What does canon law say?

What does canon law say?

Occasionally I get direct mail pieces or emails or see web sites, where someone is claiming that “Vatican II didn’t change X practice because Canon Law #XX is still in force.” I usually scratch my head, toss it in the trash, and move on, but I’m sure there are people taken in by this, especially since most people won’t bother looking up the relevant canon, won’t understand it if they do, and can’t place it in context.

Ed Peters takes on one example of this regarding an advertisement for chapel veils which claimed “Did you know that nothing in Vatican II changes the practice of headcoverings for women and that Canon 1262 is still in force?” It implies that women are still required by canon law to cover their heads in church, but Ed points out that this isn’t the case. While the 1917 Code of Canon Law did include such a provision, it was removed for the 1983 Code and no longer appears.

I yield to no man in my admiration of the 1917 Code, but its Canon 1262 went out of force in November, 1983 (see 1983 CIC 6); the 1983 Code simply does not require women to cover their heads in church. (By the way, if 1917 CIC 1262 were still in force, we’d have to explain why we don’t observe its other norms, like separate seating for men and women in church.)

This isn’t to say that the wearing of such veils is not an admirable practice or that there’s anything wrong with wearing one. But canon law doesn’t require it and it’s wrong to tell people that it does.

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  • As Ed points out, St. Paul’s admonition doesn’t say women must wear veils at Mass (since of course, they didn’t think of it as the Mass in his time yet), but that they shouldn’t pray unveiled. Does that mean women should never pray without chapel veils? Do you know any women who abide by the restriction?

    So what did St. Paul mean? What are the anagogical or analogical or typological meanings of the phrase?  Or have we reduced ourselves to simple literalists?

  • I know women who wear chapel veils and one who wears a black veil like the sorrowful mother.  They are beautiful souls and they do this for reasons of personal penance and great love and gratefulness for God’s mercy toward them and their families. 

    I do not wear a veil.  I think I would be a hypocrit.  I respect all souls because only God can see them in the light of infinite love.  I don’t know what St. Paul meant but I would obey whatever the Church wants me to do.  Just tell me the truth and I and millions of us will do whatever God asks.

    Sometimes there is too much silence from the pulpit.  Hypocrit or not, I still would like to know with certainty what would please God regardin g covering my head. Tell me and it is done.


  • I’m tired of this whole argument. I wear a veil when I go to Mass or to adoration. As long as they leave me in peace I don’t care what the other women at Mass do. Different strokes for different folks.

  • What was the situation in Corinth that Paul was addressing? Some experts say that hairstyles among women in Corinth were a sign of status in society and thus Paul thought women should be veiled while in the assembly so that all would be equal before the Lord.

    Other say that it was simply that seeing a woman’s hair was a sign of sexual availability (like Orthodox Jews today who believe only a husband should see a woman’s hair), and women in Corinth were beginning to ignore this provocation. According to this view, Paul was trying to avert an uproar in the Church.

    So how does this apply today? The fact is that most women’s haristyles are not provocative. They simply don’t elicit in men any of those lustful feelings. Is this because immodesty has gone way beyond pretty hair? Maybe.

    But if we’re going to impose an “immemorial custom” on women today maybe we should know why we’re doing it and even have a good spiritual reason for it?

    So—apart from “because that’s the way it’s always been done”—does anyone have a good reason for women continuing this custom.

    N.B. A tangential discussion could begin on whether elaborate and/or expensive veils and mantillas are actually a violation of Paul’s admonition, not an adherence, in that they could be signs of wealth or status or fashionability.

  • In the interest of full disclore, my father is a Mason of some high degree (I don’t know the details) and past master of his lodge. As a child, I once attended a Masonic ceremony (I believe it was his installation as master).

    I wish my did were not a member and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been an active member for about 15 years, about the time he had his last big heart attack. I’ve talked with him about the Church’s prohibitions on membership, but he says he was told by a priest that it’s okay to belong and that it was only the old European Masonic lodges that were anti-Catholic and that the American lodges are completely different.

    What can I do? I can’t make my father change. That said, my father is a daily Mass attendee, very active in his parish, and very strong in his faith. Despite having received absolution from a bishop, he won’t go to Communion because he divorced my mother.

    I give these details so you can see that such things are not always cut and dried.