Q. I met a priest and we fell in love. Now we are having a very intimate affair. Since I am not married, I believe that I am not committing adultery. But for him, he is violating his vow of celibacy. I cannot give up this relationship because I am madly in love with him, as he is with me. I am troubled and need your advice. (Richmond, Va.)
A. I hope that you will think of how much is at stake here. First, there is the question of your spiritual welfare and the state of your souls. You are not married to each other, and have not made the lifelong civil and religious commitment that would justify your intimacy.
Your friend, as you point out, is violating his vows — and you are complicit. He is grabbing back what he already offered to the Lord in generous sacrifice, and you are encouraging him to do so.
I know this is much easier for me to say than for you to do, but why not take a step back, take a bit of a breather to think and to pray? Seek some counseling, perhaps both separately and together, and figure out in what direction you want your lives to go.
If God’s plan is for the two of you to spend the rest of your lives together, then do it right. Allow your friend some time to consider whether he wants to apply for a dispensation from his vows. And in the meantime, live chastely. That way, you will have clear consciences, God’s help and the support of the sacraments. I promise to pray as the two of you make some far-reaching decisions.
Q. Since Vatican II, I have noticed that in today’s Catholic churches, women go bareheaded, while I have seen some men wearing baseball caps. No one seems to show any respect for the place where they find themselves. Nothing seems sacred or awe-inspiring anymore. (Houma, La.)
A. The Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law currently allows a woman, if she chooses, to wear a hat or a chapel veil while in church, but it does not require her to do so. The 1917 Code of Canon Law, in No. 1262 had stated that women, when assisting sacred functions, “should cover their heads and be dressed modestly, particularly when they approach the Lord’s table.”
But that 1917 Code was replaced by the 1983 code, which is now silent on the question of head covering. (The same section of the 1917 code had also said that “conformable to ancient discipline, it is desirable that the women be separated from the men in church.”)
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians observes in 11:13 that it is proper for women to pray with their heads veiled. But the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a 1976 document called “Inter Insigniores” made it clear that such a practice was based on the custom of the times and was not a matter of faith. This observation was reinforced when the 1983 Code went on to lift the canonical requirement.
Some scholars believe that the custom had arisen as a gesture of humility — women covering their hair, which might be a source of pride; men refraining from certain headgear, which could denote positions of honor.
Men have never covered their heads in Catholic worship. The 1917 Code, in fact, had specified that “men are to assist at sacred functions … with their heads uncovered.”
As to the letter writer’s dismay over men wearing baseball caps in church, I couldn’t agree more. Respect surely demands that a man’s hat be removed when he enters church. And I, for one, would even extend that to a home or place of business.
The age-old Jewish custom is different from the Catholic practice; it calls for men to cover their heads in a synagogue with a skullcap, as an expression of awe before the divine presence.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.