Separating the sexes in church

I am curious whether any of you can answer this for me. I have read that the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and custom at the time, dictated men and women to sit separately in church. When exactly was the custom changed? Was it a gradual change over time, or was there a pronouncement from the Vatican and an immediate change? Does the SSPX still follow the 1917 Code on this?

Also, where did the kids sit? Boys with Dad, Girls with Mom?

It stopped being required in 1983. However, it stopped virtually everywhere long before that (I think). At least in the US, I know relatives of mine were sitting together at Mass in the 30’s or so. It makes me wonder if the canon was ever applied at all.

It was not invoked during the filming of the Easter Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows in 1941.
I imagine it was not enforced a lot longer than that, as my great-grandparents used to go to Mass on Sunday together as part of their “courting”.

Which make me wonder if it was ever followed even in 1917?

I believe the Canon in question is Canon 1262 which is funny, because Canon 1262 is also the one that codifies headcoverings for women… I wonder why only one was practiced? Personally, though, I like sitting next to my wife in Mass, and I really love that she always wears a veil.

Here is a (roughly translated) excerpt from the 1917 Code of Canon Law:

1262.1 Conformable to ancient discipline, it is desirable that the women be separated from the men in church.

1262.2 Men are to assist at sacred functions, whether in the church or outside of it, with their heads uncovered, unless a reasonable national custom or special circumstances justify a departure from this rule. Women, however, should cover their heads and be dressed modestly, particularly when they approach the Lord’s table.

This practice hasnt been common for a long time in the Latin Rite, although some of the Easterns maintain it. I believe the practice comes from Judaism.

My mother has talked about this several times. When she was a child during the 1930s and 40s it was a common custom in Ireland. In the cathedral people still commonly call one side the women’s side and the other, the men’s side. However, by the time my mother and father married in 1956 and for a couple of years beforhand when they were dating the custom was no longer followed. They used to sit together at Mass when they were dating. So, this seems to have died out sometime during the early 1950s in Ireland. I don’t know what the situation was in the US.

There are some beautiful churches just north of Schulenberg, Texas called the Painted Churches. They were built by [German and Czech I think] immigrants about a hundred years ago. Inside one finds statues by the pillars along the aisles - male saints on one side, female on the other. Looking closer one notes that only the pews on the side with male saints have clips to hold a man’s hat.

There’s a parish on “The Hill” in St. Louis (St. Ambrose I believe) that has the same evidence of the old tradition - I was there for a wedding once years ago. “The Hill” is the old Italian section of St. Louis.

Thanks for these responses so far. I notice in many older churches that St. Joseph is on the Epistle side of the church, and Our Lady on the Gospel side. I hope to check out St. Ambrose soon. The other church on The Hill, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, was torn down.

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