For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering
a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament
(e.g., during sick calls).
It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women
must cover their heads -- "especially when they approach the holy
table" ("mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime
cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt") -- but during the Second
Vatican Council, Bugnini (the same Freemason who designed the Novus
Ordo Mass) was asked by journalists if women would still have to cover
their heads. His reply, perhaps innocently enough, was that the issue
was not being discussed. The journalists (as journalists are wont to do
with Church teaching) took his answer as a "no," and printed their
misinformation in newspapers all over the world. 1 Since
then, many, if not most, Catholic women have lost the tradition.
After so many years of many women forgetting or positively repudiating
the veil, clerics, not wanting to be confrontational or upset radical
feminists, pretended the issue didn't exist. When the 1983 Code of
Canon Law was produced, veiling was simply not mentioned (not
explicitly abrogated, mind you, but simply not mentioned). However, it
is argued that Canons 20-21
of the 1983 Code of Canon Law make clear that later Canon Law abrogates
earlier Canon Law only when this is made explicit
and that, in cases of doubt, the revocation of earlier law is not
to be presumed; quite the opposite:
20 A later law abrogates or derogates from an earlier law, if it
expressly so states, or if it is directly contrary to that law, or if
it integrally reorders the whole subject matter of the earlier law. A
universal law, however, does not derogate from a particular or from a
special law, unless the law expressly provides otherwise.
Canon 21 In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed;
rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as
possible, harmonized with them.
27 and 28 add to the argument:
27 Custom is the best interpreter of laws.
Canon 28 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 5, a custom,
whether contrary to or apart from the law, is revoked by a contrary
custom or law. But unless the law makes express mention of
them, it does not revoke centennial or immemorial customs,
nor does a universal law revoke particular customs. 2
Though the 1983
Code of Canon Law doesn't explicitly command it, and people can debate
about the matter of how older law informs newer law, veiling is a very
serious matter, one that concerns two millennia of
Church Tradition -- which extends back to Old Testament tradition and
to New Testament admonitions. Perhaps a better question than "must
women veil?" is "should women veil?" St. Paul wrote.
Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you,
brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my
ordinances as I have delivered them to you. But I would have you know
that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the
man: and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying
with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or
prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: for it is
all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her
be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let
her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head: because
he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the
man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man [c.f.
Genesis 2-3]. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman
for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head,
because of the angels. But yet neither is the man without the woman,
nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the
man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. You
yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered?
Doth not even nature itself teach you that a man indeed, if he nourish
his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it
is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if
any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church
of God [i.e., if anyone want to complain about this, we have no other
way of doing things, this is our practice; all the churches believe the
same way]. Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together,
not for the better, but for the worse.
to St. Paul, we women veil ourselves as a sign that His glory, not
ours, should be the focus at worship, and as a sign of our submission
to authority. It is an outward sign of our recognizing headship, both
of God and our husbands (or fathers, as the case may be), and a sign of
our respecting the presence of the Holy Angels at the Divine Liturgy.
In veiling, we reflect the divine invisible order and make it visible.
This St. Paul presents clearly as an ordinance, one that is the
practice of all the churches.
Some women, influenced by the thoughts of "Christian" feminists,
believe that St. Paul was speaking as a man of his time, and that this
ordinance no longer applies. They use the same arguments that
homosexual activists make in trying to prove their case. In this quote,
homosexualist Rollan McCleary, who believes that Jesus was "gay," tries
to show that Paul's admonitions against homosexuality were culturally
the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes about "men, leaving the
natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men
with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the
penalty of their error which was due" (Romans 1:27).
Asked about these texts, McCleary said references in the Scriptures to
homosexuality were misunderstood or taken out of context.
"In those days they didn't have kind of concept of homosexuality as an
identity such as we have it," he argued. "It has much more to do with
other factors in society ... homosexuality was associated with
In the case of Paul's writings, he continued, "does everybody agree
with St. Paul on slavery [or] on women wearing hats? There is such a
thing as historical context."
course we Catholics agree with St. Paul on slavery (St. Paul wasn't
talking about chattel slavery, by the way), and on veiling, and on
everything else! Please! But the liberal above makes a point: if
Christians want to reject veiling, why not reject the other things St.
