Sentire Cum Ecclesia must be a little disappointing to its fans these days. I just don’t have that much time to blog. Right now, I am up at Kaloramo in the Dandenongs, sitting outside a closed café overlooking Silvan Reservoir. Locals will know where I am. I am waiting for my daughter to finish her dancing class and smoking my pipe. So, I have time to blog.
But blog what? There are, now, quite a few Australian Catholic blogs that keep you up with the news of the world. My RSS feed on my iPhone downloads more material than I can read. Some of it I would like to comment on, but there is rarely something I feel the need to say that others have not said already. And by the time I come to blogging on a topic, it is usually no longer “news”. So current affairs is out.
I thought therefore that I would do something else – one of those things that you only get on Sentire Cum Ecclesia: thrash out a theological problem to find out what the “mind of the Church” really is on a matter (so that we can all then confidently “think with the Church”).
The topic I would like to address is one raised in the combox to the previous post: Does Catholic dogma (or, alternatively, Catholic moral theology) assert that the father is to be the breadwinner for the family as distinct from the mother’s task which is the raising of the children? Gareth and Cardinal Reg reckon “yes”. I am not so sure.
The major reason why I have my doubts about the affirmative answer to this question is because the question itself assumes a particularly modern Western way of dividing labour between the “home” and the “workplace”. The practice of the father “going out to work” is reasonably recent even in Western culture. In many other cultures (eg. a “hunter gatherer” culture) it would make little sense. True Catholic dogma (or moral teaching) must be universal in its formulation, and such that it can be applied explicitly in a particular context (I just formulated the principle – I may be wrong in thinking it. Add that to the question to be debated).
Here is the gist of the conversation so far:
1. Gareth said:
I love to be controversial, so I am going to throw a cat amongst the birds here by adding that I am sure another reason that the Church’s ‘No’ to women priests hasn’t really sunk in is because the Church has failed to adequately speak out against secular feminism per se.
When was the last time I heard JPII or Benedict make any statement against the notion that it is opposed to Biblical values that a women take the place of a man in modern society? I don’t remember many Papal statements encouraging motherhood [in reality, there are plenty of these, I think – add this to the investigative task and see what you can come up with] or that a mother stay be [sic] in their rightful place as full-time mother during a child’s early years. In fact, to the contrary – Papal statements seem to celebrate and encourage this???…
2. Schütz said:
There are many papal statements encouraging motherhood [Dear Reader: please help me find such statements – I was writing from a general impression], but the propositions you put forward here as “biblical” are not Catholic teaching [or at least that is my impression – the purpose of this post is to work out if that is so or not]. That is why you do not hear the popes saying this kind of thing. The Church is on favour of anything that strengthens the family. Thus the demands of the workplace upon either parent – father or mother – would be wrong if it negatively impacted upon the family. But there is no dogmatic reason why the mother cannot be the major breadwinner of the family while the father is the one who stays at home to care for the children [again, that has been my assumption – I want your help to tell me if I am right or not].
3. Cardinal Pole said:
“13. … It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten; …”
[Leo XIII., Encyclical Letter Rerum novarum,
But one doesn’t need a Pope to tell one this; it is a matter of natural law.
4. Schütz said:
1) the pope believed this to be a “sacred law of nature”. Does this come under his magisterium of teaching revealed faith?
2) was the pope saying that, even at the level of natural law, this was the duty of fathers in particular as over against the duty of mothers? In other words, was he discounting the possibility that this is the sacred duty of parents as such? Was he saying that this duty primarily falls to fathers? Was he saying that between them both parents could not together arrange for the provision of their family as best suited their situation?
Just wondering if you are not being too narrow in your interpretation of Pope Leo’s statement.
5. Gareth said:
Sorry, totally disagree with you here David – it is Catholic dogma (even defined at Council of Trent) that a male is HEAD of the household. [Actually, St Paul said that the husband is the “head of his wife” in 1 Cor 11:3 and Eph 5:23; can someone give me chapter and verse of the Council of Trent on this?]
From this, it is pretty self-explanatory that generally speaking God desires that a male’s primary responsibility is to be provider and protector of the family, whilst the female’s primary responsibility is the rearing of children. [Actually, I don’t think this follows necessarily at all.]
Papal statements even in the 1930s and 1950s by Pius’s XI and XII did not beat around the bush – they espoused families and governments to be faithful to this model and anything less as a deviation from God’s plans. [Is it? That would assume that God’s plans for the arrangement of the family economy only ever came to fulfillment in the Western modern culture…]
JPII’s and Benedict’s statements on the issues are wishy-washy and seem to give a positive light to secular feminism. [Is there a kind of feminism which is not secular, but Christian?] Catholic institutions seem to also not care.
No-wonder Papal pronouncements on women priests do not seem to set in deep if the Church at the local level seems no different from the rest of society on the broader issue of family models and being counter-revolutionary to secular feminism that states a women should live their lives as of a man…
6. Cardinal Pole said:
“Does this come under his magisterium of teaching revealed faith?”
I expect that it came under his Magisterium of teaching morals, not Faith. [That seems right]
“this was the duty of fathers in particular as over against the duty of mothers?”
Clearly. [I would need to see the whole context of Pope Leo’s statement to judge whether this was “clear”.]
“In other words, was he discounting the possibility that this is the sacred duty of parents as such?”
He clearly said “father”, not ‘parent’, so yes. [But if the father has died, or has deserted his family or for some other reason is unable to provide for his family (eg. disability) does this duty not then fall to the mother? If so, she must have some share in the duty.]
“Was he saying that this duty primarily falls to fathers?”
It would seem to be something stronger than that. [What, exactly?]
“Was he saying that between them both parents could not together arrange for the provision of their family as best suited their situation?”
No, obviously he wasn’t; he said “father”.
7. Gareth said:
John XXIII made similar magisterial statements.
The doctrine on the matter can be found on the duties of marriage section in the Council of Trent. [Again, reference?]
I once read it is actually a sin to deliberately deny for no legitimate reason a male as his place as primary breadwinner. [That would seem a bit strong – and while “primary” might pertain to the father, does this mean that “secondary” does not pertain to the mother? I mean, in many contexts today, a father’s income alone is not sufficient to provide for the needs of a family.]
Okay. Over to you.