Friday, September 15, 2006

Women and chapel veils


In the Light of the Law
is the blog of canon lawyer Edward Peters, and it's full of informative stuff.

This is a very nice, brief-but-thorough look at whether or not women are required to cover their heads in Mass. Please understand that I'm not trying to start an argument, and I'm not disparaging any woman who does choose to wear a headcovering to Mass. Like Mr. Peters, I'm just pointing out that it is not required by canon law. Thanks, Mr. Peters, for weighing in and including both facts and a charitable approach.

6 comments:

Leonie said...

Karen,that was a very interesting link - thank you. It was good for me to read. :-)

Karen E. said...

Thanks, Leonie. It was good for me, too and that's why I wanted to share it.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Peters does clarify that there is nothing in canon law requiring women to cover their heads at Mass, and he points out that it seems unattested until 1917. However he does not acknowledge that the practice has been a tradition (with a little 't') for close to 2000 years, and so universally accepted that it never needed a mandate. I think it is unfortunate that he states: "I think chapel veils look pretty on girls and women, as do scarves and hats and those things that keep their hair in place." Women who cover their heads in the presence of the Holy Eucharist do not do it to look pretty or keep their hair in place. While some may think it quaint and old fashioned, it is done out of respect and reverence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, not for the sake of being quaint or old fashioned or pretty or having neat hair. Certainly in our current culture it is a personal choice and not mandated by custom, but modern women do not do it simply to patronize the 'textile arts'. I recall seeing a photo of Laura Bush wearing a mantilla in the presence of the Holy Father John Paul II. Surely she was not trying to look pretty or keep her hair in place. She was willingly and voluntarily following a custom of respect. So true, there is no canonical requirement for women to cover their heads in church, but it remains an act of submission, reverence and respect.

Karen E. said...

Hi, anonymous,
Thanks for your comment. I agree that covering one's head can be an act of submission, reverence and respect. And I can see how the "pretty" comment could be condescending. As I said, I was not disparaging the choice to veil one's head (would it be a cliche to say that "some of my best friends do it"? Cliche, but true.) I don't consider it quaint or old-fashioned ... in the case of the women I know, they are doing it out of reverence. Completely. And they are very humble women.

So, I have no problem with the choice, with feeling called to it. I have a problem only with those who present it as mandated by God for all, when the Church has said otherwise. As Catholics, we rely on the Church to guide in matters of binding sin, and she has said this is not one of those matters. That was my point. I hope it came across charitably, as I meant it to.

Dr. Edward Peters said...

Hi Karen: Thanks for your kind words. I've been suprised at the number of people who took the comment about "pretty" as condescending. I meant what I said, nothing more or less. I mean, I can't call them "beautiful", and calling them "nice" overuses an overused word. But they are pretty. That's all. And I think it's too bad for a world where a man can't call an article of women's clothing "pretty" without being accused of being "condescending." Oh well. I still think they're pretty. Kindest regards, edp.

Karen E. said...

Dr. Peters, Thanks for stopping by!

And, yes, although I could see why some women would take the "pretty" comment as condescending, I didn't think you meant it that way. It seemed to me that it was a straightforward opinion. As you said, "nothing more, nothing less." And an honest and charitable opinion at that.

I can see, however, why someone might get offended, if what they view as an act of piety is interpreted as "a fashion statement." Again, I don't think that's what you meant, but I think those who were offended saw the choice as reduced to that, if you know what I mean.

And, let's face it, women sometimes have to realize that we are going to see things differently from the way men see them. Not all men, and not all women, but really ... it is too bad that a simple fact (that you find them pretty) should be such a cause for uproar ....