Card. Burke on women covering their heads in church

chapel veil, mantillaThe great Canonical Defender, Dr. Ed Peters has an interesting note on the use… here we go again… about women wearing head coverings in church.

He has something from Cardinal Burke in the topic.

But first, in a nutshell here is the truth: In the Latin Church women are not bound by the Church’s positive law to wear head coverings in church.  If they want to, they can.  Period.  Not much more to say.

Not much more to say?  Every time I post on this question, scores of comments are made.

Back to Canonical Defender and Cardinal Burke.

From Dr. Peter’s blog In the Light of the Law comes this with my emphases and comments.

Raymundus locutus, causa finita

Some four years ago, I wrote a short blog post explaining why women were not required to wear ‘chapel veils’ at Mass. I thought it then, and think it now, an entirely uncontroversial position to have taken. [Soooo naive] Apparently, however, not a few folks think (or feel) otherwise.

Out of the hundreds of webpages and blogposts I have published, my post on chapel veils is frequently among the top ten pages read each month. No joke. I have seen, over the years, several “rebuttals” of my views, some rather pretentious in their rhetoric, to which, on rare occasions, I have replied informally in comboxes. For that matter, I’ve seen some other writers with, I would have thought, considerable ‘cred’ among the chapel veil set, also being rebuked for holding that the use of veils is optional. Folks like Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Jimmy Akin, the kind of guys I ask guidance from when I’m stuck on a hard question about Catholic practice. If critics won’t believe Fr. Z or Jimmy, who I am to think I’ll convince them otherwise? [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

Anyway I had just sworn off even noticing the chapel veil topic anymore when, lo and behold, a nice lady writes to Cdl. Raymund Burke, whose ‘cred’ outweighs all of ours put together, to ask whether the use of chapel veils is obligatory.

Well, the cardinal writes back to her, and she sends me a copy of his letter, from which I may quote (edited for privacy):

“Thank you for your letter …The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. [That is interesting for all sorts of reasons.] It is not, however a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.”

What’s left to say?

Burke’s note is not an “authentic interpretation” nor a formal sentence from the Signatura: it’s simply a calm observation by the world’s leading canonist (not to mention a man deeply in love with the Church and her liturgy) about whether women have to, as a matter of law or moral obligation, wear veils at Mass. Any Mass. And the answer is No.

If a woman wants to wear a veil to Mass, she is perfectly free to do so; if she does not want to wear a veil, she is perfectly free not to. Anyone not happy with that interpretation is welcome to take the matter up with Higher Authority than me, and higher than Burke, for that matter!

A Blessed Holy Thursday to my readers!

Jimmy Akins and Card. Burke, the undersigned, and Dr. Peters are usually right when we write, though I am not entirely convinced about the latter’s argument about latae sententiae excomunication.  We are all right about this issue.

What is of special interest to me was the Cardinal’s comment that women should wear a covering as was expected when the Extraordinary Form was the Only Form.  Back in the day, women wore head coverings, therefore they ought to do so today when participation in that form of the Roman Rite.

This principle should be applied to other aspects as well.  Off of the top, I can think of the manner of reception of Holy Communion: every communicant (not just women) were expected back in the day to kneel and receive on the tongue.  Thus, the same expectation applies today in the Extraordinary Form even though it is permissible to do otherwise.  But wait: the Church gives permission to receive on the hand now, when the normal way to do it remains directly on the tongue.   Well… analogies are never perfect.

Nevertheless, an interesting little point for our reflection and our Catholic identity.

And, once again, I think the tradition of women wearing head coverings in church should be revived even as I know that it is not obligatory by the Church’s positive law.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. tealady24 says:

    It would certainly revive the dead women’s hat industry. I remember the days when one was always seated behind the biggest hat in church!

  2. 3D says:

    “. . .as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force.”

    This is yet more evidence that those who have received minor orders are not “pretending.”

  3. Ed the Roman says:

    Once upon a time, Marine officers in Service A (roughly, ‘a green suit with a tan shirt’) could wear grade insignia on the shirt collar at their option, although if they didn’t have collar insignia they could not take their blouse off.

    A friend of mine was designated to be the officer inspected in Service A for an IG inspection. He did not have collar insignia on, and the S3 was freaking out. Ths inspecting officer looked him over, and asked him why he didn’t put shirt collar insignia on. He replied, “I didn’t feel like it”, which caused the S3 to freak out even more, and the inspecting officer to reply, “OK”.

  4. JohnH says:

    This seems a fair enough treatment, but the question I have is this: Are the laws of the Church completely comprehensive? Do they dictate everything that Catholic’s should and should not do? Or are they the minimum? I think you, Father Z, Dr. Peters, and His Eminence Cardinal Burke would all be of the opinion that the written laws of the Church are not a comprehensive statement of what every Catholic should do and not do. Nor is Canon Law designed to do so. It is designed as a guide to help us save our souls, not a comprehensive treatment on doing so.

    With regard to veils, Scripture does ask that women wear them while praying. There must be a good reason for this. It must have some benefit to the faithful. I would agree, of course, with Cardinal Burke that to fail to do so does not constitute a sin. Yet the question remains, is it better for a woman to wear a veil than to go without one to Mass. And if it is better to do so, and no one is harmed by not doing so, then are we free to ask without demanding that women do it?

  5. APX says:

    What’s the actual reason women wear head coverings in Mass? When I hear women say it’s to remind them that they’re to be subservient, it makes me really hesitate wearing one.

  6. APX: 1 Corinthians 11:1-15, and the two millenia tradition of the Church.

  7. APX

    We wear veils because precious things are always veiled. There is a wonderful sermon by a FSSP Priest on Audio Sancto explaining this very topic. The Tabernacle and Chalice are veiled in a Church because they hold the Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. As women, we carry and nurture life, we are precious. My veil is a living sermon on the beauty and dignity of women. I wear a veil and I abhor the thought of being subservient to men. The idea that we wear veils because we are subservient is false.

    God bless

  8. Prof. Basto says:

    I have just one problem with this sentence:

    “…as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force.”

    Isn’t the 1962 Missale Romanum still in force today?

    I mean, it clearly IS. If Summorum Pontificum says that it was “never abrogated”, then the 1962 Missal has been in force all along; there is NO DIFFERENCE, no separation, between “a time when the 1962 Missale was in force” and “now”.

    We are not using a “past Missal” as an indult, as if the Missal had ceased to be in force and then returned just because of an indult. The 1962 Missal never ceased to be in force, there is continuity in its legal force, which was never revoked.

    If that is the case, then, one would think that the Latin Church canonical changes that have taken place since the 1962 Missal promulgation afect all Latin Church Missals in force when Canon Law was changed.

    Except if… it is the will of the legislator that such canonical changes do not disturb the more ancient liturgical observances, and apply only to the newer forms.

    But in reality this has nothing to do with “a time when the missal was in force” as if that time had ended and belonged only to the past.

  9. APX says:

    Yet the question remains, is it better for a woman to wear a veil than to go without one to Mass.

    Knowing that women who wear their hair down now most likely aren’t prostitutes, and watching women constantly fix and readjust their veils throughout Mass, which baffles me how they’re able to pay attention throughout Mass, I personally don’t see the point yet.

  10. motheroften says:

    I am really happy to read the response. I actually was only exposed to the Extraordinary form once about a year ago, and have wanted to attend again but found so many rules about headcoverings that ‘should’ be worn a turn off. I have never grown up with the custom and they seem so outmoded. Fr Z. I love reading your blog and learning all about this form and the richness of our faith, I just hate the external pressure that can be placed on this particular practice. Yes, I do get why this was a good practice and could still be, it’s just not as easy to get used to as one might imagine and I’d prefer it not keep me from the beautiful mass. Thank you Fr Z for all your helpful lessons!

