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Editor's Choice » International

The return of women's veils at Mass sparks a debate

The mantilla seems to be making a comeback, but not all women are happy about it.

The return of women's veils at Mass sparks a debate
Heidi Schlumpf International

October 2, 2012

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Retro is in, and I’m all for it, if by “retro” you mean “Mad Men,” midcentury modern furniture and martinis. But mantillas? That’s one fashion trend this vintage-loving girl is skipping. Although I adore the styles of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, I definitely prefer a more 21st-century attitude toward women.??If traditionalist Catholic blogs are to be believed, veil wearing in church is making a comeback. The biggest supporters? Young women, who see it as a countercultural sign of their devotion to the church. A recent Facebook photo of a young woman, hands folded in prayer and head topped by a lace veil, garnered dozens of “likes” and comments gushing about how it’s an “amazing way to express our faith” and “honor the Blessed Mother,” as well as an antidote to “immodest dressing.” Other websites supporting a return to head covering for women note that it’s a privilege, not a sign of submission, since the only other “covered” things at Mass are clergy, the tabernacle and the chalice. That’s a stretch. Most supporters cite 1 Corinthians 11:5-6, which says that “any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head ... she should wear a veil.” It’s not surprising that traditional Catholics who prefer their nuns in habits and priests in cassocks would want to get in on the dress-up fun. And I understand the power of a nonverbal message sent through clothing. It’s why police officers wear uniforms, gang members wear colors and Packer fans wear cheeseheads. But some of these enthusiastic would-be veil wearers don’t seem to see the contradiction in “getting up the courage” to wear a veil as an in-your-face expression of submission and humility. A few even noted how great a veil is for “blocking out distractions” at Mass, as if fellow worshipers are an annoyance during private me-and-God time. A little history (beyond the romanticized “it was better then” type) might be in order. Veils and other head coverings, for both women and men, have had various meanings throughout history, and it is true that style of dress sometimes signified marital status, purity and virginity, or deference before a deity. While men sometimes have covered their heads for prayer (think Jewish yarmulkes), the cultural requirement for women to cover their heads has often extended not just to prayer and worship but to include any time she was in public (think Muslim hijabs). Full Story: Head covering is thinly veiled patriarchy Source: National Catholic Reporter
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