Since Father Zuhlsdorf's comments are closed, I will use my own space to clarify some particular remarks that left questions in his mind:
- It was clear to me that he never mentioned "mandates" in any way related to chapel veils, but that his readers referred to such in various chapels. He has been very firm in his explanation of canon law in this regard, which I appreciate;
- I am no Scripture scholar and must defer to those who are, but if Saint Paul's admonition that women cover their heads was anything beyond a culturally conditioned remark, then the Church never would have allowed the matter to be so vague -- nor to allow women lectors, which also runs contrary to the apostle's admonition to them to remain quiet at services. I welcome clarification.
- The word "just" (re: justice) was used to respond to the inherent thought that women must somehow bear more "guilt" before God, in that they need the outward symbol of humility than is not required of men;
- The fact that he offers that his support of chapel veils is an opportunity to "[reinvigorate] our Catholic identity in a society that seeks to sweep visible or vigorous Catholicism from the public square" lends credence to my reticence about the whole question, which is based on my supposition that it's cultural, not theological. I'm all for strengthening our identity, but a fundamental openness to life within the family, creating a "Catholic bloc" in the voting booth, and boasting bishops who will support us in our effort to save those being starved in the name of "mercy" would be a stronger statement, though assuredly not removing from the least in the flock the ever-present responsibility to live virtue;
- Piety is a virtue, and of course it cannot be a bad thing. As he suggests, though, there is a balance to be made (which is distinctly different than "compromise"). The tradeoff which always concerns me is the inhospitality with which many interpret some acts of piety, which bear the aforementioned "code." I don't mean suggest that women have a different "language" about such things, but women will understand me when I say that there are a host of subtle signals which their feminine radar intercepts and interprets -- minutiae that many men miss (no loss, guys!). In this, I mean that women have firm ideas in a given place about who their fellow travellers are -- no matter what their philosophy. It is said that women dress for each other. This can devolve to cattiness in the silliest of circumstances. In more meaningful contexts, it simply implies another code that Catholic women have to deal with. Those of us desperately trying to evangelise our sisters to a greater understanding of the freedom and beauty of faith are always figuring out the best inroads that do not compromise truth for accessibility;
- Whether "veiling" as a term can be used for this question is something I don't know. I only resorted to this short hand because of the disputes about "chapel veils" and "mantillas" and then whether mantillas were worn backwards or forewards, all irrelevant details to the foundational question. I know our excellent parish veils it statues at the appropriate time (I was sorry not to get a snapshot onto his blog when he asked for them) and that the references to Dr Alice von Hildebrand's remarks on the subject referred to "veiling" as an extension of female anatomy, which we'll leave aside for now;
- I am all for a restoration of "churching" with proper explanatin of the rite;
- I could never imagine a "sneer" crossing the good padre's face (or even a mental sneer, for that matter). The hypothetical attitude is one that women save for each other. Perhaps he will believe me when I say we can be a catty group, on occasion -- our own worst enemies. My deepest sympathies have always been with the menfolk who have to endure our worst sides on occasion, while being clueless about why we get so exercised over silly things.
For those who are unfamiliar with my writings over the last many years, my thesis is that women find their vocation in being icons of Holy Mother Church. My book is a practical guide on how this remarkable incarnational reality is to be lived:
In this profound yet practical guide, Genevieve Kineke invites women to consider the Church, the Bride of Christ, as the model for authentic Catholic womanhood. "The mission of women is inscribed in the mystery of the Church," Pope John Paul II said. The author explores facets of this mystery—the Church as mother, bride, spouse and teacher, as sacramental, as font of wisdom, source of culture, and life-giving sanctuary—and reveals how women mirror the Church in their core identity. Faithful to this authentic identity, women will play a critical role in rebuilding a civilization of love and life.
With all that said, everything we do is (should be) imbued with incarnational meaning. I am simply not convinced that wearing veils in the presence of the Almighty has a meaning apart from what culture gives it. (The only reference that seems sturdy in this regard is that Jewish men were to cover their heads when praying.) I refer again to Islamic veils to make my point that simply covering a woman's hair (or face or body) has a variety of motives, many of which are quite dark indeed.
In closing, I am deeply honoured to be added to his blogroll. He, as ever, is in the ranks of esteemed "Bridegrooms" on the lower left column of this blog.
[Addendum: The website for the 20th anniversary of Mulieris Dignitatem can be found here. Please know I wasn't trying to flaunt being a part of the Congress mentioned (presentation here); only trying to bolster my orthodox credentials, since I may come across as irreverent about certain traditions.]