should lighten their burdens by sharing them as fully as possible, gaining satisfaction in fulfilling them skillfully, and using generosity to express love.

c) Spouses should strengthen marital love by nurturing affection. Husband and wife can strengthen their mutual good will by exercising it in ways which intensify the corresponding emotion: conjugal affection. They can do this not only by marital intercourse and the sexual play leading to it but by many light expressions of erotic affection, and also by doing what they can to retain their sexual appeal for each other. Moreover, they should continually engage in the acts appropriate in any friendship: conversation to share concerns and feelings, gift giving, reminiscing and planning, celebrating together, and so on.149

To claim the right to marital intercourse while neglecting other expressions of affection tends to damage rather than strengthen conjugal love. Spouses who fail to listen sympathetically and help each other whenever possible do not meet essential requirements of friendship. Friends do not criticize each other harshly, and never do so in others’ presence; neither should spouses. Also, like good friends, spouses should notice each others’ good points, compliment each other, express gratitude, and support good resolutions and efforts at self-improvement.

Taking each other for granted or neglecting the things which contribute to mutual personal attractiveness tends to weaken affection. Therefore, with due regard to the requirements of modesty and other circumstances, spouses should show each other their love regularly in different ways, and do the other things in their power to nurture affection and maintain their mutual attractiveness.

No single act of this kind is essential, and so it is only light matter to be negligent at times about this responsibility; but it would be a more serious matter to choose, as some spouses do when quarreling, to express hostility either by withholding manifestations of affection or by purposely making themselves unattractive. Of course, such a choice sometimes is not a mortal sin inasmuch as sufficient reflection is lacking.

d) Spouses should not intentionally hurt or slight each other. Anger and hatred tempt people intentionally to hurt or slight one another. The more intimate and important the relationship, the more serious it is to give in to such a temptation. Between spouses, any intentional hurt or slight (as distinct from a spontaneous expression of negative feelings) not only harms affection but manifests ill will at odds with conjugal friendship. If such behavior is fully deliberate, which it often is not, the harm to marital communion is likely to be significant, and so any intentional hurt or slight between spouses is a grave matter. When committed by spouses who are parents, sins of this kind almost always also harm their child or children in various ways, and this side effect adds to their seriousness.

Even if not fully deliberate, intentional hurts and slights can seriously wound conjugal love, and so it is very important not only to avoid mortal sin in this matter but to reflect and choose to avoid the sin entirely. It does not follow that spouses should hide their anger and hostile feelings toward each other. While not acting on such feelings, they often do well to articulate them, for example, by saying in a restrained voice: “I am feeling irritable today and finding it hard to keep my temper” or “When you do that in a situation of such and such a kind, it really hurts me, and I cannot help feeling angry.” Expressing feelings in this way sometimes fulfills the responsibility to admonish (see 4.E.1), and it also pertains to the openness and sharing which should characterize any friendship.

Spouses also should avoid fueling each other’s anger. A mild and soothing answer, a joke, or an affectionate word or gesture often can forestall a quarrel. When a quarrel does break out, both spouses should try to stop acting on their hostility, if necessary by remaining silent or taking a walk until feelings subside. It never helps to bring up past mistakes and faults or to widen the conflict by expressing animosities toward in-laws. If a quarrel concerns a real issue, its discussion should be postponed to a definite time but not evaded. After a quarrel, both spouses should admit their faults, ask pardon, forgive each other, put the hurt behind them, and try to be gentle and considerate. (These matters will be treated more fully in H.1.)

e) If spouses do not serve love, their relationship degenerates. If spouses do not do what they should to foster love, their motivation for fulfilling their roles as husband and wife inevitably changes. Acting to get what he or she can out of the relationship, each sees that expected benefit, not as part of the common good of the marriage, but as part of his or her good as a separate individual. No longer intending the common good of marriage but still desiring each other’s cooperation, the spouses are reduced to insincere appeals to love or to straightforward bargaining for the services each desires. Plainly, insofar as they are insincere, they manipulate each other. But even when bargaining honestly, they fall into a practice of mutual manipulation, insofar as each appeals to the other’s selfishness and makes clear the price to be exacted if he or she fails to cooperate. Fair-minded spouses may try to carry on their relationship as if it were a business partnership, but since the goods pertaining to marriage cannot be divided and enjoyed by each individually, both inevitably feel cheated.

