But it dawned on me that I finally figured out why there's so much tension about this among the Catholic female Internet community (the Catholic female real-world community may or may not reflect that tension, but I don't know).
Imagine for a moment that instead of choosing to wear chapel veils, women who wished, for whatever reason, to cover their heads instead had chosen bonnets.
There's a good reason for that choice--I'm not just being silly. Look at the pictures of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, after all--the first native-born American saint. Her widow's bonnet was the original inspiration for her first order's habit (though eventually a more traditional cloth veil was adopted). Catholic women throughout America's pioneer days would probably have worn some style of bonnet to Mass on Sundays. The bonnet was the sort of hat many women would have worn and used all the way up to the late 19th and early 20th century, when more daring hats replaced the simple, humble cloth or straw bonnet.
But can you imagine the effect of Catholic women in America writing today about the call to bonnet (as in, wear a bonnet to Mass)? Can you imagine earnest discussions of "bonnetting" (I'm assuming the "t" would double before adding "-ing," but I admit that there could be grammatical dissension on that point) and whether or not the Church had ever truly abrogated the "bonnetting" requirement? Can you imagine every single bonnet-proponent politely but firmly ignoring all the people who reminded them that the Church had never required "bonnetting" at all and had never used "bonnet" as a verb in regard to women's head coverings? Can you imagine them ignoring the truth that lots of other head coverings were worn, most of them ordinary, everyday, garden-variety hats, and not only were they worn but they were worn out in public most or all of the time so that a woman didn't have to stand at the church-steps, eyes demurely downcast, while she gracefully pulled at the bonnet-strings so that that thing that had looked a bit like an elaborate collar on the back of her neck suddenly popped on over her head, beautifully framing her now-blushing face? Can you imagine them comparing the shape of the average tabernacle (okay, not in Los Angeles, but in most sane places) to a bonnet and solemnly opining that we bonnet what is holy?
No, neither can I.
And that, I think, is why a lot of everyday, average, ordinary Catholic women, women like me who actually like traditional things and would in most cases be pleased with the return of some of the important ones (like chant, or antiphons at Mass, or artwork that doesn't look like a toddler with crayons got at the blender again) get deeply irritated with all this "veiling" stuff. Look, if you want to cover your head at Mass, and you are female, fine! Go ahead and do so. If you want to wear a hat sometimes but not all the time--guess what? You're allowed to do so. If instead of a hat you want to imitate Jackie Kennedy or 18th century Spanish Catholic ladies of quality by putting some lace on your head, fine! Go ahead and do so.
What you are not allowed to do is to insist, hint, insinuate, or whisper that only brazen, irreverent women show up at Mass without wisps of lace on their hair, or that wearing lace on your hair acts like a talisman that suddenly makes the wearer holier, closer to God, and closer to what the Church really wants. Because none of that is actually true, and truth is more important than