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JPII and St. Nicholas

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dr. John Grabowski and JPII's take on Ephesians 5; Savage on Complementarity and Dubay on Authenticity

St. Paul’s teaching on subordination has met with considerable public backlash since the advent of feminism in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Questions abound as to whether the teaching itself is even based on the message of Jesus, or on some abstractions of Judaic or Hellenistic practices of running a household. Dr. John Grabowski does well to point out the differences between non-Christian cultures’ approach to marriage versus the way the early Church lived out marriage in the light of St. Paul’s teaching. He explains how radically different the Christian husband looked versus the paterfamilias of the Roman society. Drawing largely from the thought of John Paul II, Grabowski fashions “Mutual Subordination of Husband and Wife” into an authentic, historical, and applicable document for today’s confusion about marriage. His argument is broken down by chapter as follows:

1) The authentic interpretation of Ephesians Five consists in mutual subordination as opposed to any sort of domination, as explained by John Paul II. The historical basis for this.
2) Help of other scolars to explain man and woman as made Imago Dei, and therefore complementary
3) The proper understanding of a husband’s headship, as related to Christ’s authority

To begin with, Judeo-Christianity has always viewed the human person, male and female, as made in the image and likeness of God. As a consequence of sin, personal relations have been severely wounded—to such a degree that a kind of male domination was seen to be acceptable in society in order to maintain order and unity. Although St. Paul would have been all too familiar with such a dominant view of women by men, particularly through his Roman citizenship and Jewish education, his teaching is not tainted by the surrounding culture, but is based, rather, on the fresh concept of Christ as servant of his bride the Church. Furthermore, he introduced to the ancient world a new approach to marriage which eliminated the curse of sin on personal relations by the grace of Christ’s self-sacrificial love. Therefore, the Christian household did look different in operation and dynamic than the Roman or Jewish household. It looked different because the husband derived his authority from Christ the Servant, and the wife also shared in that authority—largely in response to the initiative of her husband’s self-sacrificial love.

Indeed, it is the responsibility of the Christian husband to initiate the “living sacrifice” of his body for the sake of his wife, even to the point of death. St. Paul’s teaching really demands much more of the husband than contemporary interpretations of Ephesians care to admit. Read properly, there is no opportunity for the husband to take advantage, to dominate, or to “lord over” his wife if his intention is to imitate the authority and headship of Jesus. Rather, the sense of mutual subordination to Christ gets the first emphasis in the thought of John Paul II, and the subordination of a wife to her husband only follows to the degree that the husband is authentically imitating Christ as servant. The moment he diverts from the authority of Christ, is the moment he loses his wife’s respect.

The other scholars Grabowski cites besides the Pope are chiefly Angelo Cardinal Scola and Sister Prudence Allen, particularly in regard to their work on sexual complementarity. Their work is not to be confused with the myth of Aristophanes, which proposes that man and woman are just separate halves of a greater whole person. Nor is it, obviously, to be confused with Plato’s proposition that bodily existence aside, man and woman are the same. Rather, Scola and Allen teach that man and woman are distinctly other, whole, and unique from each other. When united in marriage, this distinction of persons gives rise to an imaging of the Trinity, especially in the begetting of a third, distinctly unique person.

Given the philosophical explanations from Scola and Allen, as well as the historical and exegetical analysis from Grabowski and John Paul II, one can begin to see how the Sacrament of Marriage differs from the feministic reactions to St. Paul’s teaching in Ephesians. In reality, the wife who was once seen as mere property by the Roman world is given the utmost dignity and authority due to her status as an adopted daughter of God in Christ. Only in light of Jesus’ defeat of sin and death is this marital dynamic made possible. Otherwise, the influence of sin and selfishness is too great a strain on marriage to be lived as a Sacrament. As we have seen so often in the contemporary world, many divorces result from a fundamental misunderstanding of the sacramentality of marriage (of course manifested in practical disorders: finances, infidelity, domination, etc.), whether the couple cares to admit it or not.

Lastly, Grabowski gives a thorough explanation to the controversial concept of the husband’s headship. As I have already mentioned in this regard, only insofar as the husband imitates Christ’s servant leadership, initiates self-sacrificial love and the laying down of his life, does he share in the authority of Jesus. Likewise, the husband’s headship is merely analogous to the relationship between Christ and the Church, and does not guarantee him any type of divinization or superior ontology to his wife. They are, after all, equal in dignity but with separate and complementary categories.

I have briefly pointed out the breadth and depth of Grabowski’s work in “Mutual Subordination of Husband and Wife”, but with full intent to make available the entire pdf document through various hypertext in this post. It is worth perusing for specific topics and for parish Pre-Cana events, as it was originally made available to Our Lady of Good Counsel parish and the USCCB.

Another great resource by Fr. John Ricardo: https://avemariaradio.net/audio-archive/christ-answer-september-16-2016/

For Dr. Savage's own words on this topic via interview

A local Professor of Divinity, Dr. Deborah Savage, recently wrote an article entitled “What about a ‘Masculine Genius’?”.  At the heart of her argument is the original differentiation experienced by Adam and Eve before the fall, namely that of familiarity with things and with persons, respectively.  In other words, she attributes the “masculine genius” to a natural tendency to attend to things.
She does not limit man’s genius to just impersonal realities, instead she mentions how important woman is to man as a person.

