Amid our culture’s increasing chaos regarding natural law, gender, marriage and other topics which are crucial for society and authentic human development, the Catholic Church stands out as “the pillar and bulwark of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has shown a great commitment to Church teaching about marriage and family. He plans to go to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in September 2015 for the World Meeting of Families. He also addressed the Colloquium on Complementarity of Man and Woman in November 2014. Here is an excerpt from his remarks:
It is fitting that you have gathered here in this international colloquium to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is a root of marriage and family. For the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others' gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living. For most of us, the family provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity. At the same time, as we know, families give rise to tensions: between egoism and altruism, reason and passion, immediate desires and long-range goals. But families also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions. This is important. When we speak of complementarity between man and woman in this context, let us not confuse that term with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern. Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children -- his or her personal richness, personal charisma. Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.
We know that today marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
Evidence is mounting that the decline of the marriage culture is associated with increased poverty and a host of other social ills, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly. It is always they who suffer the most in this crisis.
It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods. The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is "indispensable"; that it "transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple." (n. 66) And that is why I am grateful to you for your Colloquium's emphasis on the benefits that marriage can provide to children, the spouses themselves, and to society.
In addition to these beautiful teachings, the Church also offers more concrete advice on the specific duties of a husband or the specific duties of a wife. These practical ideas would seem to be more important than ever to reach the average person in a society which often attempts to eliminate the distinction between male and female. While it appears that the Catechism of the Catholic Church released in 1992 is silent on these matters, Holy Scripture certainly is not (see Colossians chapter 3, Ephesians chapter 5, or 1 Peter chapter 3 for examples). Let us listen to the wisdom of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was the fruit of an ecumenical council in the mid-1500s (this is from the section on the sacrament of matrimony):
Duties Of A Husband
It is the duty of the husband to treat his wife generously and honourably. It should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam his companion. The woman, he says, whom thou gavest me as a companion. Hence it was, according to the opinion of some of the holy Fathers, that she was formed not from the feet but from the side of man; as, on the other hand, she was not formed from his head, in order to give her to understand that it was not hers to command but to obey her husband.
The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit with a view to provide necessaries for the support of his family and to avoid idleness, the root of almost every vice.
He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, and see that they faithfully discharge their duties.
Duties Of A Wife
On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the Prince of the Apostles: Let wives be subject to their husbands. that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Let not their adorning be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel: but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner heretofore the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
To train their children in the practice of virtue and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns should also be especial objects of their attention. The wife should love to remain at home, unless compelled by necessity to go out; and she should never presume to leave home without her husband's consent.
Again, and in this the conjugal union chiefly consists, let wives never forget that next to God they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and ready obedience.
Does this sound like your marriage? Did your marriage preparation class include this? Let’s discuss in the comments section how the eternal truth of Church teaching applies to us in our marriages and our daily lives.