  11. flyfree432 says:

    My wife is one of only two women in our parish who wears one. I challenged her to wear it once, and if she hated it to never wear it again. She’s never taken it off at Mass or any liturgy since. I have produced a free handout on veiling since then and made it available to our parishioners. Many have inquired, but so many of our parishioners are still paranoid about anything that can be construed as ‘pre-Vatican II” (due to the long reigning hermeneutic of discontinuity at our parish) no one else has tried….yet.

    Fish Eaters website has a great explanation of veiling.

  12. flyfree432 says:

    P.S. To me, to say “veiling is old fashioned or outmoded” is like saying the rosary is old fashion.

  13. CharlesG says:

    No quibbles on the canonical response, but I think ladies’ covering in Church is something to be encouraged, first because St. Paul thought it was a good thing, and I think we should show some deference to the Apostle, second, it has a long tradition in the Church, third, I think it shows real seriousness and commitment to the Catholic faith and tradition, and fourth, I just love to see women covered in Church, whether with hats, mantillas, etc. Other religions have distinctive gender specific head coverings — I’ve been asked to wear a yamulke at Jewish weddings and funerals — so why should Catholicism not keep to its precious traditions?

  14. MichaelJ says:

    I am by no means an expert on Canon law, and I am not disagreeing with your interpretation of it, but I do wish to understand it better.

    If the 1983 Code of Canon Law is silent on this issue, why isn’t the 1917 Code still in effect since the Canon (whatever number it was) was not specifically abrogated by the new Code?

    There are those who use similar arguments to “prove” that it is now permissible for a Catholic to become a mason…

  15. a catechist says:

    I think example is the only real encouragement that will be accepted, not arguments, however gentle. But I don’t mean that to be discouraging. I’ve been one of very few women veiling at my parish, but I’d say numbers have tripled in the last few yrs.

  16. I have always worn one at the EF Mass and now when I’m forced to go to the NO I try to wear hats. My veils are all large Spanish Mantillas, very long and beautiful. I remember a Carmelite Monk saying once that the veil was worn by women to “be closed to men so as to be open to grace.” He had a beautiful analogy comparing our souls to our bodies saying that “just as a woman receives the seed of life in the deep mystery of her body, so she receives grace in the deep mystery of her soul.” I remember those words every time I’m getting ready for Mass. It is an outward sign that I am closed to all except God. The beauty of women is our mystery.

    The idea that we are subservient is a lie. There is a post on this topic here

    As far as keeping it on your head so you’re not fidgeting with it, theres these little things called bobby pins. They work wonders!

    God bless

  17. q7swallows says:

    APX: I think of wearing a veil at ANY Mass as an opportunity to let God’s glory eclipse His lovely gifts to me.
    Among other things, I see it as a concrete sign of solidarity with the Mother of God & St. Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross. I also offer wearing a veil as an act of reparation in a world that reveals too much.
    Maybe that will help.

  18. benedetta says:

    I find other women’s experiences on this interesting. I don’t feel a particular calling to veil but I’m also not entirely closed to the idea. If I attend the EF then of course I would out of respect.

    I would say, as I have said in the past here, and especially given the interpretation of feminism which reigns supreme in some places, that it is true that the two most despised roles these days are the priesthood and motherhood. It seems we all have our roles and vocations confused constantly and cannot tell where we are headed. The most vocal and “empowered” women in the American liberal faction of the Church, and dissenting at present, call for a great amount of activity on the altar by women as being of paramount import. Yet I am not at all convinced. The vocation to prayer, albeit silent, contemplative, responsive, in relationship, listening, waiting…could this still be important? What if no one prayed and all were so busy with activity. Yet this vocation is totally disparaged. You are a nobody, a nothing, useless, worthless in the eyes of so many if this is your vocation, it seems. A feminism that says that only these roles are important or powerful or should be recognized as worthy to me seems very problematic.

  19. Maria says:

    Just a little matter of interest.
    What is wrong with being sub-servient anyway?

    Obviously not if the man/men are abusive, but otherwise a privelage in my opinion.

    I wish I could be more so.

  20. Shellynna says:

    I appreciate Cardinal Burke’s response on the question. I usually go to the OF and don’t cover. Whenever I do occasionally attend an EF, I do, mainly because as Cdl. Burke pointed out, it’s the expectation. What annoys me though are the various “explanations” about why women cover their heads at Mass. Can we just say that it is an ancient Christian custom and longstanding but erstwhile Christian discipline and leave it at that? I break out in hives not just at the idea of doing so because of subservience but also at the notion that it’s because women are Precious Chapels (as if men were somehow lacking in dignity since they are not supposed to cover their heads in church). Women cover (these days, they want to) and men don’t because that’s the way it is in the Christian religious tradition. Do we really need sugary pieties to “explain” it?

  21. Shellynna says:

    Sorry, should have said “(these days, ifthey want to).”

  22. cheyan says:

    Shellynna: Yes, exactly! I cover my head at both OF and EF Masses, but I get the same metaphorical hives you do at the idea that it’s because of subservience or because women are so precious that we need to be hidden. (Among other things, I take the scarf or hat off my head when I get outside, usually; what was secret about the top of my head when I was in the church that is okay to reveal once I’m in the parking lot?)

    I have no problem with someone finding mystical significance in her [veil, mantilla, hat, scarf, bonnet]; I do get itchy at that kind of thing being expected of me, and even itchier when it’s suggested as a reason to start wearing a hat for those who don’t already.

  23. Random Friar says:

    Now, can a woman wear a veil and pants?

    Just kidding! Put the rocks down!

  24. o.h. says:


    I never heard a single compelling argument for covering; and the “Scripture says you Must” argument only hardened me against it.

    I convinced myself after reflecting that women covered their heads at Mass in all places in the world for nearly 2000 years, not because each one was successfully argued into it, but because it has simply been the Catholic thing to do. It seemed to me that it was the recent fad of *not* covering that bore the burden of putting forth a convincing argument: and I could see none, other than “most Catholic women aren’t doing it, and I might feel self-conscious.” Those did not to me seem worthy reasons. Thus I’ve worn a veil ever since.

    I’m not saying that this line of reasoning must be decisive for all Catholic women; but it was for me.

    (I do not generally wear a hat; as I’ve mentioned here before, in my part of the country, wearing a hat at Mass is unacceptable for men or women among many Catholics, and I was once physically preventing from entering the church at a Spanish Mass when wearing a hat. I accede to the majority Catholic culture here.)

  25. Shellynna says:

    RF: Actually, I’ve seen women at Mass wearing sweatshirts, jeans, sneakers, *and* a veil. Just yesterday at Mass I saw a woman with a veil and a hemline above the knee (not much, but definitely above). Personally, I thought it was cool. :)

  26. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Now, can a woman wear a veil and pants?\\

    The Deacon’s wife at the parish I attend does.

    While I prefer to see women covering their heads–veil, ,mantilla, hat, or whatever–they should be convinced of it themselves. Khoureia Frederica Matthews-Green recounts how all the women in her parish became convinced of this at the same time. This, I believe, is the best way.

    Sometimes, people get hung up on external issues like this. Among the Orthodox, it’s calendar, pews, or separating the sexes becomes the touchstone of traditionalier-than-thou.

    There are more important things.

  27. weneleh says:

    The only woman at my parish that wears a veil probably shouldn’t bother. She pulls it out of her purse when she walks into Church and it’s wrinkled, ratty, and torn. There certainly isn’t any incentive to emulate her.

  28. AlexE says:

    I have a memory from when I was a young boy less than 5. My grandmother and I were walking up the steps of the Church for Mass, she paused, took her gold scarf(which was around her neck) and tied it on her head. It, and it sill does, highlight how as we climb the steps of the Church we are going to do something greater. Even today, I have a sense of awe when I climb up Church steps, and that was almost 25 years ago.