This should not be taken to mean that man is oriented only toward things.  When the woman is brought to him, though he also names her, he knows immediately that she is not an object; she is a person.  For upon encountering her, he says ‘This at last is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.’  Through his encounter with the woman, the Lord God reveals to him the nature of the reciprocal relationship of the gift of self.  And man must realize as well that his own gift—that of caring for and using the goods of creation—is a gift to be exercised in service to her authentic good and in their joint mission to have dominion over all the earth.[1]

Savage goes on to say that the original man and woman’s encounter with creation was different, “While man’s first experience of his own existence is of loneliness, woman’s horizon is different, right from the start.  From the first moment of her own reality, woman sees herself in relation to the other.”[2]

What I gather from Savage aligns closely with my insights from Fr. Thomas Dubay about knowledge (also below).  In all, the psychosomatic differences between men and women (which are more or less pronounced in specific individuals) result in complimentarity.  Furthermore, that complimentarity is meant to be reciprocal and intended for human flourishing—not competition or confusion between the sexes.   

[1] Savage, Deborah.  “What about a ‘masculine genius’”.  Catholic  Servant of St. Paul-Minneapolis.  January 2015.  Article taken from “The Genius of Man” OSV Press, Fall Edition 2014.  See also: http://www.stthomas.edu/media/spssod/pdfs/cvs/SavageCV-June2014.pdf
[2] Ibid.
Fr. Dubay on Authenticity

English lacks the differentiation of the word ‘know’ like that of ‘saber’ and ‘conocer’ of Spanish.  In Spanish, ‘saber’ refers to a knowledge of places, things, and ideas, whereas, ‘conocer’ refers to a familiarity with persons.  I make mention of this differentiation in Spanish to illustrate Dubay’s same dichotomy in his Authenticity:

We may distinguish two types of knowing: one is particular, specific, thing-centered, while the other is fundamental, deep, ultimate, person-centered.  Examples of the first are the molecular structure of water, the sum of the angles of a triangle equaling 180 degrees, the location of Chile in South America and the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.  Examples of the second are moral decisions, the ultimate purpose of life, the thirst of men for happiness and the quest for God.  The research-study model for the attainment of truth is effective for the first level of knowing.  A proud, avaricious, lustful person can through sheer study reach an extensive knowledge of things.  He can learn precious little about persons, nothing about God—nothing, that is, that transcends the mere data level of books and lectures.[1]

I find it more than coincidental that Dubay’s example of the first level of knowledge is applied to a man, as in, “he can learn”.  Were Dubay to have applied such knowledge to a woman, it would not have resonated as well with the reader.  By intuition, we know that women are more inclined toward the second level of knowledge—a knowledge of persons.  Men, on the other hand, are more inclined towards the knowledge of things, ideas, and places.  It is relatively safe to assume then, that men experience ‘knowledge’ much more-so as ‘saber’ than as ‘conocer’.  That is not to say that they cannot, (and absolutely must), become familiar with authentic knowledge of persons, but they are not generally drawn to it without some metanoia to the person of Christ[2], as Dubay points out.

I can think of a couple of reasons why that is the case, namely, that men excel in ‘saber’ and not so much with ‘conocer’.

Number One: ‘saber’ is monetarily valuable and utilitarian.  Even as I write this post, I am practicing ‘saber’ to a degree because I am turning subjects (male persons) into objects by categorizing their thinking.  This is valuable in marketing/selling to a demanding audience.  ‘Saber’ is also utilitarian because it treats persons as a means to an end, namely, benefits for the one utilizing.
Number Two: ‘saber’ risks very little with substantial returns.  In other words, ‘saber’ does not involve self-giving, and therefore, the risk of rejection/persecution or reciprocity.  Rather, it involves simply ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘justice’ or ‘injustice’, ‘reward’ or ‘loss’, ‘win’ or ‘lose’.  Basically, it is not love.

Yet, persons need ‘saber’ in order to love responsibly.  Men’s propensity for ‘saber’ is not all bad, so long as it is balanced with ‘conocer’.  Likewise, a woman’s overt familiarity with ‘conocer’ must be balanced with ‘saber’ as well.  While on earth, this is the reality.  Men and women both must have these two types of knowledge to serve one another in a healthy way: food, clothing, shelter, etc.
In heaven, God-willing, the only type of knowledge necessary will be ‘conocer’.  This is why Dubay is correct in pointing out the necessity of conversion for ‘conocer’.      

The following quote from Edith Stein's (St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross) Essay on Women further illustrates my point:
Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth in her natural, maternal yearning. Lifeless matter, the fact, can hold primary interest for her only insofar as it serves the living and the personal, not ordinarily for its own sake...abstraction in every sense is alien to the feminine nature. The living and personal to which her care extends is a concrete whole and is protected and encouraged as a totality...She aspires to this totality in herself and in others.

[1] Dubay, Thomas.  Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment.  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997.  182-183
[2] Ibid.  183


DeaconDon said...

Acts 16:27-34 example of paterfamilias to subordination

Abrahamic said...

Together, I call you by name. I call you to me by name as a couple because you are married. Though death releases you from each other--I am mindful of the covenant you made and how you loved. I am mindful of your names in relation to me, how well you imaged my name in your marriage. I call you to me by name.

TPProject said...

Pope Francis on Mutual Subordination: