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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Thanks to EWTN for this--stirring the pot

Head Coverings in Church

Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, responded to an inquiry on this subject. While not a formal judgment of the Signatura, it reflects the opinion of the Church's highest canonical official after the Pope. Note in his answer that there is neither a canonical or moral obligation for women to use a head-covering. Even in the case of the Extraordinary Form there is merely "an expectation," whose failure to fulfil does not entail sin.
image of original letter
4 April 2011
Dear ________,
Thank you for your letter postmarked January 5, 2009, regarding the custom of the chapel veil. I offer you my sincere apologies for failing to respond to your letter, in a timely manner. I had placed your letter with some other papers. and have only recently discovered that I never responded to it.
The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. It is not, however, a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.
I wish you an abundant share in the strong graces of the Lenten Season.
Thank you for the assurance of your prayers for me. As a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, I have need of your prayers, now more than ever.
Invoking God's blessing upon you, while confiding your intentions to the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I remain
Yours devotedly in Christ,

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis
Prefect, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura

Original FAQ from 2004
Canon Law
The 1917 Code of Canon Law. canon 1262, stated,
1. It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.
2. Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bare-headed, unless the approved mores of the people or peculiar circumstances of things determine otherwise; women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.
When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was promulgated this canon was not re-issued; indeed, canon 6, 1, abrogated it, along with every other canon of the 1917 Code not intentionally incorporated into the new legislation.
Canon 6
1. When this Code goes into effect, the following are abrogated:
     (1) the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1917;
     (2) other universal or particular laws contrary to the prescriptions of this Code, unless particular laws are otherwise expressly provided for;
     (3) any universal or particular penal laws whatsoever issued by the Apostolic See, unless they are contained in this Code;
     (4) other universal disciplinary laws dealing with a matter which is regulated ex integro by this Code. 
Thus, there is no longer any canonical obligation for women to wear a head-covering, much less the more specific veil.
Moral Law
Given St. Paul's instructions in 1 Cor. 11:3-16 is there a moral obligation for women to wear head-covering, despite the revision of canon law?
Certainly, the moral obligation to dress modestly according to circumstances (e.g. approaching Holy Communion) has not been set aside. Modesty, however, can vary from place to place and time to time. As St. Thomas Aquinas explains, modesty concerns four areas of human behavior,
First, "the movement of the mind towards some excellence, and this is moderated by "humility." The second is the desire of things pertaining to knowledge, and this is moderated by "studiousness" which is opposed to curiosity. The third regards bodily movements and actions, which require to be done becomingly and honestly, whether we act seriously or in play. The fourth regards outward show, for instance in dress and the like" [ST II-II q160, a2]. 
Dress, external behavior, mannerisms, etc. are signs of the person, and become so in the cultural context in which the person lives, and in which it indicates something to others. The Christian conforms to the culture in such matters, unless sin is intrinsically involved (clothing which will have the general effect to tempt the opposite sex). Modesty is humility in dress and mannerisms, an outward sign of the disposition of the inner man. By not standing out the Christian assumes a humble posture toward his neighbors.
Whether men and women sit on opposite sides of the church, men wear a skull-cap, and women a veil, as the Jews of St. Paul's day did, is therefore ultimately a matter of modesty, and thus of custom. St. Paul even alludes to this in the Corinthians passage (v.16). When the "approved mores of the people" (1917 CIC, c1262, 2) change, the Church, desiring to be "all things to all men" (1 Cor. 9:22), can conform to those customs. Only the Magisterium is competent to determine which customs can legitimately be practiced, and where custom leaves off and divine law begins. We are always safe in following the Church, rather than our own judgment, for even if the Church makes a prudential error, it is "bound in heaven" (Mt. 16:13-18).
A Sign of Subordination
Even if wearing head-covering is not a moral obligation, isn't it a fitting sign of the subordination St. Paul speaks of in the passage in Corinthians?
First, lets look at what subordination is. It means to be ordered (directed in an orderly way) toward a particular goal or end, sub (under) some other person's direction. A worker is subordinate to his supervisor, the supervisor to his manager, the manager to the owner, all in order that the company run smoothly to achieve its purpose. As persons, as citizens, as Christians, and in many other categories of existence, worker and supervisor are equals, but in working toward the goal of making the company's product they are not.
Consider the examples St. Paul gives as to why women should be covered.
1 Cor. 11:3  But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ.
1 Cor. 11:8-12   For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; [9] nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; [10] for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. [11]
In Christian marriage the husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is head of the Church. This is also St. Paul's message in Eph. 5:21-33, in which he enunciates the supernatural meaning of Christian marriage as a sacramental sign of Christ's union with the Church. St. Paul then goes on in Corinthians to recall the creation of man and woman, pointing out that woman was taken from man, not vice versa. As Pope John Paul II so clearly taught in his catechesis on Genesis, marriage is not only a Christian sacrament, it is a naturalsacrament of the Communion of Persons within the Trinity. What this tells us is that the equality of persons within a communion does not destroy the hierarchical order of the nature in which it exists. In the divine nature the Father is the head, in the Church it is Christ, and in marriage it is the husband. Indeed, in the Christian order the natural order is perfected, since love becomes, or should become, the motive force of all relations. No doubt this is why St. Paul, in his Ephesians discourse on marriage, begins it by saying, "defer to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:21).
Why, then, would the Church drop the practice of such a fitting sign of the natural order? While, it is certainly still true that the husband has the headship in marriage and the family, I can think of several  possible reasons. 
1. Lost significance. As explained above, signs are culture specific. A particular gesture, clothing, expression, conveys a meaning which is widely understood by people of a particular culture. When the culture no longer sees the significance the sign loses its meaning, except to those who have retained the understanding of it. Certainly, the practice of an important sign can re-introduce a particular understanding into a culture, and so an argument can be made for retaining a sign, like women wearing a head covering in church, and teaching its significance. Indeed, this MUST be done in the case of the matter of the sacraments. Rice cakes cannot be used for the Eucharist, even where rice and not wheat is the staple food. The Church must simply teach the meaning of the sacramental sign. The wearing of a veil or other head covering is not a sign of that significance, however, and so when and where it has lost its meaning it can be set aside, as the Church has evidently done.
2. Conflict of meaning. A sign, while remaining valid, may nonetheless suggest a meaning that would be an obstacle for people in a particular culture. Take the case of white vestments. For Western Christians they convey joy and celebration, but in the Far East white connotes mourning and sadness. Should the Church hold onto her custom because of its longevity or conform it to the understanding of Oriental cultures? She chooses to make her liturgical signs understandable in the culture in which they must be "read." In the particular case of head covering, while the truth intended by this sign remains valid, properly understood and in union with other truths, it is easily misconstrued today as a servile subordination of wife to husband or even all women to all men. In the contemporary world, in which the equality of men and women as persons is emphasized, this is a legitimate consideration. We must not use our Christian freedom to hinder souls (1 Cor. 8). Since there is no intrinsic moral obligation to this practice, it can be set aside. As the last canon of the Code of Canon law reminds us, the salvation of souls is the highest law of the Church (salus animarum suprema lex).
3. Liturgical theology. Among the doctrinal truths manifested in the Mass is the hierarchical nature of the Church. The Church, the Mystical Body, is composed of Christ the Head and those who have been baptized into Christ, His members. The visible distinction of offices in the Liturgy, between the ministerial priesthood on one hand and the people on the other, are the sacramental sign of the Mystical Christ, Head and membersWithin that liturgical, sacramental order, except for the fact that those who represent Christ the Head must be male, the natural distinction between the sexes and within marriage is not liturgically significant. In baptism "there is no longer male or female" (Gal. 3:28). Thus, we find that in all areas of the Church's life not requiring a distinction of sex, men and women today participate equally in the Church as baptized persons.
Personal Piety
While it is absolutely clear to me that there is no canonical or moral obligation for women to wear a head-covering in Church, women are certainly free to do so as a matter of personal devotion. They should, however, see it as a sign of subordination to God, as that better suits the liturgical context. Those who wear a covering or veil, and those who don't, should not judge the motives of the other, but leave each woman free in a matter that is clearly not of obligation.

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STLrevised 28 April 2011

8 comments:

New Sister said...

From my understanding on the matter, women removed the chapel veil in the late 1960s in disobedience, after a reporter wrongly published that "Vatican II" had lifted the requirement. [I don't think the Church actually removed it from canon law until sometime in the 1980s] I post this w/o checking first because I'm in a rush this morning, but that is what I heard during a talk given in our diocese about veiling.

Supertradmum said...

