Friday, February 11, 2011
Students waiting to receive communion at the St Catherine's Trust Summer School 2009.
The photo was taken by Emma Duggan.
Fr Z is conducting a poll on whether the custom of ladies wearing mantillas (which Americans call chapel veils, for some reason) - or some other head covering - in church should be revived. It is overwhelmingly in favour so far -
Vote here: http://bit.ly/eBmzcH
Voters can say whether it should be voluntary or obligatory; unsurprisingly perhaps the voluntary option is the most popular. On reflection however this doesn't really make sense.
First, it is already voluntary. If you want to revive it you have to change its legal status. It was obligatory from Apostolic times until the 1983 Code of Canon Law, and it is an anomaly, historically speaking, that this obligation was removed.
Secondly, things which are 'obligatory' in church law are not exactly enforced, or even consistently promulgated. How many people know about the obligation of Friday penance? How many receive communion only in a state of grace? To say it should be obligatory is not to suggest women not covering their heads should be whipped out of church.
Thirdly, and this is the crux of it, right now women who choose to cover their heads are actively persecuted by the usual liberal fascists. They get funny looks; priests tell them they are drawing attention to themselves; they are accused of spiritual pride and all the rest of it. One young woman I know started going to the Traditional Mass because only there could she 'get away with' wearing a mantilla. You get the same thing when people want to receive communion kneeling, or when priests prefer not to concelebrate. The only way to protect good practice against social pressure of this kind is to make it obligatory. And if it is a pious practice, what could be the objection?
Even that is not enough, of course - people have become so used to liturgical abuses they criticize people who want to follow the law. But it would be a step in the right direction.
Finally, the main reason give against making it obligatory is actually a reason in favour. The reason is this: many women don't feel comfortable wearing a mantilla. Why not? The discomfort comes from their not being used to it, and to it looking like a big 'statement'. If it were an obligation, it wouldn't be such a statement, and they would get used to it. And so this pious practice would become 'doable' once more for the great majority.
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