“Ths was the special gift of God to St. Ignatius,” according to Pius XI, “to lead men back to the practice of the virtue of obedience.” The order which he founded [the Jesuits] was to be so dedicated to this virtue that a special vow of obedience to the pope was to be added to the three substantial ones of evangelical perfection. All through life, in formal directives and in letters of spiritual counsel, it was obedience that Ignatius emphasized. […]

Superiors are not to be criticized in public, whether in formal discourse or conversation with ordinary people, because this will give rise to scandal and complaints, without correcting the evil criticized. Common experience proves this fact, of which the Protestant Revolt is a tragic example. Thousands of simple people who had no special grievance against the pope and the bishops were whipped to a frenzy of hatred for the Church’s authority by the fulmination of the Reformers. No matter how valid the complaint may be, there is no wisdom in exposing the evil before an emotional public which, at least in the Church’s juridical structure, cannot apply an effective cure. If anything, the correction may be delayed or prevented altogether after men’s feelings are aroused and demands are made for radical changes dictated by passion instead of prudence and considerate reason.

Father John A. Hardon, All My Liberty: Theology of the Spiritual Exercises (1998)


[Indifference] is not mere passivity in the presence of creatures, allowing them to pound the will with opposition, nor mere stoicism which resists their seductive attraction with no supernatural end in view. It is an active dynamism that positively seeks out those creatures which the mind, illumined by faith, determines are more conducive to the Beatific Vision. Behind this clarification stands the implicit principle that there are degrees of efficiency among creatures as instruments of sanctification, and that consequently it behooves us to train the mind for recognizing which are the more efficacious and to develop the will habitually to embrace them.

Father John A. Hardon, All My Liberty: Theology of the Spiritual Exercises (1998)

John Stuart Mill’s ideal of marriage as “a private, bargained-for exchange between husband and wife about all their rights, goods, and interests” has become a legal reality in contemporary America…But John Locke’s warning, echoing Thomas Aquinas, that the private contractualization of marriage will bring injustice and sometimes ruin to many women and children has also become a reality in America. Premarital, marital, separation, and divorce agreements too often are not arm’s-length transactions, and too often are not driven by rational-calculus alone, however much courts and mediators insist that they are. In the heady romance of budding nuptials, parties are often blind to the full consequences of their bargain. In the emotional anguish of separation and divorce, parties can be driven more by the desire for short-term relief from the other spouse than by the concern for their own long-term welfare or that of their children. The economically stronger and more calculating spouse triumphs in these contexts. And in the majority of cases today, that party is still the man, despite the loud egalitarian rhetoric to the contrary.

“Underneath the mantle of equality [and freedom] that has been draped over the ongoing family, the state of nature flourishes,” Mary Ann Glendon writes ominously. In this state of nature, contractual freedom and sexual privacy reign supreme, with no real role for the state, church, or broader civil society to play. In this state of nature, married life has become increasingly “brutish, nasty, and short,” with women and children bearing the primary costs. The very contractarian gospel that first promised salvation from the abuses of earlier Christian models of marriage now threatens with even graver abuse.

Recall the statistics we recounted in the preface to this volume. Since 1975, roughly one-quarter of all pregnancies in America were aborted. One-third of all children were born to single mothers. One-half of all marriages ended in divorce. Two-thirds of all African American children were raised without fathers in their homes. Single mothers faced four times the rates of poverty, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. Children from broken homes were much more likely to have behavioral and learning problems, and suffered four times the rate of serious sexual or physical abuse. More than two-thirds of all juveniles and young adults convicted of major felonies since 1975 have come from single- or no-parent homes. While these numbers have improved somewhat in the past decade – owing in part to a strong new family-education movement and new family-policy initiatives – the burden of the modern family’s breakdown falls disproportionately on women and children.  

The modern welfare state has softened and spread out the costs of marital and family breakdown over the past two generations by supplying nonmarital children, single mothers, abandoned spouses, and aged parents with resources and services traditionally supplied principally by their own natural kin. These are valuable advances that promote social justice and greater happiness for all. But the modern welfare state remains an expensive and risky modern experiment: it is not clear that it is a sustainable long-term solution even for the affluent West, let alone for underdeveloped or developing countries. In America today, those who depend on state social welfare often face bitter financial and emotional hardship and endless bureaucratic wrangling, and basic health insurance and decent public education are still beyond the reach of tens of millions. Better social welfare and health insurance systems are in place in Europe today. But these, too, depend on high median wealth in the population, all of which can disappear quickly, as the threats and realities of national bankruptcy in Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Spain, and italy have recently reminded the world.