There is no canon law on head gear for women. The 1983 canon law revision does not include it and therefore it is abrogated. That is what canon lawyers note. It is optional, but a good custom and should be revised.

inara said...

I think the problem here is that we are such litigious society & we are so concerned with "what is the minimum the 'law' says I must do?", that we don't even consider there is another, more accurate, way to look at this issue. Headcoverings are outside the realm of Canon Law ~ they are LITURGICAL.

Looking at it this way, it is apparent that the Church must still require women to be veiled (though a woman's culpability may be mitigated, since the rebellion against it has been so great in Western culture). The sole argument to the contrary seems to be "it was in the 1917 Code, but was not included in the 1983 Code, therefore the Church no longer requires it." This would seem to make sense, if we are talking about a juridical topic; however, headcoverings for women is a liturgical issue. In the chapter summaries of every Catholic Bible I have examined, Paul's discourse beginning in 1 Corinthians 11 on veiling is classified as part of "answers to liturgical questions."

Canon 2 of the 1983 Code states, "This Code for the most part does not define the rites that are to be observed in celebrating liturgical actions. Therefore, current liturgical norms retain their force unless any of them are contrary to the Canons of this Code." Since headcoverings for women:

were required by 1917 Code, canon 1262 & there is no canon in the new Code which is contrary to it,

supercede canon law by virtue of being an Immemorial Custom (see canon 26 & 27),

are mandated in Scripture by St. Paul, with no exceptions or allowances (plus an appeal to Natural Law),

it seems clear that they are a liturgical norm which retains force. Even the Canonical Defender himself, Dr. Edward Peters, says on his blog, "Faithful with liturgical questions probably ought not look to the 1983 Code for answers because, with a few important exceptions, Canon law does not treat liturgical matters."

We also have a concrete statement from a much more recent source than the 1917 Code. In June of 1969, Annibale Bugnini (later named Archbishop), Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship & head of the Liturgical Commissions under Popes Pius XII, John XXIII & Paul VI, when asked about his comment from a month earlier that veils were "not on the agenda" of the current reforms (which was incorrectly reported as veils were "no longer required"), said "The rule has not been changed. It is a matter of general discipline." (I have a copy of the microfiche of this UPI article from the Atlanta Journal)

St. Paul's strong words seem indisputable, especially since he leads with this topic when addressing problems occurring within the assemblies at Corinth. After all, how can we simply ignore a command of New Testament Scripture? Is that not a dangerous precedent?

I think he was clear this was a non-negotiable issue precisely because he understood how timeless it was. Appearing before the Lord uncovered is actually full of impudent, modern feminist symbolism..."I can stand before my God bareheaded, same as you, mister!" (which is why he says it offends the angels present at Mass...even they cover themselves in the presence of the Lord).

Supertradmum said...

Women are just in a rebellious mood at this time in this century. The code would not make a difference it is did cover it. I agree with what you wrote, but it is difficult to convince others, is it not, except by example.

New Sister said...

What did it mean that men and women should sit separately? I certainly like this for boys and girls.

Don't mean to sound stiff, but I am not at ease with couples snuggling up to each other at Holy Mass. For one, it's distracting, but it also 'feels' odd to me. (this wasn't the case years ago; I used to think it was fine)

Supertradmum said...

They can sit together but no PDAs, as they say at TAC-no public displays of affection, which is really bad taste.

Catechist Kev said...


What I really find distasteful about PDAs is when couples actually kiss at the sign of peace duorng the OF of Holy Mass. [ewww]

Now, some may say, "Good grief man! In the early days of the Church everybody actually kissed at the sign of peace."

Well, that was their culture.

I find it distracting.

I reach out and gently clasp my wife's hand and we did a little head bump of sorts.

That's enough for us. :)

CK

New Sister said...

CK - I read somewhere on the Vatican website about how the "kiss of peace" is to be conducted. It is to be *solemn* - no smiles; no waving; no affection...and it's to be done only to those immediately near us. Basically, we're to offer the sign of peace as though at a funeral. And I'm w/ you - seeing a couple smooch and embrace in church is plain icky.

BTW: I have a French background so a kiss to the side of one's cheek isn't necessarily PDA; it can be done in a very solemn manner... but if I'm at a NO Mass, I don't even do that unless it's my mom. (I either remain kneeling through the Our Father or give a bow of my head to one other person.) I so deeply dislike the 'kiss of peace' ordeal; may we see it deleted all together - and soon!