While both spouses can engage in manipulation, rewarding and punishing each other, they do so in different ways, each perverting his or her distinctive marital role. For example, the wife may withhold marital intercourse or refuse to cook dinner; the husband may resort to physical abuse or spend his evenings away from home. For sheer survival, however, wives generally depend more on their husbands’ performance and forbearance than vice versa, and this difference is accentuated when the wife is pregnant or nurturing small children. Therefore, as sin drives out love, a wife all too often learns by experience what is meant by the scriptural passage which John Paul II cites in explaining male domination: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gn 3.16).150

f) Intentional manipulation of one’s spouse can never serve love. Spouses engage in intentional manipulation when they try to motivate each other by appealing to selfishness instead of to the common good of marriage. In many cases, manipulation is mutually selfish, but sometimes one spouse, having the common good more at heart, might be tempted to use manipulation to compel the other to serve it. For example, a wife whose husband is self-absorbed and uninterested in conversing about matters of common concern might try to compel him to be more forthcoming by having dinner alone before he arrives home, and leaving him to eat by himself, so that he will experience something of the loneliness she feels. But her manipulative tactic is not likely to work, for what is defective is her husband’s love, and love cannot be elicited by such tactics. If she manages to make her husband feel lonely, he also will feel resentful, with the bad result that, even if he should decide to humor his wife by talking with her during dinner, his will toward genuine communion will not have increased.

g) Behavior which seems manipulative may not really be so. Not all behavior which could be manipulative need be chosen with a manipulative intent. Very often, what is required by marital and family responsibilities also is morally obligatory on other grounds. For example, an alcoholic should do what is necessary to overcome his or her addiction, not only because it is inconsistent with being a good spouse and parent but also because it violates other goods, such as health. Perhaps a man no longer cares about his wife and their children, but still cares about his own health. Like any true friend, the alcoholic’s wife also will be concerned about the self-destructiveness of his habit. Therefore, while she appeals to his self-interest in appealing to this motive, she is not being manipulative, since this element of his self-interest also is morally obligatory for him, and in no way at odds with marital and parental love.

Moreover, if one spouse is not loving and the marital good is damaged, the other should try to serve it faithfully as well as possible under the circumstances. That service often will impact adversely on the spouse who is at fault, with the good result that he or she may realize how much is at stake and be moved to repent. For example, a wife whose alcoholic husband abuses her and the children might lock him out of the house, not only to protect herself and the children, but to stop him from so grossly violating his marital and familial responsibilities, and to prevent the further erosion of her own affection toward him. Though foreseeing that he will be embarrassed and inconvenienced, she need not intend to motivate him merely by appealing to his self-concern. Rather, she can hope he will realize that her locking him out, precisely because she is a good wife and mother, will deprive him of benefits he would fully enjoy if he were a good husband and father.

In general, a loving but firm effort by one spouse to serve the common good of marriage and family in ways which have only an incidental negative impact on the other is not manipulative. Far from being wrong, such an effort often is obligatory, and it also can be constructive, by motivating the spouse who is at fault to repent. This result can be foreseen, even hoped for, without manipulative intent, as a desirable side effect.

5. Spouses Should Be Companions in the Whole of Life

Besides the mutual responsibilities pertaining to marriage as a consensual communion of persons—a special kind of friendship—the spouses also have mutual responsibilities related to their cooperation in the specific good of marriage as a one-flesh communion open to new life. To the extent this good requires, a married couple should live together and be companions in the whole of life.151 Still, not all interests and responsibilities of married persons pertain to marriage, so each spouse can have other responsibilities which legitimately limit the extent of marital cooperation.

a) Spouses should live together in order to realize the marital good. Friends need not, and ordinarily do not, live together; to carry on their friendship, they need only communicate from time to time. By contrast, in order to realize the marital good, which is the union of two in one flesh, a married couple need a home in which to live together. They should work together to meet this need, because the home embodies marital commitment and gives it cultural expression. Husband and wife also should be available to each other more or less continually, not only for marital intercourse, but to care for each other and maintain their relationship by regular communication.152 Moreover, for full and effective cooperation in raising children, a common household is essential.

Concretely, what each married couple must do to fulfill this norm will vary. Different couples, without in any way violating the good of marriage, can realize it in somewhat different ways and to somewhat different degrees. A couple with small children should, if possible, spend some time at home together with them virtually every day, while childless couples and those whose children are grown could discern that they are called to work in different cities. Accepting this vocational requirement, they could agree to establish two residences, and actually live together only when their other responsibilities permitted.

