What is the Catholic teaching on the way a wife needs to obey her husband?

In Ephesians 5:22, we read:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (NIV)

I'd like to know if it's in a spiritual direction, moral direction or maybe intellectual direction? Or this doesn't relate to every-day life but more to a general decisions the couple make. I.e., a man make a final decision on whatever they are trying to decide.

So things like man saying: don't go to that gas station because it's out of way but woman still go there and then she is late and wonder why (that is not the case? wouldn't that be intellectual?)

  • Good question. Surprisingly, this is not a duplicate as near as I can tell.
    – ThaddeusB
    Oct 29, 2015 at 15:24
  • While i don't feel i have the proper words to explain it well, this video may be a good supplement to an answer. www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nU8LnacP_M. I wouldn't consider it an answer in itself, but rather a solid catholic reflection on that verse. Oct 29, 2015 at 15:32
  • @shiningcartoonist, thanks for the video, I'm going to check that out now.
    – Grasper
    Oct 29, 2015 at 15:35
  • You're welcome. If the link doesn't get you there, googling 'franciscan university reason kimberlee hahn ephesians' (without the quotes) will probably find it for you. Its title is something like chosen and cherished, wisdom for marriage. Oct 29, 2015 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


In the epistle of the Ephesians Paul starts out by setting an example which all things fallowing must embrace

Ephesians 5:21 “Submit your yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ”.

This statement of mutual self offering reflects the love which is the Trinity. The Fathers self gift to the Son and the Sons self gift to the father.

The Marriage of Christ to the Church is reflected in the marital union of a Man and his spouse. One gives all to the other and each has a role.

Now, customs and language of the first century do not translate well to the modern western reader. The driving factor behind Paul’s words are however still valid in any society even if modern culture seems to disagree with it. Concerning the submissive nature or subjugation of the wife to the husband I offer the fallowing:

There is an encyclical from Pope Pius XI Casti Connubii

This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.

Children will learn to lead from their fathers but learn to submit by their mothers.

The role of the family of God (his Church) including the father is the role of Submission, the role of Mary “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, Let it be done to me according to your word” This is an image of femininity and of being the bride of Christ. And how the Church is submissive to Christ. In marriage as Pope Pius 11 writes about, in the family, the mother is the icon of this role.

Now the role of Christ, which the Husband represents in the family, is the image of Headship or or being first in the family. As Christ says, let him who wishes to be first, be the servant of all. “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Do not forget the Context mentioned in the beginning of the two being subject to one another. The Man Being the Head, and the Women Being the heart, which is greater? Neither, both are necessary and both have honor and dignity.

Gender roles are factor, who do the children go to when they need comfort, who rushes into a burning building to save the children, who teaches and who punishes. It is important to understand that the two halves of a marriage are one and the same working together.

  • I highly recomment this encyclical w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/…
    – Marc
    Oct 29, 2015 at 23:57
  • Also drawing from that work w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/…
    – Marc
    Oct 30, 2015 at 0:05
  • this is nice but all a theory and I'd like to know more specifics. It doesn't say what exactly and how to lead or submit.
    – Grasper
    Oct 30, 2015 at 12:36
  • 1
    @Grasper it does actually, it speaks of being in Harmony with right reason, it outlines the limits, by "forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family." Short of Posting both encyclicals in full, I recommend reading them and re-reading them for a complete and better understanding. It has nothing to do with going to a particular Gas station or controlling the actions of your spouse outside faith and morals of the family. "I am the Man of the House and YOU WILL DO AS I SAY" is not the meaning of this scripture. Let go of that idea, and work together as one.
    – Marc
    Oct 30, 2015 at 12:56
  • @AthanasiusOfAlex Thank you for your edit Father. Please feel free not only to fill the Gaps and correct my spelling and Grammar but to erase context or add it as you see fit. I am sure that you are more qualified than myself at doing so and I am well aware of my short comings and my tendency towards a lack mercy towards those whose beliefs stray from the flock.
    – Marc
    Oct 30, 2015 at 12:58

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