The Catholic Culture Podcast: 144 – The Obedience Paradox in Marriage

Oct 11, 2022

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

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

Pope Pius XI on marriage: Casti connubii

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