Plainly, if either spouse refuses without adequate reason to share a common household with the other, he or she gravely violates this responsibility. But spouses can fall short of fulfilling it perfectly in many less serious ways. For example, if a husband unnecessarily fails to come home in time for dinner, the couple’s common life suffers to the extent they do not share that meal together. Again, a childless couple violate this norm if they live in the same apartment and sleep in the same bed but do little else together, because they are preoccupied with their separate jobs and other activities. In such a case, if neither raises any objection, their failure to share more fully in a common life is not in itself grave matter; but if it continues for long, it can pose a serious threat to their marriage, and accepting that threat will be a grave matter.

b) The norm that the couple should live together admits exceptions. Like any affirmative responsibility, the duty of spouses to live together is limited by their other responsibilities. Sometimes a husband can fulfill his duty to provide for his family only by work which requires him to spend most of his time far from home. Sometimes a spouse’s health or responsibilities toward parents impose a temporary separation. Again, civic obligations, such as the duty of military service, can take precedence over the responsibility to live together.

Even when required and fully justified by other responsibilities, any prolonged separation is detrimental to a couple’s cooperation, especially in caring for children, and can threaten the marriage itself. So, unless their other responsibilities require them to accept a prolonged separation, couples should keep separations brief (see 1 Cor 7.5). At such times they should maintain regular communication and make special efforts to remedy the bad effects of separation when they can be together again.

If either spouse intentionally does grave harm to the other or otherwise gravely damages the marital good, a temporary or permanent separation may be justified or even morally required. Cases of this kind will be treated below (in H.2).

c) A married couple need not share all commitments and projects. Spouses must harmonize their other vocational commitments with marriage and parenthood; thus, no married person is truly called to anything which would displace marriage and regularly render it impossible to fulfill its responsibilities. However, the faithful fulfillment of the marital commitment and its ensuing responsibilities need not exhaust a married person’s gifts and resources. The personal vocation of someone who is married can include elements neither included in nor consequent upon his or her marriage and family life.

Thus, one spouse sometimes can rightly make a commitment which the other does not share, implement that commitment with appropriate projects, and so carry on activities outside the cooperation of the common life of marriage and family. Still, since married persons should be companions in the whole of their lives, each spouse should take an interest in all of the other’s activities, will the other’s good even in those things that fall outside their cooperation, and be supportive in such matters when possible. Moreover, in carrying out commitments not shared by their spouses, married persons should shape their activities so that they will not disrupt marital and familial cooperation.

Consequently, neither spouse should resist the other’s desire to develop legitimate interests compatible with the good of marriage (including the well-being of any children). Conversely, neither may pursue personal fulfillment in activities in any way incompatible with that good.

d) A couple may agree to limit their marital cooperation. Some individual interests and activities of married persons need not conflict in any way with their responsibilities as spouses and parents. Within wide bounds, both spouses can rightly engage in personal prayer and devotions, keep in touch with personal friends, do their own exercises, read in areas of their own interests, and so on. Each should respect the other’s freedom in regard to such personal activities, provided they are good in themselves and in no way interfere with the fulfillment of marital and familial roles. So, for example, a wife who insisted that her husband say the rosary with her although he preferred to pray the liturgy of the hours would be unjust in imposing her devotional preference on him. The same must be said of a domineering husband who forbids his wife to carry on a wholesome friendship which she is careful to keep from infringing on her responsibilities to him and the children. On the same basis, if a couple are childless or their children are grown and the wife wishes to engage in work outside the home, her husband has no right to insist she not do so in order that he can be their sole provider.

In other cases, individual interests and activities could conflict with a married person’s responsibilities as spouse or parent. Usually, the best course is to forestall the conflict, either by giving up the troublesome interests and activities or by postponing marriage, or even entirely forgoing it. But in some cases, a couple can cooperate to prevent the conflict, and they may undertake by mutual agreement to do so. For example, a woman might hesitate to accept a proposal of marriage because she wishes to care for her aged parents, who otherwise would be forced to live in a nursing home. Her commitment to her parents could seriously limit her ability to cooperate in marital and familial activities. However, the couple can marry, with the understanding and agreement that she will care for her parents as long as necessary, and that her commitment to do so will limit their marital life and activities, even to the extent of limiting marital intercourse to delay having children. In general, a couple can agree, whether before marriage or later, to limit cooperation in common activities in order to allow for other elements of each spouse’s personal vocation, provided neither wills anything inconsistent with the good of marriage.

e) Limits to marital cooperation often violate the good of marriage. Even though couples sometimes can rightly agree to limit marital cooperation, individual spouses and even couples often wrongly limit it and so violate the good of marriage. A limitation that could be rightly established only by mutual consent may not be unilaterally imposed. For example, a married woman whose work requires her to be away from home for weeks at a time wrongly pursues her professional career without her husband’s consent. Again, couples who mutually agree to limit marital cooperation, not so that they can fulfill other elements of their vocations, but simply to satisfy selfish desires, are not committed to marriage as they should be. For example, a couple who marry but avoid pregnancy so that both can work until they have many nonessential things plainly prefer having things to fulfilling their marital communion by procreating and raising children.