  29. Marianna says:

    I’ve rarely seen women veiled at Mass, although there is one lady in my parish who wears a veil. I never saw one as a child, and just didn’t grow up with it, so it’s an alien tradition to me. Also, although I hate to see people wearing “inappropriate” clothing at Mass, and do think they should think about wearing something a little more formal, I worry that veiling, in this day and age, could look “cult-ish”.

  30. The Cobbler says:

    “The only woman at my parish that wears a veil probably shouldn’t bother. She pulls it out of her purse when she walks into Church and it’s wrinkled, ratty, and torn. There certainly isn’t any incentive to emulate her.”
    Although if anyone looked at her practice and complained that veils defeat the purpose since they’re beautiful too, they’d be really obstinate about it.

    Not that that’s the point, however; it’s everything to do with changing a direct form of beauty into an indirect one more for the sake of signifying its greatness than for hiding it. Like incense that “hides” the Blessed Sacrament but itself shows how awesome He is. I think. Maybe I’m wrong on that; the only explanation I’ve heard for incense in Catholic worship was that back in the middle ages nobody had deoderant.

    I just want to jump in and say something in response to Random Friar and something to Father. First Random Friar: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen veiled young ladies in blue jeans at Franciscan University, don’t remember if it was at daily Mass or somewhere else; make of it what you will.

    Now to Father: you know, some people are just offended to realize that you and Jimmy Akin agree on anything, given that he’s some sorta hillbilly, Novus Ordo Protestant “convert”, don’tcha know. Silly, but it’s how some people assess their fellow Catholics.

  31. inara says:

    St. Paul actually does give us the “why” (and it’s a reason quite similar to why womyn cannot be ordained): Jesus came as a *man*, therefore, men are symbols of him & are to pray uncovered to show their place in the natural order God created (“a man ought not to cover his head, for he is the image and glory of God”); women are symbols of His holy bride & are to cover their heads to show acceptance of their place in this same order (as “the glory of man”…see? we’re still glorious ;o)…we are just set apart for a particular sacred purpose…we are capable of being touched directly by God in a way no man can be…when He places a newborn soul in our womb).
    This is precisely why Paul says we must veil “because of the angels”…the hosts of heaven are present at Mass & they are acutely aware of the way God has ordered creation & are greatly offended when we flout His authority & attempt to be (or wish to appear to be) something we are not (in this case…men).

  32. nmoerbeek says:

    “Anyone not happy with that interpretation is welcome to take the matter up with Higher Authority than me, and higher than Burke, for that matter!”

    I did his name was St. Paul, I agree with the Great Apostle which means anyone who does not is against what St. Paul said on the matter. Following down a road not illuminated is a road that leads to darkness.

  33. The Cobbler says:

    I think the question for most people is, why should the manner in which men show God’s glory be unveiled, while the manner in which women show the glory of His creature should be veiled? That they show different orders of glory is clear, but why one is uncovered and the other covered I’d like to have a more formal notion of. I’m sure there’s a connection; and I think it’s silly how the modern world assumes that any sign of difference, no matter how obvious the connection, is sexism; for that matter, I’m pretty sure I can see the connection myself… but I wonder how to articulate it formally.

  34. nmoerbeek says:


    A women who choose to veil because of scripture, tradition and obedience shows an act of faith. Everyone else will have to come up with justifications, we need not know the reasons why to do what is asked of us.

  35. BLB Oregon says:

    I’m uncomfortable with the “it’s a really beautiful Spanish lace” argument, because it sounds a little like, “I love the rosary, and look I have this beautiful one in silver.” Beautiful veils and beautiful rosaries are very nice, but they don’t necessarily add anything to the practices in a spiritual sense. I’d be a little concerned about someone who only kept up either practice on account of aesthetics. Food should be attractive, too, but the real question is whether a particular food is beneficial to a specific person’s body or not. Rather, you decide, “this food is good for me” or “this food is permissible in these amounts” or “that food would make me sick” and only then move on to the aesthetics that legitimately heighten the food.

    Within St. Paul’s inspired writings on the subject, this was included: “But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God.” (1 Cor. 11:16) In other words, this is within the realm of a discipline, since he would defer to the custom of the churches of God.

    I heard a very beautiful story of an order of religious sisters whose bishop insisted that they switch from a red cincture to a black cincture in their habits. This saddened many of the sisters, for the red had been for them emblematic of the Precious Blood of Jesus. Their superior, a very wise and holy woman, told them: “Previously, we wore red, the sign of the Precious Blood of Jesus. Now we will wear black, the sign of the Precious Blood of the Obedient Jesus.” What a beautiful attitude!

    Either practice, with the veil or without, are permissible. Is it not obvious, then, that one must choose based on what is most charitable, most obedient to legitimate superiors, and so on? If wearing the veil or not wearing it feeds one’s pride or lessens one’s patience or any of the virtues, then I suggest that one might take on the other practice until one has the virtue needed to take on the permitted practice one naturally prefers. As Steven Covey puts it, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Charity and the other virtues are the main thing. Follow those first, and I think this question will take care of itself.

  36. The Cobbler says:

    Well, I’m not trying to replace Faith with understanding, but I don’t think Faith asks us _not_ to understand but rather to grow in real understanding of God, in His three Persons. Zechariah asked “How can this be?” cynically and was struck dumb; Mary asked “How can this be?” piously seeking to know the work of her Lord and was graced with Gabriel’s reply. I find that a deepening understanding of tradition (or Tradition) helps many people, myself included, to better accept its graces; we could not even begin to understand if we are unwilling, as can be seen by many who are intelligent but will not see, but if we are willing to follow we may as well get what help we can knowing what — or rather Who — we are following. The only worthy reason to understand is to Love, and therefore it must be grounded in that Love from the start rather than accepting Love only on condition of understanding; but understanding is worthy if it is for and of Love. And yes, it is never exhausted — but isn’t that itself a beautiful thing, that you can keep understanding Love more and more rather than comprehending it and leaving that some kind of done deal?

  37. The Cobbler says:

    ‘As Steven Covey puts it, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”’
    As someone else said, “Well spoken, sir.” (Who said that? Now I’m going to wonder all night. See how distractible my brain is? Maybe the little understanding we can have of Love is important to me simply because it returns my attention to Him.)

  38. inara says:

    BLB, I always thought that Paul was specifically *not* deferring to local custom in this verse, but that his whole discourse on head coverings was specifically to combat the Corinthian habit of appearing in church bare-headed (otherwise what would be the point of his spending so long in the previous verses trying to convince them veiling was proper for Christian women to do?)
    In verse 16 (“we have no such custom”), he seems to be answering his own question from verse 13 (“is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?”), which he then states should even be obvious from natural law (verses 14 & 15).

  39. dans0622 says:

    Prof. Basto,
    Perhaps the 1962 Missal being “in force” is meant to equate to “mandated.”

  40. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t get the hat thing.

    The Church is supposed to go out and teach the Gospel. We have tons of work to do, and what are we doing instead?? Playing with hats.

  41. Mike Morrow says:

    I’m hoping for another issue to be addressed by the esteemed Cardinal Burke with a similar statement:

    “It is, however, the expectation that those receive communion at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form observe the three-hour Eucharistic fast, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was promulgated. ”

    That’s something which is long overdue for restoration, even more important than the important veil issue.

    When I see a woman veiled at an EF Mass, I see a woman for whom Catholic tradition obviously has significance that she understands.

    I don’t understand those who speak of the veil issue as an “alien” custom. Those who do must then find the Extraordinary Form Mass itself to be extraordinarily alien.

  42. GirlCanChant says:

    Random Friar:
    I have a little story for you. About 2 weeks ago I went home to visit the cemetary before Easter. Since it had rained the day before, I changed out of what I worn to Mass that morning into jeans and sneakers. As soon as I got back to my apartment, I headed to Confession. About halfway to church, I was horrified to realize I was still wearing my jeans! It was too late to turn back, though, so I wound up confessing in jeans, sneakers, hoodie, and a veil! I was very glad for the confessional screen. ;-)

  43. rob_p says:

    MichaelJ: Actually Canon 6 section 1 does specifically abrogate the entire 1917 code. There is no law which would require women to veil when they assist at the liturgy.

