By: Christ the King Law Center (CKLC)
Editor's Note: The following is a modified abstract of a paper presented at a conference held by Christ the King Law Center (CKLC) on October 8, 2016 titled Make America Catholic Again!
It is the traditional teaching of the Church (and still the teaching of the Church) that the husband is the head of the wife and the family. Pope Leo XIII taught:
- 'The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For "the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."' 
"Outrageous! Crazy! Sexist! Machista!" These are a few of the things we might hear if we repeat these words to the average modern woman (and man). Doubtless even the vast majority of so called Catholics and even conservative Catholics would not like it. However our faith is not subject to the whims of popular opinion but on the will of God. We can recall how many of the things Our Lord Jesus Christ taught which were rejected in His day and He was eventually crucified for them.
This teaching-that the husband is the head of the wife and family-was upheld in the laws and customs of Christian society. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that:
- "In Christianized society ... man was to act as the lawful representative of authority, and the lawful defender of rights... in the civil, [and] national... community. Therefore, the social position of woman remains in Christianity that of subordination to man, wherever the two sexes by necessity find themselves obliged to supplement each other in common activity. The woman develops her authority, founded in human dignity, in connection with, and subordinate to, the man in domestic society as the mistress of the home. At the same time the indispensable motherly influence extends from the home over the development of law and custom. While, however, man is called to share directly in the affairs of the state, female influence can be ordinarily exerted upon such matters only indirectly. Consequently, it is only in exceptional cases that in Christian kingdoms the direct sovereignty is placed in the hands of woman, as is shown by the women who have ascended thrones."
A good example of this is fifteenth and sixteenth century Spain during the time of Servant of God Queen Isabella the Catholic. Queen Isabella became Queen of Castile only after her brother and half-brother died without any legitimate male heirs and Queen Isabella herself designated her son-Prince John-as her heir when she became queen (The prince did not succeed Isabella as King of Castile because he died before Isabella's death).
However in the republics that came after the monarchies of Christendom the issue came up as to whether women should be given the right to vote. In his book "To Build the City of God: Living as Catholics in a Secular Age" law professor Brian McCall stated the following:
- 'Turning from economics to politics, we see that voting prior to the turn of the twentieth century was a public act undertaken by men. Again, contrary to the cries of the suffragettes, the reason was not that women were incapable of making elective decisions, but that as one flesh, man and woman should vote as only one voice not two (and even opposite, thus cancelling each other out). Again, as the headship is placed on the husband, it was the husband who bore the burden of expressing the choice of one flesh after properly considering the matter (including what his "heart" or wife had to say on the matter).' 
The Irish Jesuit priest, Father Edward Cahill, had a somewhat different view of votes for women in his 1932 book "The Framework of a Christian State". Father Cahill wrote:
- "Whatever may be said of universal suffrage as a political system, consistency and good sense seem to require, where such a political system actually exists, that the woman as such have the same franchise as the man..... Seeing however, that in the Christian concept of social life as opposed to the Liberal and unchristian theory of individualism, the family, and not the individual (except where the individual is not an organic part of an existing family), is the social unit in the State, it seems clear that the family in its external social relations and activities should be treated as an indivisible whole, Hence the family vote should, according to the Christian ideal, be indivisible, and should be exercised in the name of the family by its official head. The latter, as already shown, is the husband and father, or if he be dead or absent, the wife and mother. The matter is all the more important by reason of the closeness of the ties which, according to Christian teaching, unite the members of the family with one another; and of the perils to all the best interests of the community, which are inherent in every tendency towards the disintegration of the home. The family vote, should, of course, be accorded a special value in excess of the vote of the individual. It should have double or treble, or even more value in accordance with the size of the family. Even though such a system may seem to include certain difficulties, or even incongruities, these are to be accounted rather a result of the principles of universal suffrage, than of the family vote which is in fact the system advocated by some of the standard Catholic authors as reconciling the principle of universal suffrage with Christian ideals." 
Thus whether or not the right to vote should be limited to men or preference given to heads of families it would seem that the liberal concept of the right to vote being given equally to individual men and women is against Christian ideals.
Christian laws upheld the divinely ordained hierarchy in marriage in other ways. As Professor McCall put it:
- '[U]ntil the past century and a half, property was not held individually by each spouse but by the one flesh. Since the husband was the head of that one body, it was held in his name. The squawking of modern feminists notwithstanding, such a practice was not intended to oppress women. With the obligation to hold the marital wealth comes the duty of doing so in the best interests of the whole body, not just the head. Again, this duty is natural as one does not act against the interest of his own flesh (which now includes the wife). The husband may have held property in his own name, but he was not free to use it solely for his own benefit. He bears a solemn obligation to provide for the needs of his wife and children. The taking on of this responsibility is seen in the custom of the dowry. In recognition of this burden, on marriage the wife's family transfers a portion of their wealth to the husband to aid him in this obligation. This understanding, that the husband although the legal owner of the marital property is not the sole beneficiary of such wealth, is clearly seen in the words of the Traditional Rite of Marriage. While placing the wedding ring on his wife's fingers he says, "With this ring I thee wed; this gold and silver I thee give, with my body I thee worship; and with all my worldly goods I thee endow." Webster defines "endow" as "to furnish with an income especially: to make a grant of money providing for the continuing support or maintenance of." As there is no reciprocal right of the husband or obligation for the wife, the Traditional Rite does not prescribe that these words be said by the wife. As the husband bears the obligation to support the wife, the wife is endowed with the right to be cared for in all her physical needs by the husband. It is to satisfy this duty that the husband owns the property. Seen in the proper context, such a system is actually beneficial for women. They have a right to demand their husband use all worldly goods for their care and benefit.' 
 Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum, n. 5.
 Brian McCall, To Build the City of God (Ohio: Angelico Press, 2014), 59.
 Rev. E. Cahill, S.J.; The Framework of a Christian State (Dublin: M.H. Gill and Son, LTD., 1932), 443-445.
 Brian McCall, To Build the City of God (Ohio: Angelico Press, 2014) 57-58.