Perhaps we are simply witnessing today the birth pangs of a new marriage order that will feature the final removal of sexual stereotyping and exploitation; the real achievement of distributive justice to women, children, and the poor; the sensible pluralization of Western marriage laws to accommodate new global patterns of sexuality, kinship, and bonding. These are goals to which the Western legal tradition of marriage must surely aspire. And as Harold Berman reminds us, great legal revolutions always pass through radical phases before they reach and accommodation with the tradition that they had set out to destroy.

It is hard to see the promise of these future benefits, however, in the current phase of the legal revolution in America. The rudimentary disquisitions on equality, privacy, and freedom offered by courts and commentators today seem altogether too lean to nourish the legal revolution of marriage and the family that is now taking place. The elementary deconstructions and dismissals of a millenium-long tradition of marriage and family law and life seem altogether too glib to be taken so seriously. The growing academic calls for the abolition of marriage seem so blind to the needs of children and to the dangers of depending on the benevolence of the state to carry on the work traditionally left to natural kinship networks.

John Witte Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, 2nd edition (2012)

Agriculture was sunk to a low ebb at the decadence of the Roman Empire. Marshes covered once fertile fields, and the men who should have tilled the land spurned the plow as degrading. The monks left their cells and their prayers to dig ditches and plow fields. The effort was magical. Men once more turned back to a noble but despised industry, and peace and plenty supplanted war and poverty. So well recognized were the blessings they brought, that an old German proverb among the peasants runs, ‘It is good to live under the crozier.’ They ennobled manual labor, which, in a degenerate Roman world, had been performed exclusively by slaves, and among the barbarians by women. For the monks it is no exaggeration to say that the cultivation of the soil was like an immense alms spread over a whole country. The abbots and superiors set the example, and stripping off their sacerdotal robes, toiled as common laborers. Like the good parson whom Chaucer portrays in the prologue to the “Canterbury Tales”:

“‘This noble ensample unto his scheep he gaf That first he wroughte and after that he taughte.’

When a Papal messenger came in haste to consult the Abbot Equutius on important matters of the Church, he was not to be found anywhere, but was finally discovered in the valley cutting hay. Under such guidance and such example the monks upheld and taught everywhere the dignity of labor, first, by consecrating to agriculture the energy and intelligent activity of freemen often of high birth, and clothed with the double authority of the priesthood and of hereditary nobility, and, second, by associating under the Benedictine habit sons of kings, princes, and nobles with the rudest labors of peasants and serfs.”

Henry M. Goodell, “The Influence of the Monks in Agriculture and Christian Civilization” (Sacred Heart Review, 3 December 1910)

As Pope Paul III’s 1542 Bull of Convocation made clear, the Council of Trent was prompted by “the many distresses [of] pastoral solicitude and vigilance” within the church and the many new “schisms, dissensions, and heresies” by which the “Christian commonwealth” was “well-nigh rent and torn asunder.” From the mid-fourteenth century forward, strong kings and princes in France, England, Spain, and Germany had challenged the church’s expansive property holdings, lucrative jurisdiction, and swollen bureaucracy. Humanists had challenged the authenticity of some of the Catholic Church’s canons and called for a renaissance of classical Greek and Roman texts and teachings, freed from medieval glosses and interpretations. Pietists had challenged the church’s monopoly on education, its harsh censorship laws, and its prohibitions on vernacular translations of the Bible. Various propagandists, armed with the new power of the printing press, had exposed all manner of moral and material excesses of the clergy and papacy, whether real or imagined. These criticisms and others proved to be storm signals of the Protestant Reformation, which broke out with Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses in 1517 and his public burning of the canon-law books in 1520.

John Witte Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition, 2nd edition (2012)

One initial difference is that in the confessional tradition only men are named as witnesses, whereas in the narrative tradition women play a key role, indeed they take precedence over the men. This may be linked to the fact that in the Jewish tradition only men could be admitted as witnesses in court – the testimonies of women was considered unreliable. So the “official” tradition, which is, so to speak, addressing the court of Israel and the court of the world, has to observe this norm if it is to prevail in what we might describe as Jesus’ ongoing trial.