  44. moon1234 says:

    As for communion in the hand at EF Masses, there was a private reply be Ecclesiae Dei already about this:

    “the celebration of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Sacred Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this Form of the Holy Mass.”

    So it would seem that, even though canon law may allow communion in the hand, this particular provision has no place in the EF. If one would carry this further, a Priest could deny communion in the hand at an EF Mass.

    It seems that as more questions are posed to vatican officials concerning WHAT is allowed at EF Masses the trend has been that we do what was done 1962 and not what is law/custom today.

    This would run the gammut then from no communion in the hand (period! If you believe the response from ED), chapel veils SHOULD be worn (no sin if not, but would be considered required). By extension then we would assume that service at the altar is restricted to men/boys only, there are NO LAY EMHC, etc.

    I am actually encouraged by this trend. It seems to be a bulwark against new innovations from creeping into the EF Mass.

  45. Melody says:

    Just my two cents as a woman who sometimes veils, but I think the modern practice is a kind of devotion when one considers all the things it symbolizes. It’s beneficial but not required.

    Also, knowing how rebellious people are in general, treating it like a devotion would have more success than forcing the issue.

  46. ncstevem says:

    Re: Women wearing a veil to Mass.

    One thing that I thought of several years ago when this topic was discussed on another Catholic website is that I’d never seen an image or statue of the Blessed Mother without her wearing a head covering.

  47. catholicmidwest says:

    Yeah, ncstevem, and she lived how long ago? And in what culture?
    Maybe we should go without underwear too, because ahem, did people wear Hanes (or whatever) then?

    More generally—Canonizing the hat is easier than behaving in a decent manner toward people on the street. I’ve been Catholic for 26 years now, and I can’t tell you how many “pious” Catholics, particularly “pious” cradle Catholics, wearing finery, I’ve seen act like selfish boors in the parking lot right after Mass.

    Look, I know that the Catholic faith has been reduced to a shadow of what it was. I know that the popular catechesis for the past 40 years has rendered the church merely a Sunday morning diversion for many people to make them feel good. But getting out the hats and the white gloves isn’t the answer. Getting out the Gospel is. Getting a decent translation of the Mass is.

  48. ncstevem says:

    cmw – nice reply on Easter weekend. It really captures the spirit of the season.

  49. catholicmidwest says:

    Talking about getting out the Gospel and getting a new translation does capture the spirit of the season, particularly since the new translation will, I hope, make the continuity and meaning of our religion more clear to us and more effective for us.

    On the other hand, the spirit of the season is not really about hats and gloves unless the faith is a cultural artifact, because hats and gloves, even at this time of the year, are cultural artifacts, just like jeans and tennis shoes and whitey-tighties and awful little marshmallow bunnies. The faith is bigger than all of that.

  50. nmoerbeek says:

    Catholic Midwest,

    Don’t you see a problem with your exhortation to “Get out the Gospel” when you want to ignore part of the New Testament. If you think St Paul was wrong on one thing what is to prevent you from thinking he was not wrong about other things.

    Rather why don’t you encourage people to be faithful in small things so that they might be faithful in larger ones. Why not wear a head covering as an act of faith that when St Paul that it was not in fact him but the Holy Ghost.

  51. catholicmidwest says:

    Hats can refer to things, don’t get me wrong. What I’m objecting to is the substitution of the object referring for the referent. This can happen in a compound way; let me explain. When hats become objects of devotion in themselves, that would be a problem. When hats become objects referring to devotion, instead of referring to the object of devotion, that would also be a problem. The point is, of course that a person should not adore his consolations, nor should he transfer (in the psychological sense) his consolations onto others, demanding that they comply for his edification.

    So wear your hat if you will, but leave other people alone about it. It’s not the faith, after all. It’s a hat.

  52. catholicmidwest says:

    Are you going to proof-text me about every single word of the New Testament, because that can be done. It’s not very effective. And it’s not near as Catholic as understanding the NT in light of the OT theologically as the church says we should.

  53. Alice says:

    Am I the *only* person who has heard the medieval legend that the Blessed Virgin Mary took off her veil and put it on her Son as a loincloth on Good Friday? According to legend, Veronica too took off her veil and wiped Jesus’ face. Mary Magdalen is usually depicted with no veil at the Crucifixion for iconographic reasons. Having grown up with these legends, it seems like *not* wearing a veil makes the Mass more like a re-presentation of Calvary than wearing one.

    I don’t veil at Mass now. When I did, it was because I was doing so as a sign that I was subservient to men. (I fully grant you that I may be the only woman on the planet that actually did so for that reason.) Now that I have a fuller understanding of my dignity and I refuse to go back to that place because I saw how men were tempted by my subservient outlook to try to take advantage of me. If other women, who don’t have this baggage, want to veil, more power to ’em.

  54. catholicmidwest says:

    Alice, I’ve never heard that one before.

  55. Dr. Eric says:

    Getting a jump on Talk Like Shakespeare Day:

    Catholicmidwest, me thinks thou dost protest too much.

  56. Will D. says:

    I think ladies ought to wear a veil if they personally feel called to wear one. I don’t think they have to explain or apologize to anyone if they don’t feel called to wear them.
    In this case, I’m inclined to agree with my Methodist brother-in-law. He likes to ask this question:

    When we come to the Lord to be judged, do you think He’ll ask “Did you wear a veil?” or do you think He’ll ask “What did you do for the least of my brethren?”

    The Lord warns about this kind of thing in chapter 23 of Matthew’s Gospel. Don’t focus on the externals: “Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

  57. catholicmidwest says:

    Dr Eric, it’s very easy to have an opinion about what everyone else ought to do with themselves, isn’t it, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience you?

    Will, I think you’re right. People ought to wear hats if they want to. Or not. It’s none of a man’s business whether a woman wears a hat or not. It’s not his head!

  58. catholicmidwest says:

    PS Eric,
    You’re in the wrong thread for Shakespeare day, knave.

  59. amicus1962 says:

    What Cardinal Burke said is the common perception nowadays, but I question whether this interpretation is supported in canon law, for several reasons.

    The 1917 code was not revised until 1983, which means the prescription for women to cover their heads under canon 1262.2 of the 1917 code was in force for 14 years after the Novus Ordo came into effect. Until the new code came into effect, women were bound to follow canon 1262.2 to wear head coverings. So to simply say that veils were not required for the Ordinary Form while considered the practice in the Extraordinary Form is an oversimplification.

    Secondly, if you follow the logic of the most common argument against the mandatory use of head coverings for women, that canon 1262.2 was considered revoked because it was not retained in the new code, then you must also allow men to wear hats while in church because the prescription that men remove their hats and be bare-headed in church under the 1917 code was also not retained in the 1983 code.

    The other argument that St. Paul only required head coverings for modesty is not supported by the text of Corinthians 11:4-16. Here, St. Paul said: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.” St. Paul’s mandate for women to cover their heads in church was to show that she was under the authority of man, and therefore was not primarily for modesty reasons. So this modesty argument also falls.

    It would be more coherent to say that the use of head coverings fell into disuse in the period after the Novus Ordo came into effect. But just because a disciplinary practice falls into disuse does not mean it no longer binds the faithful. My personal belief is that the use of veils and head coverings simply became incompatible with the Novus Ordo environment with its irreverent liturgies. The use of veils necessitates a certain spiritual disposition and formality that is not encouraged or normally found in the Novus Ordo world. Women empowered by the liturgical establishment would naturally be repelled by the idea that they should be under the authority of men and should wear veils as a sign of their submission.

