Acclaimed professor of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Mary Stanford discussed authority in marriage. She said that our modern culture has a misconception of what marriage is.

“Our modern age operates as though the family were a collection of people whose communal life mirrors the dynamic of a small business,” she said. “Given the prevailing cultural materialism the objective of the so-called family is best characterized as one fulfilling material needs.

“We need to realize that marriage has been redeemed and raised to a new level. St. Paul’s charge for husbands to love their wives and for wives to be submissive to their husbands is full of wisdom,” she said. “Today’s feminist ideology, which identifies any difference with inequality, completely disregards the words of St. Paul as being culturally conditioned by the dominating-male and servile-female notion of antiquity.”

A husband’s authority—headship—is not even possible without a free and gracious reception on the part of his wife, explained Stanford. “Indeed, a husband needs to be allowed—freed—enabled—to be head. A man’s headship is a free gift from wife to husband for the sake of all. A father is called to self-sacrifice to the point of death for his beloved ones. Like Christ, he is not a tyrant, but a lover. He does not exercise authority by taking, but by giving.”

Concluding, Stanford stated: “There will be no authentic equality between spouses, no true flourishing of the persons in the family and no embodiment of the domestic church without self-sacrificing love and generous acceptance on the part of man and wife. The asymmetry—or better, the complementary difference—between man and woman is placed at the foundation of family life precisely because it is life-giving—physically and spiritually.”