The great Canonical Defender, Dr. Ed Peters has an interesting note on the use… here we go again… about women wearing head coverings in church.
He has something from Cardinal Burke in the topic.
But first, in a nutshell here is the truth: In the Latin Church women are not bound by the Church’s positive law to wear head coverings in church. If they want to, they can. Period. Not much more to say.
Not much more to say? Every time I post on this question, scores of comments are made.
Back to Canonical Defender and Cardinal Burke.
From Dr. Peter’s blog In the Light of the Law comes this with my emphases and comments.
Raymundus locutus, causa finita
Some four years ago, I wrote a short blog post explaining why women were not required to wear ‘chapel veils’ at Mass. I thought it then, and think it now, an entirely uncontroversial position to have taken. [Soooo naive] Apparently, however, not a few folks think (or feel) otherwise.
Out of the hundreds of webpages and blogposts I have published, my post on chapel veils is frequently among the top ten pages read each month. No joke. I have seen, over the years, several “rebuttals” of my views, some rather pretentious in their rhetoric, to which, on rare occasions, I have replied informally in comboxes. For that matter, I’ve seen some other writers with, I would have thought, considerable ‘cred’ among the chapel veil set, also being rebuked for holding that the use of veils is optional. Folks like Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Jimmy Akin, the kind of guys I ask guidance from when I’m stuck on a hard question about Catholic practice. If critics won’t believe Fr. Z or Jimmy, who I am to think I’ll convince them otherwise? [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]
Anyway I had just sworn off even noticing the chapel veil topic anymore when, lo and behold, a nice lady writes to Cdl. Raymund Burke, whose ‘cred’ outweighs all of ours put together, to ask whether the use of chapel veils is obligatory.
Well, the cardinal writes back to her, and she sends me a copy of his letter, from which I may quote (edited for privacy):
“Thank you for your letter …The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to 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. [That is interesting for all sorts of reasons.] It is not, however a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.”
What’s left to say?
Burke’s note is not an “authentic interpretation” nor a formal sentence from the Signatura: it’s simply a calm observation by the world’s leading canonist (not to mention a man deeply in love with the Church and her liturgy) about whether women have to, as a matter of law or moral obligation, wear veils at Mass. Any Mass. And the answer is No.
If a woman wants to wear a veil to Mass, she is perfectly free to do so; if she does not want to wear a veil, she is perfectly free not to. Anyone not happy with that interpretation is welcome to take the matter up with Higher Authority than me, and higher than Burke, for that matter!
A Blessed Holy Thursday to my readers!
Jimmy Akins and Card. Burke, the undersigned, and Dr. Peters are usually right when we write, though I am not entirely convinced about the latter’s argument about latae sententiae excomunication. We are all right about this issue.
What is of special interest to me was the Cardinal’s comment that women should wear a covering as was expected when the Extraordinary Form was the Only Form. Back in the day, women wore head coverings, therefore they ought to do so today when participation in that form of the Roman Rite.
This principle should be applied to other aspects as well. Off of the top, I can think of the manner of reception of Holy Communion: every communicant (not just women) were expected back in the day to kneel and receive on the tongue. Thus, the same expectation applies today in the Extraordinary Form even though it is permissible to do otherwise. But wait: the Church gives permission to receive on the hand now, when the normal way to do it remains directly on the tongue. Well… analogies are never perfect.
Nevertheless, an interesting little point for our reflection and our Catholic identity.
And, once again, I think the tradition of women wearing head coverings in church should be revived even as I know that it is not obligatory by the Church’s positive law.