  60. bookworm says:

    “I’d never seen an image or statue of the Blessed Mother without her wearing a head covering.”

    I have one sitting on my bookshelf right now, which I inherited from my mother (who passed away on Easter Sunday last year). It dates from at least the 1950s. I don’t know where she got it (she was a convert) but it shows the Blessed Mother with folded hands, in her usual red tunic and blue mantle, with long, reddish-brown hair of about waist length — no veil. It is the first image of Mary I can remember, and it always had a place of honor in my parents’ home.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    Yeah, well, bookworm. She was a woman, with hair and everything. On her head even, which had a top to it and brains in it. Surprise.

  62. Alice says:

    Ncstevem and Bookworm,
    Come to think of it, I’ve got a statue of Our Lady without a veil too and then there is the famous Murillo painting of the Immaculate Conception. (It was the window over the organ at a 100 year old church where I used to be organist, so I have no idea why I had forgotten about it. :P) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a statue or picture of St. Anne with the child Mary where Mary is veiled.

  63. nmoerbeek says:

    “It’s none of a man’s business whether a woman wears a hat or not. It’s not his head!”

    So it was not right then for St Paul (or the Holy Ghost) to tell women to cover their heads?
    For the Church to demand it of women until 1983?

    Seems more like a canary in a coal mine of demanding things “MY WAY”. I think the “ITS MY BODY” is used by another group of very upset women. (Lay) Men do not wear hats in church should we be allowed to because it is our head?

    I want women to wear coverings for a very simple reason, St Paul said so.

  64. LaudemGloriae says:

    I think to reduce the issue to “it’s a hat” does a great disservice to the Word of God. Scripture does not dictate hem length or sleeve choice and little other than “good deeds” as our clothing, but it does clearly ask that women veil. It is a small thing to ask. Whether or not the discipline is articulated in this canon or that canon is neither here nor there. The word of God is worthy of our trust and supported by centuries of tradition.

    I often feel that this matter is shrugged off as a distracting side issue, yet St. Paul mentions veiling within the context of liturgical abuses surrounding the Lord’s Supper. The side issues are the gender concerns and the Vatican II politics, which are discussions worth having, but not a reason for glossing over this important teaching from Corinthians.

  65. catholicmidwest says:

    This topic, every time I see it in a Catholic venue, takes off like crazy. And it’s the stupidest topic. Meanwhile, people are leaving the church in droves and half the world is still pagan because we’re busy goofing off, arguing about hats.

  66. Dr. Eric says:


    Verily, thou shouldst have answered mine comment in Shakespeare-ese.

    As the law states that the 1917 code is not in effect I’m bewildered as to why either side is up in arms about this topic.

  67. pelerin says:

    girlcanchant mentions feeling embarrassed wearing jeans to Confession. A couple of years ago I went to Confession where to my surprise the Priest was wearing jeans! So if it is ok for the Priest then it must be ok for the penitent.

  68. catholicmidwest says:


    Not up in arms. This topic is….old hat. Pun intended.

    Or e’en superioure, yn the maner of Chaucer:

  69. Henry Edwards says:

    It’s surprising to see so many posts, with no one getting the real point. Which is that wearing a veil makes a woman look more alluring and beautiful.

    Or is it, instead, that the more alluring and beautiful women are the ones who wear veils?

    I don’t usually notice such things at Mass, but maybe I’d better look around this Sunday.

    But, No, it’ll be Easter. Maybe some other time. If I ever get around to it, maybe I can report back on my count the next time this enduring and fascinating topic inevitably comes up again.

  70. Amicus,

    You are correct that the mandate for headcoverings was still in place from 1969-1982. However, it would seem that it was a canon law that was so minor that it was no longer binding. At least, that must be the case since in 1976 the Vatican issued a document declaring that “such requirements no longer have normative value.”

    Apparently, minor requirements even if contained in canon law can no longer be binding. This would further be confirmed by the fact that no one argues that men and women ought to sit separately at an extraordinary form Mass, even though that was the law in 1962. It would seem that canon 1262.1 of the 1917 code had fallen out of use and was no longer of “normative value” for decades before 1983.

    I would love for a canonist to comment on how valid canon laws can cease to be binding, such as occurred with canon 1262.1 and 1262.2 of the 1917 code.

    Someone please help!

  71. RE: St. Paul’s admonition

    This was directly addressed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1976:

    “Another objection is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard. But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on the head (1 Cor 11:2-6); such requirements no longer have a normative value. ”

    It would seem that since the CDF has interpreted St. Paul’s prescriptions, we should abide by the their teaching. After all, it is the Church who authoritatively interprets scripture, not us.

  72. robtbrown says:

    Cardinal Burke makes no mention of hats, instead referring generally to women covering their heads or specifically wearing veils. Then Catholicmidwest got into hats and couldn’t get out, finally even adding gloves. A surprising implication followed that somehow it was all connected to intelligence.

    It is good for women to cover their heads at mass for the same reason that they should dress modestly–because their hair is an adornment and can be attractive to men. It is just that simple. It is not a matter of fashion or image (cf. gloves) but rather of modesty. A woman who dresses modestly doesn’t call attention to herself.

    I always dress casually at daily mass. It’s usually warm ups–but I don’t wear shorts.

    BTW, one of the most intelligent women I have ever known habitually covers her head at mass. Daughter of of Psychiatrist, she not only knows Chaucer but also reads Hebrew. Her husband was a philosophy major, but she was much more proficient in it than he was, at times wearing me out with questions. I haven’t seen her in a few years, but at one time she was an extraordinarily attractive young woman.

  73. @PatrickThornton: thanks. I’m glad to see that the CDF has addressed that issue.

  74. robtbrown says:

    abiologistforlife says:

    @PatrickThornton: thanks. I’m glad to see that the CDF has addressed that issue.

    Of course, that happened under the papacy that engineered the Protestantization of the Church, i.e., the destruction of the liturgy, seminaries, and Catholic life in general. Which fact reminds me that the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1978 was one of the happiest days of my life.

  75. bookworm says:

    “A woman who dresses modestly doesn’t call attention to herself.”
    “Wearing a veil makes a woman look more alluring and beautiful.”

    Seems to me we have a bit of a Catch-22 here… a woman is supposed to veil out of modesty so that she doesn’t call attention to herself, but when she does (outside of predominantly TLM parishes/communities where it has become accepted) she stands out like a sore thumb and attracts all kinds of attention to herself!

    Personally if I were going to cover my head for Mass I would prefer to wear a scarf or bandana rather than a fancy lace veil precisely because it would look more ordinary and attract less attention from others.

  76. The veiling of women does indeed have a deep symbolic meaning to it. There is a sermon on Audio Sancto — well there are several, but I found this one — that explain it in detail. This one is well worth the 15 minutes.
    I would have to assume that any woman who broke out in hives when hearing that they are precious vessels doesn’t understand their own worth.
    God bless

  77. And here is another sermon showing the deep significance of Catholic women being the living icon of the Church presenting themselves before the Altar unveiled. The last sentence of this sermon speaks volumes.
    God bless