Even spouses who rightly agree to limit marital cooperation should be prepared to set aside the agreed-upon limits if they would prevent them from fulfilling some pressing responsibility as spouses or parents. For example, the couple who marry with the understanding that the wife will take care of her aged parents should not rule out the possibility that her marital responsibilities might prevent this, for instance, if her husband should become ill, so that she would have to work full time to support them. Again, a couple who agree to put off having children should take into account the possibility of unplanned pregnancies and be ready to accept the responsibilities of parenthood. If in such cases married persons fail to set aside other things in order to fulfill their duties as spouses or parents, they violate the good of marriage.

6. Spouses Should Accept Their Sexually Differentiated Roles

By differentiating the sexes, God plainly intends to differentiate the spouses’ roles; and because this natural differentiation serves the good of marriage and family, it should be endorsed willingly, not resisted and limited as much as possible. Still, how the two roles are differentiated can vary to some extent, and spouses should not too rigidly divide the activities pertaining to each role.153

a) Being male and female differentiates the spouses’ responsibilities. If the spouses do not fulfill their respective roles, children cannot be born, survive, and be adequately raised. Only the wife can bear and nurse children, and while engaged in that process she inevitably becomes both vulnerable and dependent. The husband, most likely larger and more muscular, and little affected by the reproductive process, can move about comparatively freely, and is in a position to protect and provide for his wife and children. Therefore, the good of marriage requires that each spouse accept his or her role and fulfill its responsibilities.154 Thus, concerning the raising of children, Vatican II teaches:

The active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation. The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home. This domestic role of hers must be safely preserved, though the legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on that account. (GS 52)
Like any other moral requirement, this one, though rooted in biological necessities, can be violated; for example, women have abortions, and men abandon their families.

If the wife-mother does accept her role and fulfill it consistently, she nurtures her children for many years. In doing this, she must accept each child as he or she is, support her children’s gradual development, and work along with the natural forces that make for their healthy growth. Not only physiologically but psychologically, women naturally are adapted to this nurturing role (see 7.A.6.b). In accepting and carrying it out, the wife-mother shapes her own personality and character so that she continues to treat her children in a characteristically motherly way even when they are grown. Her motherliness also affects her other interpersonal relationships, not least that with her husband.

b) Jewish and Christian faith has shaped the paternal role. Biologically, it is possible for primate males, including men, to impregnate females but do little or nothing to protect and care for them and their offspring.155 Indeed, in some societies and cultures, fathers have been minimally involved in family life or else involved in so domineering a way that women and children were regarded as property, to be used, abused, and even killed at the whim of the husband and father.156

The Old Testament presents a distinctive understanding of God as a Father whose chief characteristics are faithfulness and loving-kindness, and this Father became the model for Jewish and Christian fatherhood. Hence, the Jewish or Christian father is expected to be involved in his family, to be present to protect and care for his wife and children, and to carry out his responsibilities faithfully. He also is expected to respect the personal dignity of other family members, to treat them not only firmly but gently, and to subordinate his individual interests to the good of the family as a whole.157

If the husband-father fulfills his role, he deals with the wider world outside the home in order to obtain the necessities of life and defend his family against threats to its security. In doing this, he must set and pursue goals, make and execute plans, and strive to meet standards for success. Like his wife, the husband also is naturally adapted for his role, and its fulfillment shapes his personality and character. In fathering his children, he communicates knowledge and techniques they need in order to deal with the wider world, sets standards for them, and criticizes their performances.158 His fatherliness also affects his other relationships, including that with his wife.

c) Fatherliness and motherliness are not mutually exclusive. Although the two complementary roles are sharply differentiated at their biological roots, this is not the case with the personality and character traits pertaining to each. Fatherliness and motherliness are not contraries, completely exclusive of each other; rather, they more or less overlap in each and every parent.

Still, the development of children not only calls for the fulfillment of both roles but for their differentiation. Children need both to be accepted and nurtured, and to be challenged and held to standards, and in any given instance these two activities are in tension. Both parents can and should share to some extent in doing both things, but neither can do both fully at the same time. Therefore, the spouses must accept different responsibilities and carry them out consistently for the good of their children.