Paul has to say? The traditional Catholic woman has the snappy comeback
to the defiant homosexualist: "we do veil
ourselves and don't disagree with St. Paul!" But
what leg do the uncovered women have to stand on? And what other
Scriptural admonitions can they disregard on a whim -- or because of
following the bad example of a generation of foolish or misled Catholic
women who disregarded them?
Now, I ask my readers to re-read the Biblical passage about veiling and
note well that St. Paul was never intimidated
about breaking unnecessary taboos. It was he who emphasized over and
over again that circumcision and the entire Mosaic Law
were not necessary -- and this as he was speaking to Hebrew Christians!
No, the tradition and ordinance of veiling is not a matter of Paul
being influenced by his culture; it is a symbol that is as relevant as
the priest's cassock and the nun's habit.
Note, too, that Paul is in no way being "misogynist" here. He assures
us that, while woman is made for the glory of the man even as man is
made for the glory of God, "yet neither is the man without the woman,
nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the
man, so also is the man by
the woman: but all things of God." Men need women, women need men. But
we have different roles, each equal in dignity -- and all for the glory
of God (and, of course, we are to treat each other absolutely equally
in the order of charity!).The veil is a sign of our recognizing these
differences in roles.
The veil, too, is a sign of modesty
and chastity. In Old Testament times, uncovering a woman's head was
seen as a way to humiliate a woman or to punish adultresses and those
women who transgressed the Law (e.g.., Numbers 5:12-18, Isaias 3:16-17,
Song of Solomon 5:7). A Hebrew woman wouldn't have dreamed of entering
the Temple (or later, the synagogue) without covering her head. This
practice is simply carried on by the Church (as it is also by Orthodox
Christians and even by "Orthodox" women of the post-Temple Jewish
That which is Veiled is a Holy Vessel
what Paul says, "But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her;
for her hair is given to her for a covering." We don't veil ourselves
because of some "primordial" sense of femine shame; we are covering our
glory so that He may be glorified
instead. We cover ourselves because we are holy -- and because feminine
beauty is incredibly powerful. If you don't believe me, consider how
the image of "woman" is used to sell everything from shampoo to used
cars. We women need to understand the power of the
feminine and act accordingly by following the rules of modest attire,
including the use of the veil.
By surrendering our glory to the headship of our husbands and to God,
we surrender to them in the same way that the Blessed Virgin
surrendered herself to the Holy Ghost ("Be it done to me according to
Thy will!"); the veil is a sign as powerful -- and beautiful -- as when
a man bends on one knee to ask his girl to marry him.
Now, think of what else was veiled in the Old Testament -- the Holy of
The former [Old Covenant] indeed had also justifications of divine
service and a sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made the first,
wherein were the candlesticks and the table and the setting forth of
loaves, which is called the Holy. And after the second veil,
the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies: Having a
golden censer and the ark of the testament covered about on every part
with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna and the rod of
Aaron that had blossomed and the tables of the testament. And over it
were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory: of which it
is not needful to speak now particularly. Now these things being thus
ordered, into the first tabernacle, the priests indeed always entered,
accomplishing the offices of sacrifices. But into the second,
the high priest alone, once a year: not without blood, which
he offereth for his own and the people's ignorance: The Holy Ghost
signifying this: That the way into the Holies was not yet made
manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing.
Ark of the Old Covenant was kept in the veiled Holy
of Holies. And at Mass, what is kept veiled until
the Offertory? The Chalice -- the vessel that holds the Precious Blood!
And, between Masses, what is veiled? The Ciborium
in the Tabernacle, the vessel which holds the very Body of Christ.
These vessels of life are veiled because they are holy!
And who is veiled? Who is the All Holy, the Ark of
the New Covenant, the Vessel of the True Life? Our Lady -- and by
wearing the veil, we imitate her and affirm ourselves as women, as
vessels of life.
This one superficially small act is:
- so rich with
symbolism: of submission to authority; of surrender to
God; of the imitation of Our Lady as a woman who uttered her "fiat!";
of covering our glory for His glory; of modesty; of chastity, of our
being vessels of life like the Chalice, the Ciborium and, most
especially, Our Lady;
Apostolic ordinance -- with roots deep in the Old Testament -- and,
therefore, a matter of intrinsic Tradition;
way Catholic women have worshipped for two millennia (i.e., even if it
weren't a matter of Sacred Tradition in the intrinsic sense, it is, at
the least, a matter of ecclesiastical tradition, which also must be
upheld). It is our heritage, a part of Catholic culture;
it leaves one free to worry less about "bad hair days";
for the rebels out there, it is counter-cultural nowadays, you must
question I'd like answered is, "Why would any Catholic woman not
want to veil herself?"
