Let me tell you about something lovely that happened to me in real life: I was at supper at church, and I met this lady who could out-trad all the trads. I was glad to finally meet her, because I love her wardrobe and never get a chance to say so. Anyway, she comes up and says hello and chats for a bit, and voices a few opinions on matters which Catholics are free to disagree about it, and which not everyone at the table shared.
Can you guess what happened?
Try to guess.
Nothing happened, that’s what. Because Catholics are free to disagree about these matters. Normal, sane, friendly Catholics can have supper together and disagree about things and still get along just fine.
This was a particularly poignant moment because just earlier in the day I’d watched Catholics on social media start foaming at the mouth over the v-word. Before we talk about what this has to do with your moral life, let’s review:
- Catholic women are not required to cover their heads during Mass at this time. This is an indisputable point, links below.
- Catholics are free to hold any opinion on whether women should be so required, ie whether canon law ought to be changed or not, for any reason at all.
- Catholics are free to hold any opinion on whether the current canon law is right or wrong for some enduring theological reason.
- Catholics are free to hold any opinion on whether the custom of women covering their heads ought to be more-widely or less-widely practiced.
- Catholics are free to hold any opinion on what theological significance the practice might or might not have.
- Catholic women are free to cover their heads in church or not, for any reason or no reason at all. Men aren’t so lucky, sorry guys.
- Catholics are free to like or not like their neighbor’s choice of clothing, but they should generally keep their mouths shut in the latter case.
Therefore it is perfectly acceptable to posit an argument or theory for or against this particular practice. It is acceptable to promote the practice if you favor it, and try to persuade others to your point of view; it is likewise acceptable to make arguments against the practice.
It is not, however, acceptable for Christians to cast aspersions on the motives of their neighbors.
Our interior motives for an action are in fact important to the state of our soul. If we are doing something out of pride or rebellion or superiority or indifference, we need to reassess our motives. This does not necessarily mean the corresponding outward action needs to be shelved. I might give money to the food bank out of some sinful desire, but the feeding of the hungry isn’t where I’ve erred. Let me clean up my interior life but continue to carry on the work of mercy.
The interior life of our neighbor, however, is none of our business.* If our friend is engaged in some perfectly acceptable behavior, it is none of our concern what her reasons might be.
To cast aspersions on other people’s motives is a sin against charity. When our Lord says “Judge not lest you be judged,” this is in fact what He is referring to. Admonishing the sinner is indeed a work of mercy, but it assumes we know what the sin actually is. When we attribute ill-intentions to our neighbor’s innocent actions, we are making up sins. We are fabricating lies about our neighbor.
Cut it out.
- Jimmy Akin: Do Women Need to Wear Headcoverings at Mass?, Headcoverings at Mass, and Women’s Headcoverings at Mass, I Won’t Say I Told You So But . . .
- Dr. Ed Peters: Vatican II, Canon 1262, and chapel veils
- Msgr. Pope: Sinful Curiosity is at the Root of Many Sins
*If she wants to make it your business, she’ll bring it to your attention. At which point it ceases to be an interior state, doesn’t it?
Artwork: Friedrich von Amerling [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons