I submit that there are limits
February 1, 2013 § 26 Comments
It is then the duty of the husband to treat his wife liberally and honourably : it should not be forgotten that Eve was called by Adam ” his companion :” ” The woman,” says he, ” whom thou gavest me as a companion.” Hence it was, according to the opinion of some of the Holy Fathers, that she was formed not from the feet but from the side of man ; as, on the other hand, she was not formed from his head, in order to give her to understand that it was not hers to command but to obey her husband. The husband should also be constantly occupied in some honest pursuit, with a view as well to provide necessaries for his family, as to avoid the languor of idleness, the root of almost every vice. He is also to keep all his family in order, to correct their morals, fix their respective employments, and see that they Duties of a discharge them with fidelity.
On the other hand, the duties of a wife are thus summed up by the prince of the Apostles : ” Let wives be subject to their husbands ; that if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversation of the wives ; considering your chaste conversation with fear : whose adorning let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel, but the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God. For after this manner, heretofore, the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord.” 3 To train up their children in the practice of virtue, and to pay particular attention to their domestic concerns, should also be especial objects of their attention and study. Unless compelled by necessity to go abroad, they should also cheerfully remain at home ; and should never leave home without the permission of their husbands. Again, and in this the conjugal union chiefly consists, let them never forget that, next to God, they are to love their husbands, to esteem them above all others, yielding to them, in all things not inconsistent with Christian piety, a willing and obsequious obedience.
This is consistent with the more general teaching that:
In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. But the negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behaviour as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever. Once the moral species of an action prohibited by a universal rule is concretely recognized, the only morally good act is that of obeying the moral law and of refraining from the action which it forbids.
(Emphasis again mine)