Moreover, childless couples can live a real married life, rather than merely sharing life as friends, only by developing their specific masculine and feminine potential and acting toward each other in sexually differentiated and complementary ways.

d) Not all social embodiments of sexual-role differentiation are bad. Obviously, spouses often reject the responsibilities proper to their roles or fail to carry them out. Since the biology of the reproductive process allows men more opportunities to abuse their role, husbands and fathers often lead the way in irresponsibility by being unfaithful, employing physical violence, exacting services and privileges by means of implicit or explicit threats, and deserting. Male domination of women has shaped some aspects of every culture and every society’s institutions. Abuses of the husband-father role, as well as the corresponding embodiments of the perversion of the wife-mother role, demand reform.

Still, it is a mistake to try to do away with everything embodying the two roles’ differentiation.159 Their conscientious fulfillment by both spouses is essential to actualizing the great human good of familial communion. Lacking support from institutions in fulfilling their complementary roles, spouses are unlikely to fulfill them. Moreover, whether or not institutions are supportive, spouses inevitably shape culture in accord with the differentiation of their roles when they fulfill them properly. Therefore, while reform of sexually differentiated roles should be promoted, attempts to minimize these roles should be resisted.

e) Excessive differentiation of roles should be avoided. Exaggerating the sexual differentiation of roles, beyond what is required by the good of marital and familial communion, can have adverse effects on the realization of other goods capable of contributing to the well-rounded fulfillment of the spouses, whose whole being is not absorbed in marriage and family life. Sometimes, for example, the education of girls has been so completely ordered to their role as wives and mothers that they have been denied education and cultural benefits equal to those afforded boys. That injustice should be rectified (see GS 29).

Excessive specialization is detrimental even to marital and family life. The contingencies of life—sickness, unavoidable absence of one spouse, unemployment, death—make it impossible for the spouses always to fulfill their different responsibilities; and even when both are present and functioning well, they often need each other’s help. So, each should be able when necessary to carry out the most urgent elements of the other’s role. For example, when a wife-mother is ill, the husband-father should be able to care for her and the children, and when a husband dies, his wife should be able to make urgent decisions about the family’s financial affairs.

7. The Husband-Father Has a Special Role in Decision Making

Human action presupposes decision. Family life involves cooperative action, and so it requires unified decisions. To make decisions for any group is to function as the authority in that group. In some respects and in many decisions, the differences between the spouses’ roles should not affect the working of authority in the family, and each family member has authority in his or her proper sphere. But in certain cases, the husband-father should make a decision, and his wife and children should obey. In this exercise of authority, the husband-father always should subordinate his individual interests to the family’s common good. For, as has been explained (in 7.E.2), genuine authority is not domination, which is incompatible with cooperation, but is a necessary principle of cooperation and thus a role of service to the community.

a) All family members should contribute to deliberation. Good decision making presupposes careful deliberation: thinking of possible courses of action and examining their potential advantages and disadvantages. Anyone who will be affected by an action, and especially anyone who will cooperate in it, is likely to have some information to contribute to this examination. Thus, wide participation in deliberation is desirable.

The spouses should communicate as fully as possible regarding actions affecting the family’s common good, so that they will take adequate account of each other’s thoughts and feelings. Children also should contribute to deliberation insofar as they are able. If decisions affecting the common good of the family are made without taking into account every member’s ideas and wishes, good options sometimes will be overlooked, and some pros and cons of options under consideration will be ignored. Moreover, if each member’s right to participate in deliberation is not respected, decisions will not be well understood and enthusiastically carried out.

b) Family members should have authority in their proper spheres. Each spouse has the primary and proper responsibility for a substantial part of the action required to serve and realize the family’s common good. Each is better able to make decisions within his or her proper sphere, and so should make them, while the other should obediently cooperate in carrying them out. The Christian tradition recognizes this distribution of authority in the family: married women are to be “good managers of the household” (Ti 2.5; cf. 1 Tm 5.14). Children, especially in a large family, also have their own responsibilities and spheres of activity, in which they should make decisions; they will not mature toward adult responsibility unless their parents respect and cooperate with the decisions that are theirs to make.

c) Sometimes authority in the family is exercised by consensus. Some matters affecting the family’s common good require cooperation transcending the various spheres of activity. Such matters can be major (for example, moving a long distance) or minor (going on a picnic). Decisions on such matters not only affect the whole family but require the exercise of authority for the family as a whole. In such cases, common deliberation is especially appropriate.

