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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