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. 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?
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. 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! + + +
From Jimmy Akin’s combox, a nice rephrasing of the obvious . . . Concerning St. Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has stated that this was a discipline based on customs of the time, not a permanent moral obligation: “But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor 11: 2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.” CDF, decl. Inter Insigniores (15 oct. 1976) n. 4.