  78. Tim Ferguson says:

    Patrick, canon laws cease to be binding in several ways. At least certain species of canon law. Canon law that is constitutive (for example, the law that defines marriage as being between a man a woman) is not open to dispensation or cessation. Here, the law is simply stating “these are the elements that make this thing what it is.”
    Canon law that is a reiteration of divine law would also never cease to be binding, although in certain rare cases, the Holy Father, as Vicar of Christ, can invoke his vicarious authority to dispense from divine law (for example, marriage is binding for life and can only be dissolved by death. However, there are circumstances, such as a non-consummated marriage, where the Pope can dissolve the marriage)
    The majority of canon laws are positive ecclesiastical law. These are open to alteration, dispensation, and cessation in several ways. Obviously, the one who makes the law can change the law. In some cases, the legislator who makes the law allows for lower hierarchical authorities to dispense or even do away with the law in their respective territories.
    Positive ecclesiastical law can also cease to have effect if the circumstances the law intended to regulate change so that the law is no longer reasonable – for example, the Bishops of the United States, in one of the Councils of Baltimore (the fourth? I’m not certain…) required that priests not wear cassocks in public, but rather, so as not to draw undue attention to themselves, dress soberly in black, wearing a simple black frock coat when out and about. By the 20’s and 30’s, someone wearing a frock coat would have drawn more attention than someone wearing a cassock. Gradually, and sensibly, the priests adapted to the fashions of the times, abandoning the frock coat for the two or three button suit and overcoat. There was no legislation to this effect – the mandate of the Baltimore Council remained formally in effect until 1999, when the USCCB promulgated the interpretation of canon 284, stating that “Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric.” (So, for those hyper-legalists, every priest in the US who was in public in anything other than a Prince Albert frock coat before 1999 was violating the law).
    positive ecclesiastical law can also change through the development of contrary custom. Those raised in the English common law system, like most of us Americans (pace to our Louisianan friends), have the hardest time grasping this aspect of canon law. It seems to abide – and even reward – lawlessness. What’s the purpose of a law if people can just violate it and thereby get the law the change? I don’t have the time or the space here to launch into a defense of customary law and the development of contrary customs in the Church, but suffice it to say, this is not something that is new for the Church – there is a long and rich history of canonists talking about the role of custom within the canonical structures of the Church. Most of it is in Latin, but it’s well worth delving into. I’d recommend looking into Rieffenstuel, Fagnanus, or some of the more recent commentators like Wernz, or the common commentaries on the 1917 Code, (some of which are in English).

  79. robtbrown says:


    1. Dr Edwards presented the couplet as paradoxical.

    2. I don’t think it’s a matter of what is ordinarily done or not done, but rather that color is an adornment. Mostly, I’ve seen women using black veils–and I wouldn’t call them fancy. At the back of the church at Fontgombault is a basket containing black veils that women may wear at mass or Divine Office. I rather doubt that they were very expensive.

    On the other hand, bandanas are usually brightly colored. A scarf can have bright or or subdued colors.

  80. catholicmidwest says:


    You said, “It’s surprising to see so many posts, with no one getting the real point. Which is that wearing a veil makes a woman look more alluring and beautiful.”

    Ah, the truth comes out. Watching the women is one reason men might like all this millinery business, and for some it’s the major reason. In Mass, yet. N.I.C.E.

  81. catholicmidwest says:

    And we finally get down to what precise color it should be? My goodness. Such fashionistas.
    I want to see you guys with kleenexes pinned to your heads sometime. It’d do you more good than us.

  82. catholicmidwest says:

    Better yet, you guys, get a kleenex and a bobby pin (or in some of your cases, it will have to be scotch tape, snicker). Pin it to your head and go out in public with a straight face, say your prayers and try to act like a grown-up sentient person, and we’ll see how much sense that makes to you. Never mind what I think.

  83. dans0622 says:

    “Which fact reminds me that the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1978 was one of the happiest days of my life.”

    How sad.

  84. Mr. (or is it Dr.) Ferguson,

    Thank you for your clarification. I have been trying to figure this out for the past few years, but no one seemed to have an answer.

    So if I am understanding you correctly, a law like men and women must sit separately could fall out of use over time and cease to be binding? I know from speaking to elderly people that they sat together as families (men and women together) in the 1930’s which would have been a clear violation of 1262.1 of the code of 1917. I have not found any evidence of dispensations being granted (I could be wrong). It appears that following the law just fell out of use, and though the law remained technically in force until the code of 1983 it apparently no longer had “normative value.”

    I guess then we can assume that the same thing happened later with headcovering. It fell out of use and though the law remained on the books until 1983, it was confirmed by the Church to not have normative value in 1976. And I suppose it may have ceased to be binding some time before 1976, as their declaration did not end it but merely confirmed that it had ended. And their declaration also confirmed that St. Paul’s admonitions on these things do not constitute divine law.

    Thank you for the clarification, I knew that there must be some way in which valid canon laws cease to bind, but I didn’t know how.

  85. robtbrown says:

    catholicmidwest says:

    And we finally get down to what precise color it should be? My goodness. Such fashionistas.
    I want to see you guys with kleenexes pinned to your heads sometime. It’d do you more good than us.

    No, I didn’t mention the color. I said black or subdued colors. Isn’t that just common sense?

  86. robtbrown says:

    catholicmidwest says:

    Better yet, you guys, get a kleenex and a bobby pin (or in some of your cases, it will have to be scotch tape, snicker). Pin it to your head and go out in public with a straight face, say your prayers and try to act like a grown-up sentient person, and we’ll see how much sense that makes to you.
    Never mind what I think.


    I said that the prescription for women to cover their heads was a function of modesty. Then I mention that black or subdued colors for veils/scarves are most appropriate for those who want to dress modestly. Then you, following your white gloves, high priced lace reasoning somehow jump to kleenex on the top of the head.

    You seem to be to0 interested in the exception.

  87. robtbrown says:

    dans0622 says:

    “Which fact reminds me that the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1978 was one of the happiest days of my life.”

    How sad.

    Not half as sad as what happened to the Church during the Montini papacy.

  88. Will D. says:

    Which fact reminds me that the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1978 was one of the happiest days of my life.

    Rejoicing in the death of a wicked man is shameful enough. Rejoicing in the death of a good and holy man is appalling. It undermines any credibility you had, robtbrown.

  89. I don’t mean to sound stupid here, but what exactly happened on the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1978?

    God bless

  90. amicus1962 says:

    Following Mr. Ferguson’s explanation on the difference between constitutive law and positive ecclesiastical law, one would have to conclude that the prescription in the 1917 canon law for men and women to seat separately in church, together with the prescription for women to wear head coverings, are mere positive ecclesiastical laws that could cease to be binding according to the vagaries of the times. What then is the purpose of having any law when it could be dispensed with without formal revocation? Without any timely process to determine which laws should be retained or revoked, or which law is constitutive or positive, the observance of any law can become arbitrary.

    While I can easily agree that the question of seating arrangement for men and women is a matter of discipline (to avoid occasions of sin), the matter of head coverings is not easily explained away. The document Inter Insigniores by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 15, 1976) said: “But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on the head (1 Cor 11:2-6); such requirements no longer have a normative value.”

    “Scarcely more than disciplinary practices” having “no normative value?” Really? If you read 1 Cor 11:2-6 do you come away with the impression that St. Paul’s exhortation for women to cover their heads was merely a disciplinary practice of minor importance? No, because St. Paul explained that the reason for the head coverings was to symbolize that the authority of men over women, since woman was created from man, just as Christ is the head of man and God the head of Christ. If the head covering was merely a fashion item worn by women for modesty reasons during that period, then it I would agree with Inter Insigniores. But that’s what not St. Paul said. The evidence from scripture speaks otherwise. Moreover, if Inter Insigniores were to be followed, then men could logically be allowed to wear hats in church since the prescription for men to be bare-headed in church would be also a disciplinary practice with no normative value. Why is it that we have stringently retained the practice for men to be bare-headed in church, despite the non retention of that requirement in the new code, while we have allowed women to remove their head coverings, despite the very strong admonition to cover from St. Paul? There is an inconsistency here that is also ironic.

    Let me repeat here what I said in my earlier post: that women naturally stopped using the veil because its use assumed a certain spiritual disposition and liturgical environment that was not compatible with nor encouraged in the Novus Ordo. Just ask a woman if she feels inclined to wear a veil in a Mass with drums, guitars and funky music.

    It is fitting to recall St. Paul’s words addressed to those who would argue against head coverings for women: “To anyone who might still want to argue: it is not the custom with us, or in the churches of God.” (1 Cor. 11:16). That we are having this argument 2000 years hence now is testimony to the timelessness of St. Paul’s exhortation.

