Our priest has told all the female ushers, sacristans, lectors and all other liturgical members that they cannot wear their veils when they serve. If they want to where them while sitting in the congregation, it’s alright, but not when they are serving Mass. He says they must all be uniform. Can he do this? If he can, why?
Yes. A pastor can set standards for the faithful when they act in particular roles in a liturgical context. Ask the question in the other direction: can a pastor ask those acting in these roles not to wear beach-wear when they serve in these roles?
Because he’s in charge of regulating the liturgy at his parish.
There was an excruciatingly long discussion on this topic recently.
Of course he can, but I would be concerned if one did. I would find it disingenuous if he said it was because of uniformity, unless he required all ministers to buy matching polo shirts and wear black pants, in which case, it would be weird but at least consistent.
Absolutely he can, and I expect most priests would make a similar ruling about liturgical ministers weiring veils.
The problem the priest is addressing is that if any individual (or small group) stands out in the Mass, for any reason, then that person (or persons) becomes a distraction to the congregation, and even to the priest himself. The distraction is very conspicuous if they are a ministers.
Over the years I’ve had several priests quietly censure individuals, including myself, who have been doing something which creates a distraction. (As reader, I was processing to the ambo while the collect was being said).
I’ve never heard of this being an issue. The women I’ve seen in veils at Mass have also been ones who avoid ministry and parish life in general (which is just fine), but if any were to volunteer I expect they’d realise that veils are not suitable for ministers without being told, or would at least ask the priest first.
The priest here isn’t saying that the ministers must dress unifomly, but rather he is objecting to a conspicuous lack of uniformity. He may well do the same if all ministers were in smart clothes and one persisted in very casual clothes. As I said, it’s about individuals causing a distraction to the congregation.
Ah, I see it has come up before. When I posted I didn’t realise how close your link was to our thread.
Still, the choir director (from the other thread) is in a much less visible role than the ones listed here (usher, sacristan, etc.).
The question of how much authority the priest has in the matter applies to both threads however, and there seems to be strong agreement that he can rule against the veil - even from those who think he shouldn’t.
Yes, he can.
Remember that serving in those functions is not anyone’s right–rather, the laity are capable of being appointed by the pastor to those functions. Now, a pastor cannot act arbitrarily or in a way that harms the good of the community (for example, banning anyone with brown hair or green eyes from doing the readings). He can, however, set reasonable standards of appearance—such as “no shorts” or “no t-shirts” or even to require everyone (having a function) to wear an alb.
Think of it this way: let’s say that a reader appears one Sunday for Mass wearing a baseball cap. The pastor would be well within his authority to say that such cannot be worn by the reader at Mass. I doubt anyone would question this. Given its history, a veil is more than just a fashion choice. So, yes, he’s within his authority to disallow them in those circumstances.
Thankyou, as always, Fr David. I think this (my highlight) is an important point.
We seem to be in agreement, reluctantly or not, that the priest can make such a ruling, but this reminds us that the veil has a particular relevance to the visible unity or disunity of the ministers.
I don’t see it as an issue of “unity” but one of “uniformity.”
Unity either exists or it does not. Uniformity, however, can (and may) be imposed.