Sometimes deliberation leads to general agreement, resulting in many cases from a recognition by one of the spouses that the other is better equipped to make a particular decision, so that his or her proposal becomes the consensus upon which the whole family can undertake to act. That decision is the exercise of the authority of the family as a whole. Each member should obey, that is, faithfully carry out his or her part in what the family has undertaken.

d) Sometimes one person must exercise authority for the family. Consensus does not always emerge. Sometimes an emergency calls for quick action, and there is little or no time for deliberation and the development of consensus. Or, faced with two or more morally acceptable alternatives, different family members lean toward different decisions, and neither spouse recognizes special competence in the other to make the decision. Unless a single decision is made for the family as whole, however, the members will be unable to cooperate, and the elements of the common good which are at stake will not be realized or protected.

The family’s good requires that authority be exercised in emergencies and in other cases when consensus does not emerge. But even though the model of democratic politics might seem to suggest that then the morally correct solution is majority rule, in families that will not work. For the children’s competence to make decisions affecting the family’s common good cannot reasonably be equated with that of the parents; and if voting is limited to the spouses and they do not agree, the result obviously will be an impasse.

e) In such cases, the husband-father ordinarily should decide. The authority of the husband-father in precisely such cases is the irreducible core of the traditional Christian teaching which Pius XI summarizes as “the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience” (see 2.b, above).

What has already been explained about the differentiation of the spouses’ roles and the problem of authority in the family provides a basis for understanding the reasonableness of that teaching. The spouses’ complementary roles are not limited to their biological bases, since the couple share in the marital good as complete persons, male and female. Authority is not domination but decision making, in which both spouses share, and its exercise almost always involves common deliberation and often is accomplished by consensus. Even when there is no consensus, if leadership is both exercised and followed lovingly, everything proceeds so smoothly that family members are hardly conscious of exercising authority and practicing obedience. Still, authority sometimes must be exercised by one spouse or the other, and the differences between their complementary roles are relevant for determining which it should be.

That plainly is so in emergencies. The identity of the leader who will exercise authority must be clear to everyone when an emergency arises. Authority in family emergencies calling for cooperation which transcends the members’ distinct spheres of activity must therefore pertain to the status of one of the family members. Now, such family emergencies ordinarily require quick action by the husband-father, and several of his attributes can be crucial: his size, strength, and aggressiveness, and, very often, his experience in dealing with the world outside the family and his technical skill in selecting means and ordering them to goals. Thus, when emergencies arise requiring the cooperation of both spouses (and perhaps the children as well), very often the husband-father is best equipped to make decisions and take the leading role in carrying them out. Consequently, he should be recognized as the authority in such situations.

Because authority in family emergency situations should pertain to the status of the husband-father, it is appropriate that he also exercise authority for the family as a whole in the other cases that require it—where cooperation is needed transcending the family members’ distinct spheres of activity, but no consensus emerges and neither spouse recognizes the other as better equipped to make the decision. For the husband-father’s status as authority in emergency situations will shape habitual patterns of family cooperation, and that cooperation will proceed more efficiently in both kinds of cases if habitual patterns are accepted and followed. Also, in the concrete, emergency situations are not always clearly distinguished from others, and a decision about any one situation is likely to affect, and so require coordination with, what is to be done in other situations.

f) The proper exercise of authority is a service to the family. If a husband-father rightly exercises authority for the family as a whole and fulfills his other responsibilities as the family’s leader, he does not dominate his wife and children. Rather, taking into account their ideas, desires, and feelings, he serves the family’s common good to everyone’s benefit. Indeed, for his own self-fulfillment as head of the family, he must subordinate his other individual interests, since he does well as the family’s leader only if the whole family flourishes.

For example, a man is offered a promotion and increase in salary if he moves to another city, but judges that his present position is adequate to provide for his family and that the move would be detrimental to them. The family’s common good will be better served if he refuses the offer, and so, if he rightly uses his authority as the head of the family, he will refuse, even though his individual interests, apart from his role as husband and father, would lead him to accept it.

Many men make such unselfish decisions precisely because their love for their families includes their commitment to fulfill the responsibilities of leadership. But men have more opportunities than women to act irresponsibly, and so, in the fallen human condition, they are more often tempted to be irresponsible, to exploit and dominate. Far from mitigating this situation, setting aside the husband-father’s rightful headship in the family is likely to exacerbate it.

g) The authority of the husband-father is limited in various ways. Authority in the family is limited in the same ways as authority is in general (see 7.E.3–4). A decision of the husband-father that the family will do something wrong in itself has no authority and should not be obeyed. Moreover, even sound policies that he sets for the family can lead to conflicts of duties or otherwise call for exceptions when unexpected conditions arise.

