Over at the blog called feminine genius there are some reactions to my entry concerning women wearing chapel veils (or better keeping their heads covered in church). Let’s have a look with my emphases and comments.
Cultural artifact or trancendent item?
There is a second discussion on chapel veils at WDTPRS. I love the good work of Father Z, but was miffed at his comment a couple weeks ago that he liked women to cover their heads at Mass. [To be clear, I maintain that there is no longer any obligation under the Church’s law for this, but I think it is a good custom that recommends itself for various reasons.] At the original thread, these were two of my various responses:
As a convert, I’ve had to sort out this chapel veil thing and decided for several reasons that it was not necessary to wear one any longer. I cannot think of a just reason [The writers sees this in terms of "justice".] why it’s honourable for a woman to cover her head but not a man (Believe me, I’m no feminist. I just addressed the international congress in Rome on Mulieris Dignitatem.) I understand the complementarity of the sexes (as well as we can, this side of the veil) but haven’t seen an argument that works. The letter of Saint Paul isn’t authoritative on that because his intention was a particular abuse in a particular place. [This is the argument that runs that certain things no longer pertain in the Church today because they were, in ancient times, "culturally conditioned".]
If it’s a sign of virtue, then I can see why Fr Z would like to see it. But I’m more inclinded to think it’s an indication of an older piety that he can recognise as bearing a “code,” then that’s a cultural construct in which I don’t want to take part. [Fair enough. I do, in fact, think that the chapel veil thing is also helpful for reivigorating our Catholic identity in a society that seeks to sweep visible or vigorous Catholicism from the public square. That is not my only reason, of course, but it is one that I have considered in the wake of watching what Pope Benedict is doing to reestablish Catholic identity in our modern world. That said, I wonder if the writer sees "piety" has being a bad thing. I get that sense, but I don’t have enough information from what she wrote here. I don’t think "piety" is bad, by the way, though it, like so many other things can get a little strange when it is out of balance.]
Methinks that we are straining at gnats here, while ignoring the camels. A vast number if not the majority of women of child-bearing age in the pews are contracepting. Sexual license is rampant, theology of the body is not understood by most, divorce and remarriage is the same as other communions, Mass attendance is not taken seriously, families are in disarray, etc. To even think that mandating chapel veils (and suits for men) would be anything other than laughable is to be delusional. [Wow. We jumped from veils being commendable to being "mandated". I have sure never made that jump. In fact, I have taken heat from some of the hard core because I argue exactly that they are not mandated, at least by the Church’s law.] There is so much to do in order to win the hearts and minds of women, so that they understand their inherent dignity but beginning with frivolous accidents (which have no meaning to them other than a sense of playing “dress up”) would be to lose any possibility of serious discussion about more important matters. [That is fair.] Veiling [I think veiling, when it comes to women, and not statues during Passiontide, is actually a techincal term, refering to women religious. Perhaps that word isn’t the best choice, but that is nitpicking on my part. At the same time, perhaps some people try to make the connection between the veils lay women wear in church and the veils of women religious. Complicated.] may come later—much later—after motherhood has won its rightful esteem and families are recognised as the domestic churches they are, but not before. [I wonder what she thinks of "churching"?] Thus, if one woman says, “a ha! I get it!” and dons a veil, bully for her. But she cannot then cast her aspersions on the rest of her unwashed pew-mates as “less holy.” [Hmmm… on WDTPRS I think I have been a pretty strong critic of the traditionalist "sneer" at those who don’t conform to a certain paradigm imagined to be sufficiently Catholic. I have worked farily hard to reduce that censorious condescension newcomers sometimes – rarely I hope – experience when going to a "traditional" Mass.]
This thread, though, is a specific request from a woman who is discerning whether she is called to wear one, and the responses are interesting. The reference to the "mandated veils" comes from Latin Mass chapels that require them, [If they do, they are violating the rights Catholic women have under canon law, that is, the right not to wear a head covering.] and shun women who don’t comply. Obviously that’s a very different situation than the average Novus Ordo woman at Our Lady of Third Avenue who is figuring out whether covering her head would be appropriate given the state of her personal journey. She would in no way be lumped in with the judgemental crowd I’ve referred to as a portion of Fr Z’s flock. [And the other portion?]
I’m still not convinced that there’s more imagination than theology involved, but then imagination is important, too. [Yes, it is. I wonder if the book The Heresy of Formlessness by M. Mosebach could shed more light on this.]
Very engaging stuff, to be sure. The comments to the entry are also interesting and worth reading. I am putting this blog on my left-sidebar blog roll.