Echoes. Wear a veil in church. Published on 04/27/2022


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Wear a veil in church

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In the current Code of Canon Law currently in force, published in 1983, the canon on head veils has not been reissued. It is therefore clear that women today are not required to cover their heads in church.

Father Kenneth

Q. Recently I was “condemned” to wear a veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament – both when I am at Mass and during my hours of adoration in the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration in our parish. Several other women in the parish also felt led to do so.

However, I am told that some of these women were “advised” by our pastor that he didn’t want to and that he felt wearing the veil was a source of pride. As a child, of course, I wore a veil to my first communion and even for a few years afterwards and I never thought it was pride. I would like your opinion. (Caroline from the south)

A. The custom of women wearing a veil in church finds a basis in the early days of the Church, as reflected in the 11th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. This custom, however, may well have reflected the cultural bias of the time, for the same chapter says: “For man came not from woman, but woman from man; man did not was not created for woman, but woman for man.”

The 1917 Code of Canon Law (in No. 1262) stated that men in church should be bareheaded while women “must have their heads covered”. (This same canon also said, “It is desirable that, in accordance with ancient discipline, women should be separated from men in the church.”)

But in 1976, an instruction issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that this 1917 directive was no longer in effect. (The CDF says: “It should be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the time, concern little more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed on women to wear the veil on their heads. . . . Such requirements no longer have normative value.”)

In the current Code of Canon Law, published in 1983, the canon on head veils was not reissued. Clearly, women today are not required to cover their heads in church.

Does this mean that they are not allowed? Of course not. Within the limits of modesty, people are free to wear what they want – and the only one who can judge the motivation is the wearer.

If you are using a mantilla, or chapel veil, out of vanity – to draw attention to yourself – then you are wrong. But if you wear it out of reverence, out of respect for the dignity of the Eucharist and our unworthiness before it, then it is a laudable choice. It is your call, left to your discretion in prayer.

Q. What is the Church’s position on “destination weddings,” which may or may not be performed by a priest? If two unmarried Catholics in good standing marry in such a non-religious ceremony, will the Church accept that marriage? (Schenectady, New York)

A. My take on “destination weddings” (Cabo San Lucas seems the current rage) is that they are fraught with complications – both religiously and civilly.

To answer your question simply, two Catholics must be married by a Catholic priest or deacon. Sometimes an “exotic” wedding venue will assure a couple that the venue will find a member of the clergy to officiate, but it is always uncertain whether it is a Catholic priest or deacon in good standing. (Most often it won’t be Catholic at all.)

Additionally, there is the matter of obtaining the appropriate license from a foreign municipal authority and ensuring that the marriage will be recognized in the United States. On more than one occasion in the recent past, I have persuaded Catholic couples wishing to marry in destination to marry beforehand in a silent ceremony in our parish church with me as celebrant and with a marriage license of our own town hall.

After that, they can head out and party in the tropics with their friends and family, confident that their marriage is recognized as official by church and state.

– Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service


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