What does the Roman catechism teach about working mothers?

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Those who claim that it is a sin for Catholic mothers to work use frequently an extract from the Roman catechism, promulgated by the Catholic Church in 1566 due to a directive from the Council of Trent, to prove their claim that mothers should not work outside the home. The excerpt they cite is taken from the section “Holy marriage, “and goes as follows:

The duties of a woman

On the other hand, the duties of a woman are thus summed up by the Prince of the Apostles: That women be subject to their husbands. that if some do not believe the word, they may be won over without a word by the conversation of the wives, considering your chaste conversation with fear. Let their ornament not be the outer braiding of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothes: but the man hidden from the heart in the incorruptibility of a calm and gentle mind, which is rich in the eyes of God . For in this way also the holy women, who trusted in God, adorn themselves, being subject to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling the index Lord.

Training their children in the practice of virtue and paying special attention to their domestic concerns should also be special objects of their attention. The woman must like to stay at home, unless she is compelled by the need to go out; and she should never pretend to leave home without her husband’s consent.

Once again, and in this mainly the conjugal union consists, that wives never forget that beside God they must love their husbands, esteem them above all others, yielding to them in all things not incompatible. with Christian piety, a voluntary and ready obedience.

The second paragraph, they say, means mothers literally can’t leave their homes without their husbands’ direct permission – no groceries, no games, and most importantly no outside employment. (Oddly, though, I haven’t seen them claim that women who (a) braid their hair, (b) wear gold jewelry, and / or (c) wear beautiful clothes sin while doing so, despite the former paragraph clearly say women shouldn’t do these things.)

Logical problems

First, what if a husband gives his wife permission to work? Requirement I hear most often that it is a sin for a mother to work outside the home without a serious need, but if we take the Roman Catechism absolutely literally, it is not a sin. that if it does. without having first obtained the consent of her husband. As long as he gives permission, there shouldn’t be a problem, right? So why do they claim that working in itself is a sin, when in fact it does not require the consent of the husband?

Second, no pope has mentioned this alleged ban on women leaving their homes without their husbands’ consent in their writings on working mothers or the duties of mothers – neither Pope Leo XIII, nor Pope Pius XI, etc. . One would think that if this restriction were still imposed on all Catholic women around the world, it would at least have been noted occasionally in other writings. However, this is not the case.

Third, in his section on the Holy Marriage, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church does not say anything about prohibiting women from leaving their homes without their husbands’ consent. If this restriction is still in force and binds all women, would not the current CCC be a document which, according to the USCCB, is part of Ordinary Magisterium – at least mention it?

Fourth, some translations of the Roman Catechism say that a woman should never “go abroad” without the permission of her husband. This could mean that a woman should not travel much, or leave the country to go on pilgrimage or the like, without her husband’s consent, not that she should never go out of her front door without explicit permission. from her husband.

The bottom line

The simple answer to this statement is: the doctrine has developed since 1566. It is true that doctrine cannot change, but our understanding of the fundamentals of Catholic doctrine can and does grow. The newly canonized St. John Henry Newman wrote a whole book on the development of Christian doctrine.

The church never taught like doctrine that mothers cannot work. What the Church has taught and still teaches is that mothers cannot neglect his responsibilities to his family. This fundamental doctrine has never changed; our understanding of what it means, these responsibilities and what constitutes negligence To developed over time.

Catholics should not use the Roman catechism to prove the text

Protestant apologists are famous for Textual writing of evidence to back up their claims, and that’s exactly what’s happening here – Catholic doctrine is being texted out to back up a certain claim.

However, Catholic teaching, by its very nature, cannot be the subject of a text of proof. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called this concept the hermeneutics of continuity. Dr Jeff Mirus, in his excellent article about this topic, says (emphasis mine):

This principle is unalterably opposed to any interpretive technique. which cuts one or more master texts (or one or more passages of Scripture) other texts. Such a technique is in fact a “hermeneutics of rupture”. The good principle is a “hermeneutics of continuity”, and this principle is at the heart of what it means to be Catholic, what it means to think in a Catholic way.

He keeps on,

Just as all new expressions of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church must be understood in the light of the authentic traditions from which they flow, past teachings must also be understood in the light of official teachings that will emerge later in time to further elucidate a doctrinal question.

In other words, we cannot take a paragraph from the Roman Catechism and completely ignore all the other writings of the Magisterium on the subject. They should all be read together, using appropriate exegesis and taking into account any relevant historical and cultural context.

(I was going to add this to my previous article on Church teaching on working mothers, but it appears I am not allowed to edit articles older than six months, so consider this article an addendum. to my previous one.)


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