Most important, as any authority’s range is determined by the common good it serves, so authority in the family extends only to decisions about action bearing on the good of marital and familial communion. Neither spouse is subject to the other’s authority in matters unrelated to that common good. If, then, there is a conflict of interests between the spouses in such a matter and they fail to reach a consensus, the decision falls outside the husband’s authority. For example, if a childless couple, both pursuing careers, face a decision between living in two places, both equally suited to their common life but each advantageous to the professional interests of only one of them, neither has the authority to decide. They can make the necessary decision by using any fair and mutually agreeable method, for example, flipping a coin.

In some cases, the husband-father cannot fulfill his leadership role because he is absent, ill, or otherwise incapacitated. In other cases, he could fulfill his role but fails or even refuses to make needed decisions. The family’s common good still requires that authority be exercised, and it usually falls to the wife-mother to do so.

h) Either spouse should be unselfish when the other is selfish. When the husband-father abuses his authority or the wife-mother wrongly refuses to submit to it, the other spouse should not respond by acting in a similarly selfish way. He or she instead should do faithfully what the common good, unbroken marital and familial communion, requires in that bad situation. For the common good of the spouses centers in the marital union itself, which they cannot dissolve but can only safeguard and share in more or less perfectly; also, if there are children, parental responsibilities are inescapable. Thus, when it best serves the common good, the more committed spouse should yield to the less responsible one. For example, if a husband-father decides for his own professional advancement to move his family to a distant city, though even he recognizes that this will be bad for the family as a whole, his wife and children should go along with him to avoid breaking up the family. Similarly, if a husband-father decides for the family’s good to move to a distant city but his spouse refuses, though admitting that the move would be good for the family as a whole, he should stay with her, not move.

135. John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 51, AAS 74 (1982) 143–44, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 10. Note John Paul’s affirmation of the ongoing character of the couple’s vocation.

136. For sources in Scripture and tradition, see Stephen B. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1980), 47–100, 281–97.

137. Cf. 1 Cor 11.3, Col 3.18, Ti 2.4–5, 1 Pt 3.1.

138. Moreover, Jesus’ teaching on marriage, by excluding polygamy and divorce, rectifies injustices to women tolerated by the old covenant, and his way of dealing with and relating to women breaks with customs of the time and shows that he does not wish them to be second-class members of the new covenant. See Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Inter insigniores, 2, AAS 69 (1977) 102–3, Flannery, 2:334–35; John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 12–16, AAS 80 (1988) 1681–92, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 6–8.

139. Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 549, PE, 208.26.

140. Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 567, PE, 208.74. John XXIII, Ad Petri Cathedram AAS 51 (1959) 509–10, PE, 263.53, sums up the tradition: “Within the family, the father stands in God’s place. He must lead and guide the rest by his authority and the example of his good life.”

141. John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 24, AAS 80 (1988) 1711, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 11. In many respects anticipating John Paul’s interpretation of the relevant verses, on the basis of careful exegesis: Stephen Francis Miletic, “One Flesh”: Eph. 5.22–24, 5.31: Marriage and the New Creation (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1988), 99–120.

142. John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 24, AAS 80 (1988) 1712, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 11. Also see John Paul II, General Audience (11 Aug. 1982), Inseg. 5.3 (1982) 204–7, OR, 16–23 Aug. 1982, 1, 16.

143. Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 549, PE, 208.27. It is worth noticing that this teaching has deep roots in the tradition. For example, St. Thomas, In Sent., 4, d. 38, expositio textus, ad 2, argues that wives are not property and must not be subordinated as slaves are; in S.t., 1, q. 92, a. 3, he interprets the symbolism of Eve being formed from Adam’s side to mean that a wife neither should dominate nor be enslaved, but should be her husband’s companion.

144. John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 10, AAS 80 (1988) 1676, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 5. Similarly, Pius XII, Address to Italian Women (21 Oct. 1945), AAS 37 (1945) 285–87, Catholic Mind 43 (1945): 706–8, very clearly articulates both the equal dignity of persons of both sexes and their personally and socially important differences; he insists, at the same time, that men and women can neither maintain nor perfect their dignity unless they respect and fulfill their differences.

145. See John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 22–25, AAS 74 (1982) 106–11, OR, 21–28 Dec. 1981, 5–6. In the last paragraph of the passage cited, the leadership role of the husband-father is sketched out: “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God (cf. Eph 3.15), a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife (cf. GS 52), by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.” This sketch emphasizes the husband-father’s service to his family, and the exercise of authority insofar as it is necessary to carry out the service is implied by the reference to the fatherhood of God.

146. A sound exegesis of Gal 3.28 does not argue for the elimination of complementary, sexually differentiated roles; see Thomas Hopko, “Galatians 3:28: An Orthodox Interpretation,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 35 (1991): 169–86; cf. Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, 137–63.

