Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On "Apostolic Traditions"

Like myself, many of you were quite offended by that article I discussed suggesting that priestly celibacy was practically a dogma and that Eastern practice was never going to be more than "an exception."

A very good article was recommended in the comments section, from an Eastern perspective, refuting this new school of "historical" arguments for celibacy which seek to prove (with evidence from hundreds of years after the fact) that going back to the Apostles, priests had to put away their wives or live with them only as sisters.

A tortuous reading of Paul's statement about a bishop having one wife is required for this. And, of course, it conveniently ignores the fact that, were this true, back in those days it would have applied equally to priests and deacons. And yet, even though married deacons are no problem nowadays, this alleged "Apostolic Tradition" is used as an argument of why mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests in the West cannot and will not ever be changed.

So I thought today that we'd recall another Apostolic Tradition that, for that same reason, will thus presumably never be changed:

Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me: and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. 3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head. 5 But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven.

For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. 7 The man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. 8 For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. 9 For the man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.
10 Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.

11 But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. 12 For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. 13 You yourselves judge: doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered? 14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? 15 But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.

To this very clear scriptural mandate might be added other traditions considered Apostolic at various points, like fasting for 40 days of Lent, communion on the tongue, or worship facing East. Which, I have to assume, like mandatory celibacy, could thus never be discarded or altered.

Oh, wait...

Isn't funny how they pick and choose their arguments when it is convenient to the status quo they are trying to preserve?


sortacatholic said...

Oh no, not the veiling question again. I don't think that the question of women veiling or wearing a hat at Mass is on the same practical level as priestly celibacy. Nevertheless veiling is an important question in Tridentine culture. I respect my friends who veil. It's a woman's choice to do so, but it is her choice alone. There is a fine line between devotion and coercion, and veiling falls within this juncture. More a bit later.

The last time my mother wore a chapel veil was in elementary school in the 50s. She gladly gave up hats and veils in the 60s and never looked back. She never covers her head at the TLMs she attends with me. Actually, few women veil at the TLM I attend when at home in the States. In Montreal it's a bit different –- half veil, I suppose. The pastor and priests in my Stateside church never even mention veiling. What a relief!

I have found that veiling is most common where there is a strong social pressure for women to take up the practice. Therein lies my concerns. A woman should never veil because her husband likes it or because other women self-enforce veiling as a test of “orthodoxy”. If I were a woman and a pastor told me that I must veil, I would get up and leave the church.

The veiling question lies at the crossroads between Tridentine culture and Tridentine belief, and not within epistolary injunctions. “Tridentine culture” is being part of the movement because of a perceived and self-selected fundamentalism that fronts itself as “orthodoxy”. “Tridentine belief” is the joy of immersing oneself into the beauty and profundity that is the eternal dance of the Mass. If only fundamentalism were to disappear and all of us recognized our wounds rather than hubris. Sadly, I am convinced that many attend the TLM not because of the seductiveness of the eternal dance but rather to exploit the TLM as a fundamentalist control.

Pater, O.S.B. said...

Apples and Oranges.

sortacatholic said...

What do you mean by this, Father? The choice between worshiping the Mass as an idol and worshiping Mass as a believer at the foot of Calvary are often barely distinguishable. We are given a choice -- to always view the Mass afresh through its endless profundity, or let ourselves be bound by a prideful fundamentalism. Sometimes the distinctions aren't always clear.

Should I melt down my earrings while waiting for your answer?

A Sinner said...

"If I were a woman and a pastor told me that I must veil, I would get up and leave the church."

I dunno on this one. I definitely think we need to avoid the "burqa" mentality...but I think veiling can be (and was for a long time) on the legislated side of things. It was in the old Canon Law, after all, and was just assumed for 1900 years based on Paul's comments.

So I would hesitate to class it away as mere private devotion or custom, just as I would hesitate to class communion on the tongue or the old Fasting disciplines that way. The community does need to have some standards that are communal for liturgy, and this one goes back to the Apostles.

In some ways I think your comments apply more to the question of women in pants. I think dresses and skirts are pretty and it's nice if women wear them, but I definitely think pants are fine these days on women too, and am mad when trads get ideological about that or there is a sort of pressure for the women to dress like those fundamentalist mormon women, lol.

As we've discussed before on the blog, I think that the expectation to "dress up" for church according to some 1950's notion of the "formal" is stupid. But I'm not sure veiling is in that category.

I mean, a priest at an Old Rite community can't force anyone to follow any of the old provisions (including the old fast, etc). At the same time, he can refuse communion on the hand. And he can definitely encourage a fast from midnight and veiling, etc, even if he can't "force" anyone under current canon law, he can exert some subtle nudging in the right direction.

But I agree that if anyone feels imposed upon that is bad just from a practical standpoint, you have to make it a communal trend that people feel like they WANT to embrace.

A Sinner said...

And I think Pater's apples and oranges comment didn't apply to what you said, but to the whole post, along the lines of your:

"I don't think that the question of women veiling or wearing a hat at Mass is on the same practical level as priestly celibacy."

Jonathan said...

I think it has to do with the coerced view ala this rather laughable kitschy tag :'t+forget+your+mantilla.jpg

Mantillas are NOT (I don't care what anybody says.) the normative for attending at a TLM or DL for that matter. What matters is that a woman covers her head PERIOD.

So if she wishes to wear this:

or this

or this

or this

I guess you all get the point by now, but nonetheless some Trad communities go into conniptions in their efforts to create a homogenous Church.

Jonathan said...

BTW I as a male wear something over my head OUTSIDE of Mass. I do so as a sign of submission as I recognize that there is someone above me (ie in much the same way Jewish men wear kippot. I have both a kippot (with a Jerusalem Cross embroidered on it.) and a kuffi (And no I'm not Judaizing -_- .). I go to a TLM and the Priests there have said nothing to me about it. I take it off when I enter into the Church for Mass and put it back on when I walk into the street. This is my own PERSONAL sign of devotion to GOD. Each and every time I might feel the urge to sin, I always have to recall that I am going to have to remove my cap. In that process I am reminded that I should not be doing so and the thoughts leave me.

One thing that perplexes me is that Eastern Priests (Syriacs and Alexandrians in particular) pray with their caps ON during Liturgy (whereas Latins do not). I have observed the same thing with a Latin Bishop praying The Rosary. So my question is this, does the praying with a cap violate what St.Paul stated, or does it depend on the context. ?

A Sinner said...

Head covering is a sign of humility, obviously. Sometimes I guess the priest has various headgear to be humble. But it is almost always removed at the Consecration when he is acting in the person of Christ the Head.

Pater, O.S.B. said...

Dear Sortacatholic,

I give my thanks to A Sinner for clearing up my "apples and oranges" statement which indeed did refer to the comparison of veiling of women and mandatory celibacy, and not to your comments. Kind regards.