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Ephesians 5 and the Dignity of Women

A few weeks ago our local congressional race made national news. “Ardent, practicing Catholic” Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to run a smear campaign against Republican candidate Keith Fimian.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has sponsored a series of postcards delivered by mail to residents of Virginia’s 11th district. One DCCC-sponsored postcard proclaims, “Did you know Congressional candidate Keith Fimian is an officer of a group that promotes rolling back women’s rights?” The postcard says that Legatus, “promotes like-minded groups who are dedicated to outlawing constitutionally guaranteed rights of women.” That “guaranteed right” is abortion.

“One of the groups that Legatus promotes advocates the end of access to contraception for women,” the anti-Fimian postcard says. “Fimian’s group Legatus even promotes a group ( so extreme that they encourage women to be more ‘submissive’ to their husbands.”…Hmmm….do you think that might have something to do with Ephesians 5? If you look at the group’s web page you see the quote:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Ephesians 5:25

Why am I bringing this up now? I just spent two days at a conference reflecting on Mulieris Dignitatem. It was sponsored by Ave Marie School of Law land the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America. It was a fabulous two days of reflection on the roles of women in the Church and in the world. I learned so much over the last two days that it will take a little time for me to digest it all and share it with you. There were several reflections on Ephesians 5 as John Paul II used this passage to discuss the dignity of women. Perhaps most memorable were the words of The Reverend Monsignor Grzegorz Kaszak, Secretary, Pontifical Council for the Family.

Exactly what does Ephesians 5 say that got the DCCC so bent out of shape?

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subject to their husbands as to the Lord since Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their husbands in everything. (Eph 5 22-24)

I once heard a priest say this is the elbow jab reading. Husbands always give their wives a nudge in the ribs at these words. However, the exhortation does not stop there. As Monsignor Kaszak clearly pointed out, these words must be read in conjunction with the words that follow:

Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with form of words, so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. (Eph5: 25-27)

That’s where the wives get to give that friendly elbow nudge.

This weekend I had a little epiphany about this passage. By itself it is profound. It speaks of mutual love and mutual subjection. However, when it is taken with Genesis 3:16 it is astounding.

Your yearning will be for your husband and he will dominate you.

This is not a curse. God is describing the relation between a man and a woman after the Fall. The relationship that was supposed to reflect the love of God is now broken because the relationship between Man and God is broken. Man and woman relate as the powerful to the powerless. Yet Christ redeemed us. When we read Ephesians 5 we see that the relationship between God and Man is healed and the relationship between man and woman is healed. Instead of a relationship of domination, it is a relationship of love and self-sacrifice. A woman can fully give herself to her husband without fear because he is called to love her selflessly as Christ loved the Church.

And Nancy Pelosi, et al think this is a bad thing?


Barb, sfo said…
They think it's a bad thing because it requires them to be SELFLESS.

It's OK for everyone else to be selfless. Just don't make them be that way.
Donna said…
Actually, I think many of them believe that 'selflessness ' is a pipe dream, and anybody professing to believe in it is either deluded (especially women), or using it to their own advantage (especially men). I once read a very lovely reflection on the relevant passage in Ephesians in a book review. The very first comment made on it was "Buddy, how dumb do you think we are ?"

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