147. Pius XI, Casti connubii, AAS 22 (1930) 568, PE, 208.76. This equality of rights is articulated in Church law; CIC, c. 1135, declares: “Each of the spouses has equal obligations and rights to those things which pertain to the partnership of conjugal life” (cf. c. 1111 of the 1917 code).

148. John Paul II, General Audience (18 May 1983), 2, Inseg. 6.1 (1983) 1262, OR, 23 May 1983, 3, commenting on Gal 3.28, explains: “Obviously Paul does not deny the existence of differences among people. What he wishes to say is that these differences can no longer be a motive for division, because Christ has unified all in his person.” Alice S. Rossi, “A Biosocial Perspective on Parenting,” Daedalus 106 (Spring 1977): 2, points out “a tendency in much contemporary thinking to confuse equality with identity and diversity with inequality. But where age and sex are concerned, diversity is a biological fact, while equality is a political, ethical, and social precept [note omitted]. Marxist theory notwithstanding, there is no rule of nature or of social organization that says men and women have to be the same or do the same things in order to be socially, economically, and politically equal. . . . [T]he particular version of egalitarianism underlying current sociological research on, and advocacy of, ‘variant’ marriage and family forms is inadequate and misleading because it neglects some fundamental human characteristics rooted in our biological heritage.” For a survey of data regarding men’s and women’s differences: Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, 371–465. Also worth critical study: Walter J. Ong, Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981), 51–115; Jean Vanier, Man and Woman He Made Them (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1984), 49–55.

149. See Paul M. Conner, O.P., Married in Friendship (London: Sheed and Ward, 1987), 101–69, for a helpful reflection on marital friendship and its cultivation.

150. See John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, 10, AAS 80 (1988) 1674–77, OR, 3 Oct. 1988, 5.

151. CIC, c. 1055, §1, indicates this duty: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life . . .” (emphasis added).

152. CIC, c. 1151, prescribes: “Spouses have the duty and the right to preserve conjugal living unless a legitimate cause excuses them.”

153. In a study in social psychology, Robert S. Weiss, Staying the Course: The Emotional and Social Lives of Men Who Do Well at Work (New York: Free Press, 1990), 121–22, explains “the traditional principles of the marital division of labor,” which have been accompanied by “the principle of helping out”—that either spouse helps the other insofar as possible whenever necessary. He argues (262–64) that the traditional distinction of roles remains sound and workable, while attempts to attain fairness by equalizing the spouses’ tasks are unworkable and psychologically harmful. He concludes (264): “Best is if instead of trying to achieve equity each partner simply pitches in wholeheartedly, doing what needs doing. With this commitment the traditional division of labor, liberally modified by the principle of helping out, and adapted to the tastes and skills of the husband and the wife, can be satisfactory to both partners.”

154. Alice Schlegel, Sexual Stratification: A Cross-Cultural View (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), 36, concludes on the basis of anthropological studies: “Women’s role as childbearer has no alternative in the foreseeable future. In women’s understandable haste to move into the larger world, it is tempting to devalue this role. If we do this, we do ourselves, as individuals and as a society, the greatest disservice. The personal gratifications of parenthood, and the well-being of children, depend upon some sense of satisfaction with nurturant roles. The problem we face is to create social arrangements that allow for both care of children and greater freedom for mothers from childbearing responsibilities.” The whole chapter (1–40), outlining a theory of sexual stratification, repays careful reading.

155. Peter J. Wilson, Man, the Promising Primate: The Conditions of Human Evolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 71, says: “Simply stated, an adult female will be naturally transformed into a social mother when she bears a child, but there is no corresponding natural transformation for a male.”

156. See Leo XIII, Arcanum, ASS 12 (1879) 387–88 and 390, PE, 81.6–7 and 14.

157. John W. Miller, Biblical Faith and Fathering: Why We Call God “Father” (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1989), shows that the Jewish and Christian conception of fatherhood is a cultural achievement deeply rooted in divine revelation and argues cogently that Christians should strive to protect and promote the father-involved family. Cf. Christopher Dawson, “The Patriarchal Family in History,” in The Dynamics of World History, ed. John J. Mulloy (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956), 156–66.

158. See Basil Cole, O.P., “Réflexions pour une spiritualité masculine,” trans. Guy Bedouelle, O.P., Sources (Fribourg) 12 (Mar.–Apr. 1987), 49–55.

159. For example, Vatican II teaches that parents and teachers “in every phase of education should give due consideration to the difference in sex and the special role divine providence assigns each sex in the family and society” (GE 8); see also DS 3698/2215.