144—The Obedience Paradox in Marriage—Mary Stanford
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St. Paul’s admonition for wives to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5) is one of the most uncomfortable teachings for modern Catholics. But it’s not just obedience in marriage that moderns find objectionable—and it’s not just liberals who can’t stomach it. Across the political and religious spectrum, even among self-described traditionalists, we find all kinds of excuses to avoid obedience. Deeply embedded in the post-Enlightenment consciousness is the equation of authority with tyranny and obedience with slavery.
Come to think of it, Scripture tells us that the issue of authority and obedience is fundamental to mankind’s rupture with God throughout all history, beginning with the rebellion of Adam and Eve. Satan tricked Eve into thinking God’s command was a trick to keep her down rather than a gift of love. Adam went along, choosing to please his wife rather than God, in a perversion of his God-given inclination toward union through gift. Ever since, both men and women have had a suspicious and guarded stance toward God’s authority rather than a submissive and receptive one, while ironically dominating and manipulating others in the very way they feared God was doing to them.
The primordial reality of authority as gift and obedience as receptivity, which Christ came to restore in nuptial union with His Church, is central to theologian Mary Stanford’s new book, The Obedience Paradox: Finding True Freedom in Marriage. Drawing on Scripture, the theology of the body, and the whole Magisterial tradition of the Church on marital obedience, Stanford offers not just a defense of the traditional teaching, but a profound illumination of how both wives and husbands can find true freedom in submitting to God’s design for what Pope Pius XI called “the order of love” in marriage, which is both mutual and asymmetrical.
Stanford’s presentation will be liberating particularly for those open-hearted Catholics who, while wishing to be faithful to Church teaching, fear that reiterating this particular point of the Scriptural and Magisterial doctrine on marriage will just create an opportunity for domination and abuse. Yet not only wives, and not only married couples, but all Catholics can learn from how obedience is lived in marriage, and see that obedient receptivity is at the core of what it means to be a human person.
Mary Stanford, The Obedience Paradox: Finding True Freedom in Marriage https://www.osvcatholicbookstore.com/product/the-obedience-paradox-finding-true-freedom-in-marriage
Pope Pius XI on marriage: Casti connubii https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19301231_casti-connubii.html
Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus.
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