  91. Will D. says:

    Aug. 6, 1978 was the date Pope Paul VI died, may he rest in peace.

  92. Amicus,

    The CDF clarified what is meant in St. Paul’s writing. Are you proposing that your interpretation of scripture is correct and theirs is wrong? That seems sort of protestant to me. I mean, the Church is the one who authoritatively interprets scripture not us.

    Apparently, the custom of men not wearing hats in church has continued despite the fact that it no longer appears in law. The custom of women wearing veils hasn’t. Perhaps one day a custom of men wearing hats in Church will develop. It’s possible, but I doubt it.

  93. amicus1962 says:


    Does a Catholic become protestant because he may disagree with the CDF on the issue of veils for women? Did traditionally-minded Catholics become protestant when they questioned the propriety of interpreting “pro multis” as “for all?”

    I am not proposing that my interpretation of scripture is correct; I am merely pointing out the inconsistency and contradiction in the CDF explanation. In fact, I would like to point out two additional points that I missed earlier. If, as the CDF said, that the prescription for head coverings was a mere custom, a minor disciplinary practice, why was it required of women from the time of the apostles until 1983? Surely, a mere custom, a minor discplinary practice cannot survive this long.

    Secondly, listen carefully to what St. Paul said in 1 Cor 11.16: “To anyone who might still want to argue: it is not the custom with us, or in the churches of God.” This strongly implies that during St. Paul’s time, there were Christian women, probably gentiles, for whom wearing head coverings was not customary. But instead of excusing these women from wearing head coverings, St. Paul imposes on them the obligation to wear head coverings. To the early Church, wearing head coverings was not mere fashion.

    Bottom line is, for me the CDF needs to come up with a better explanation on head coverings than the one in Inter Insigniores that is consistent and not contradictory. So far, I have not heard or read any to dissuade me from my personal belief that the prescription for head coverings was a biblical mandate for all time.

  94. robtbrown says:

    Will D. says:

    Which fact reminds me that the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1978 was one of the happiest days of my life.

    Rejoicing in the death of a wicked man is shameful enough. Rejoicing in the death of a good and holy man is appalling. It undermines any credibility you had, robtbrown.

    You presume too much and know too little.

    The date I referred to was the end of his Pontificate. In assuming that I was referring to his death, you were projecting your own evil fantasies on me.

    And how do you know that he was good and holy?

  95. inara says:

    Amicus, I am convinced as you are…regarding the quote referenced from the CDF, head coverings for women was *not* the issue they were addressing at all. In this document (Inter Insigniores) they were speaking out against women being ordained to the priesthood & seem to add this reference to bolster their argument that Paul was not a misogynist. They were in no way making a definitive statement or declaration regarding veiling (though they may have personally been in hopes the custom would disappear…I recall reading that 68 members of this Curia were questioned by Paul VI regarding birth control & 64 of them responded in favor, so you can see where their leanings lie.)
    It is clear they are tentative in including it by the use of the word “probably”…to me, this shows they really had not put much, if any, time into researching this particular topic (since it was not the focus of the Declaration) & therefore, were not making a binding statement in this regard. This is further supported by the beginning of the same paragraph, where it says “Another objection [to ordaining women as priests] is based upon the transitory character that one *claims to see* today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women”…if they were admitting these ordinances were transitory, would they not have said “sees”?

  96. amicus1962 says:


    You make a very good observation. It made me re read that sentence in Inter Insigniores. That statement only said that the requirement for head coverings no longer has a normative value. However, just because a practice is no longer the norm does not necessarily mean it is no longer valid. For instance, communion on the tongue is no longer normative in the U.S., but it does not mean it is no longer valid. Such a statement merely states a reality and lacks any proscriptive language usually found in laws that are intended to bind. This hardly qualifies as the definitive word on the status of canon. 1262.2.

  97. amenamen says:

    @ inara : “It is clear they are tentative in including it by the use of the word “probably”…”

    Your observation is correct. The word “probably” is an unusual word to put into a definitive statement on a matter of Church teaching. I have been trying to see where this word could be inserted into the Profession of Faith. It does not seem to fit well into the Ten Commandments, either.

    Clearly, the main focus of Inter Insignores was the extremely grave issue of the invalid reception of ordination to the priesthood by those who are not capable of receiving it. In comparison, the issues raised by 1 Corinthians 11 are “scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance.” The CDF did not make a definitive declaration on these disciplinary practices, but rather, they simply denied that the modern arguments against 1 Corintians 11 (what some “claim to see”) could be used to overturn the Church’s teaching on the priesthood. The CDF simply prescinded from the disciplinary question as irrelevant to the purpose of the document.

  98. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t know how old you are, robtbrown, but Kleenexes pinned to women’s heads used to be pretty common. So were those crazy little doilies that came in a little plastic package with a hairpin.

  99. BLB Oregon says:

    amicus1962 wrote: “I am not proposing that my interpretation of scripture is correct; I am merely pointing out the inconsistency and contradiction in the CDF explanation. In fact, I would like to point out two additional points that I missed earlier. If, as the CDF said, that the prescription for head coverings was a mere custom, a minor disciplinary practice, why was it required of women from the time of the apostles until 1983? Surely, a mere custom, a minor discplinary practice cannot survive this long.”

    I can’t agree with that. A discipline does not become more than a discipline by the passage of time. After all, the ordination of priests only from among unmarried men was (and is) a discipline. It is within the authority of the Church to change to, for instance, the discipline that has been in use among the Orthodox. In contrast, the practice of ordaining only men is not merely a discipline, as some suppose. Even if evidence could be found that some bishop here or there in the past attempted the ordination of women, that would not change.

    I think the reference to head covering in Inter Insigniores had only to do with addressing complaints having to do with the main question. I do find it telling, though, that those individuals and denominations who deny the difference between male and female with regards to the priesthood increasingly deny the difference between opposite gender and same gender couples with regards to marriage. Not always, not by any means, but the trend is unsettling. Once the mystery is abandoned that was first engendered when “male and female He created them”, we can see how blurred the appreciation of the inherent blessing of gender differences and gender complementarity can get.

    At the other extreme, some invent differences between the sexes that do not exist, defending false stereotypes simply in order to buttress their defenses that there is a true and profoundly meaningful difference. The main problem with that, of course, is that falsehood is always a bad defense for the truth. Once you try to defend the truth by making stuff up, you are shooting your defense in the foot, and leave the truth more exposed to doubt than before you started.

  100. catholicmidwest says:

    And robtbrown,
    Nobody really new why we had to have them. It was just part of the drill in those days. Like sleeping on curlers and wearing uncomfortable (bone-destroying) shoes just because you were female.

  101. amicus1962 says:

    BLB Oregon,

    You miss my point. What I am saying is that a mere custom, a minor disciplinary practice cannot survive from the time of the apostles unless it is more than a mere custom or minor disciplinary practice. As I said in my last post, I think St. Paul’s exhortation for women to cover their heads (and for men to be bare-headed in church) should be treated as a binding mandate for all time.

  102. catholicmidwest says:

    You’re welcome to your own opinion, but apparently the Church doesn’t see it as binding and that’s probably what matters.

  103. BLB Oregon says:

    Amicus1962–I didn’t mean minor to the point of insignificance. I agree that insignificant practices don’t tend to have staying power. I meant only that it was minor relative to those things that are binding upon the Magesterium, such as that only a baptized male may be validly ordained, or even compared to disciplines such as the one concerning whether priests must normally be celibate. It would be like saying that the rules of fasting and abstinence are minor compared to the laws pertaining to marriage. Even when it was held to be binding that women wear veils during sacred liturgies, that discipline was minor compared to who could or could not be ordained.