The narratives, on the other hand, do not feel bound by this juridical structure, but they communicate the whole breadth of the Resurrection experience. Just as there were only women standing by the Cross – apart from the beloved disciple – so too the first encounter with the risen Lord was destined to be for them. The Church’s juridical structure is founded on Peter and the Eleven, but in the day-to-day life of the Church it is the women who are constantly opening the door to the Lord and accompanying him to the Cross, and so it is they who come to experience the Risen One.

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (2011)

It’s not that the world of work is closed to women. The problem is that women can’t seem to change the world of work. Either you accept its rules, its rhythms, and its hours or you’re out. […]

Every time the issue of flexibility for working moms is discussed in newspaper articles or in public debate, the talk is always of building more preschools, never about real flexibility in work practices. Building even more preschools to leave your three-month-old baby is not the kind of help working mothers need. Equal opportunities would really be promoted by allowing a mother to stay off work to look after her young children rather than killing herself both in the home and outside the home, leaving her hungry baby in the hands of someone else.

It seems clear to me, therefore, that women cannot work the same way that men do; they have to find their own way, one that is designed around them and fits their needs. It’s not right to force people to choose all the time – you need to accept the rules, the timetable, and the ways of male colleagues and forget everything that’s happening at home. If not, you’re out!

My friend tells me that in many offices, the amount of time they spend in front of the computer is the main consideration, even if they are surfing the Internet, playing solitaire, reading horoscopes, writing distant relatives and unlikely friends, or taking endless trips to the vending machine…A woman with a thousand things to do at home will always try, where possible, to concentrate on her work and cut out any time-wasting activities so she can get home earlier. It’s just that for some perverse reason that my poor mind is incapable of comprehending, this ability to do the same amount of work in a shorter space of time is not considered an attribute but a limitation. With that logic, prevailing women are always going to suffer.

As long as working arrangements continue as they are, failing to integrate family life and working life, lacking in flexibility and intelligence, and ignoring the interests of those very children that they are always boasting that they want to protect but that they really don’t care about, women will be obliged to pay a very high price on the altar of work sacrifice or give up and walk away.

Costanza Miriano, Marry Him and Be Submissive (2016)

There are jobs and there are jobs. I recognize that. Often a job is just a way of making money, an indispensable necessity to allow a decent standard of living…There are other jobs, though, which are taken on mainly to provide satisfaction and to improve living standards, and I sense they are more common than we might think. In such cases, slowing down on the career treadmill when the kids come along is a duty, and those who refuse to do so are simply being selfish, and I use that word advisedly.

Costanza Miriano, Marry Him and Be Submissive (2016)

Not sharing absolutely everything (and by that I mean the least attractive elements of our personality) is, I believe, a good rule to follow. Not all anxieties need to be voiced openly as soon as they arise…Not every bad mood has to be revealed openly. Not every limit of good behavior needs to be thrown off because we are put to the test by the upheaval of a new lifestyle.

Costanza Miriano, Marry Him and Be Submissive (2016)

Those couples who thrive, who learn to give of themselves, don’t give up on pleasure. It’s just that sometimes they need to have a little patience and take the necessary time and make the necessary effort to find that pleasure, peeling it like a sweet fruit consumed amid the complications of everyday life. This wonderful challenge is never experienced by those who live in a world of casual encounters and who imagine their own little love stories untouched by the messiness of everyday life. Theirs seems to be a fabulous way of living: glittering, happy, free, and carefree. But if truth be told, I see none of that in those who have lived through this experience. Rather, those who have trivialized sex find it hasn’t done them any good. Where there is no boundary, where nothing is off limits, where there is no experience of the “sacred risk” of conceiving a child, and where there is no sense of achievement (because what we wanted to achieve has been available to us from an early age, at no great effort to ourselves), there’s very little left to be proud of.

We women are more responsible for this state of play than men. Thinking we were emancipating ourselves, we’ve sold out, as we say in Italy, “for a plate of lentils.” What we’ve done is accept the male view of sexuality, hook, line, and sinker. We were the custodians of life, but not anymore. We are emancipated, that’s true. We no longer depend on anyone. But in return, we run the very real risk of losing that total reciprocal self-giving between two people that we long for and desire, written, as it is, into our DNA.

The result is that in exchange for our newfound freedom, we are the first to suffer. We are suffering and the whole world is suffering, because if we won’t do it, who will guard love for life?

Costanza Miriano, Marry Him and Be Submissive (2016)