Veiling Options for Women and Girls
are various options here for women:
classic Catholic lace mantillas
chapel caps (this is for young girls)
gauzy or cotton scarves worn over the head and over one or both
shoulders, or tied in various ways (see this
page for information on various ways of tying scarf-type headcoverings
(offsite, will open in new browser window)
square chiffon or cotton scarves folded into a triangle and worn tied
under the chin in the Jackie-O style or tied behind the head in the
peasant style, etc.
square scarves worn "babushka" style (fold large 36" square scarf into
a triangle and place over head with the "tail" side hanging down in
back. Then turn back the pointy ends behind the head and tie into a bow
or make a knot over the "tail")
worn over the head
but simple hats (cloches, toques, berets, "Lady Diana" hats, etc.)
single women wear white or ivory headcoverings, and married or widowed
women wear black, but this isn't a hard and fast rule, and is often
Veils are put on before entering the church building -- at least, the
church proper (i.e., you don't have to be veiled in the narthex, or the
entryway, of the church). And they're not removed until you leave the
church proper. The point is to be veiled when in the Presence of
Christ, and He is there in the tabernacle.
Whatever you do, do not judge other
women if they are not veiling! Mind
your own business, and just set a good example! Many Catholic women
cover their heads when praying at home as well. This isn't mandatory,
but is a laudable thing to do if one's purpose is to show honor to God.
Finding or Making Head Coverings
to buy headcoverings (links will open in new browser window):
can also buy very inexpensive white linen or cotton scarves to dye any
color. Be sure to wash
separately; colors can bleed! Idea: embroider edges (all the way
around, or just the short edges) for something unique to you.
It might be a good idea to have an extra head covering or two for women
guests who might accompany you to the "Tridentine" Mass but who are new
to Tradition. Men should remember this, too, if they invite a woman to
Mass. It could be embarrassing for her if she is the only one who is
not veiled. The safest bets, I am guessing, are
the longer lacy veils or oblong scarves; a lot of women I know believe
they look silly in the shorter veils or caps. And, hey, don't forget to
tell her how beautiful she looks <wink>!).
It's always a good idea, too, to keep a veil or scarf in your purse
and/or glovebox so that you can run into a church any time for prayer.
Sisters, veil yourselves, even if you are visiting a Novus Ordo parish
and are the only woman to do so. Be true to Tradition, to Scripture, to
your own desire to submit to God. Be not afraid... And lovingly
encourage other women to do the same, teaching them what veiling means.
I've asked Catholics, both male and female, from various Catholic
e-mail lists I am on what they think of veiling. Want to read their thoughts?
See this pdf
the original AP article in the Los Angeles Times.
A similar sort of situation
can be seen with regard to canon law and Freemasonry. The relevant
canons, first from the 1917 Code of Canon Law, my emphasis:
2335. Nomen dantes sectae massonicae aliisve
eiusdem generis associationibus quae contra Ecclesiam vel legitimas
civiles potestates machinantur, contrahunt ipso facto excommunicationem
Sedi Apostolicae simpliciter reservatam. (those who join a Masonic
sect, or other societies of the same sort, plot against the
church or against legitimate civil authority, incur excommunication").
from the 1983 Code, which omits mention of Freemasonry itself:
1374 A person who joins an association which plots against the Church
is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes
or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an
the new Code of Canon Law dropped mention of Freemasonry, many people,
including clerics, assumed that it was now okay for Catholics to become
Masons. To clear up the confusion, the Sacred Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement which can be found on the Vatican's website here. The
relevant text reads, my emphasis:
has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church’s
decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code
of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous code.
This sacred congregation is in a position to reply that this
circumstance is due to an editorial criterion which was followed also
in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they
are contained in wider categories.
Therefore, the Church’s negative judgment in regard to Masonic
associations remains unchanged since their
principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine
of the Church and, therefore, membership in them remains
forbidden. The faithful, who enroll in Masonic associations are in a
state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion. "