    Yes, minor things have their effects on major things. For instance, where venial sins are winked at, greater sins will multiply. Even small pieties, done with proper disposition, dispose towards the greater virtues. I don’t think there is a question about that. Still, there are those with the pastoral office of deciding whether a particular practice serves the Church better as an imposed discipline or as a chosen piety. The Rosary, after all, has never been an imposed discipline. I don’t think it would have greater power if it were, and it might even be harmed, depending on how the discipline was imposed.

  104. robtbrown says:


    You seem to confuse covering the head with fashion–hats and gloves, fine lace, now kleenex on the head complete with bobby pins. And you squeeze in the implication that a woman who covers her head at mass is somehow unintelligent.

    I tend to agree with you that a woman covering the head at mass is not a big deal compared to the Word of God. And I think that a man wearing a John Deere cap during mass is in the same category.

  105. inara says:

    I believe the Church does see it as still binding, even in regards to Canon law, since the 1983 code (Canon 26) states that a custom that has been legitimately practiced for at least 30 years “obtains the force of law” and an immemorial custom (practiced over 100 years) *prevails against canonical law*…in other words, even if there were a written canon in the new code *prohibiting* head coverings, the immemorial custom would have greater weight & therefore, overrule/nullify that written law. An immemorial custom is impervious to change & therefore, binding for all time. St. Paul’s admonition for women’s heads to be covered has been in practice for almost 2000 years, so there can be no doubt it qualifies under this rule.

    In addition, since Paul places this issue in the context of the liturgy, Canon 2 also applies:
    “For the most part the Code does not define the rites which must
    be observed in celebrating liturgical actions. Therefore,
    liturgical laws in force until now retain their force unless one of
    them is contrary to the canons of the Code.”

  106. inara says:

    oh, I forgot this one (1983 Code, Canon 5) ~ which would mandate headcoverings even if one were to argue they aren’t part of the liturgy:
    “Universal or particular customs beyond the law (praeter ius) which are in force until now are preserved.”

  107. amicus1962 says:

    “Amicus, You’re welcome to your own opinion, but apparently the Church doesn’t see it as binding and that’s probably what matters.”


    Funny you should say that, but I recall being told exactly the same thing by people back when I (and many others) voiced the opinion that the Church’s translation of “pro multis” as “for many” was wrong.

    Here we have an issue that does not even rise to the gravity of the “pro multis” issue, for which the only “official” statement we have from the Holy See is a passing reference in a minor document that does was not even intended to address it, and people assert that the issue is now closed . I don’t think so.

  108. amicus1962 says:

    I meant to say “…the Church’s translation of ‘pro multis’ as ‘for all’ was wrong”.

  109. BLB Oregon says:

    Inara, how do you define “the Church” such that you can “believe the Church does see it as still binding”? The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments doesn’t seem to see that. The Pope doesn’t seem to see that. Cardinal Burke doesn’t see it. Unlike even the matter of abstaining from meat on Fridays, there are not hordes of canonists objecting to all of this “not seeing”, but rather agreement that the obligation does not currently exist. I know there are members of the faithful who “see” an obligation, but who is it, among those with the office to bind and loose, who sees this?

    Amicus, this is not just “people” saying where the issue currently stands. The whole point of the original post was summed up thus:


    “Thank you for your letter …The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. [That is interesting for all sorts of reasons.] It is not, however a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.”

    What’s left to say?

    —–end of quote

    Consider that the Vatican does not answer questions such that the length of the response corresponds to the importance of the issue. Rather, the length of the response corresponds to the complexity and depth of explanation that the Vatican thinks the question currently warrants.

    This question is important to many, but it isn’t that complicated. The Church a) doesn’t require the veils any more, b) the Church can do that, and c) that is not to be taken in any way as a denigration of the practice, let alone an intent to discourage or eliminate it. The ideas that the practice of veiling is either a binding requirement or a discarded practice are after-factory add-ons.

  110. BLB Oregon says:

    “I thought it then, and think it now, an entirely uncontroversial position to have taken. [Soooo naive]”

    Point made, Fr. Z!

  111. amicus1962 says:

    BLB Oregon,

    Many canonists and theologians back then also said that “pro multis” is for all because Rome has spoken, end of story. But where is tha Is itt “binding” document that you say definitively abrogates the obligation for women to wear head coverings? A personal letter from Cardinal Burke is not an official document that binds the faithful, and neither are opinions of canonists. Inter insigniores? You really believe Inter insigniores is that binding document? The Vatican issued a notitiae back then specifically explaining why “pro multis” is “for all,” but look what happened.

  112. inara says:

    BLB, are you saying then that the Canons I referenced do not pertain to this issue? (that is what I mean by “the Church” in this case…Canon law & scripture) If so, could you demonstrate how?

    The Pope has not made a statement himself regarding this (that I know of), but he does still require women visiting him to wear a veil.

    As to Cardinal Burke & other Canon experts, while I truly respect their intellect & knowledge of Canon Law (and I am by no means near to them in my understanding, so I can see where it may seem presumptive of me to even engage them in discussion), I am merely in hopes that the angles (canons) I presented may have escaped their notice or study in this area (not that they are unfamiliar with these canons in general, just that they may not have considered how they might be relevant here).

  113. Maria says:

    CMW I find it hard to believe that a Catholic can come on here and be so rude to people.

    You seem to have a lot of issues about your femininity if you don’t mind me saying – and I am sure you don’t as you choose to speak without worrying about offending anyone.

    Happy Easter anyway.

    Peace to all

  114. benedetta says:

    I really don’t have a strong feeling one way or another, to veil or not to veil. I don’t think that because CatholicMidwest is pointing out the drawbacks that we ought to conclude that she has “issues about femininity”. In many cultures and faiths it is still a lovely custom that women veil while at prayer. And it seems that in those cultures the kleenex option hasn’t prevailed, for whatever reasons. I certainly see also that it is a good thing to pray as others are praying where you are, so in the event of Mass in the EF, or, at the Vatican. When it comes to the NO Mass, we all know that a woman who veils is going to be, either openly ridiculed, openly challenged, openly “cursed”, in most places (and unfortunately this will be from other women). Where I attended Easter some women chose to veil (and also wore a smile with that) and I did not observe any negative reactions among the women who did not. I liked that very much. Each accepted the other. I think that it should be this way everywhere, some do, some do not, neither choice disparaged since it is optional but not without value for many reasons.
    But I feel that in most places where overwhelmingly women do not veil at the NO, when a woman feels called and chooses to do so, in the typical atmosphere one encounters now, well, it takes guts, you’ve got to be pretty tough to endure it and continue on.
    Interestingly Dorothy Day always went about with her head covered well past Vatican II. I just glanced at a few different styles she wore into old age. All you brave women who veil at an NO Mass where you must endure “the treatment”…well, just mention that and see if you get a double-take to go with the eye-rolling…Drop that little present in the hands of your ncr-worshipping pastor and see whether smoke comes out of his ears… ;)

  115. benedetta says:

    Here is a photo taken of two strong ladies while visiting together. Both practiced the works of mercy among the poor in our times, and both, by all accounts, persisted in prayerful communion with the Lord, to the end. Both heads, covered. Both Catholic souls, revered for their wisdom, leadership, words and generosity. Print it out and carry a copy in your purse…

  116. BLB Oregon says:

    Inara, the customs of surrounding the Pope are in another realm, I think that is clear. You’ll notice that the Pope himself is also far more studious about covering his own head in public than he requires his priests or bishops to be. Women visiting the Pope wear a veil, but women visiting St. Peter Basilica are not required to do so.

    I’m saying that I do not believe the heirarchy and current canonists to be in error on what currently-binding canon law says on this subject. Yes, I am saying that there are those in the Church with the office of binding and loosing, and this is one of those things open to their pastoral discretion. I find it impossible to believe that the arguments brought forth have “escaped their notice or study”. They would have to been buried in a very deep cave. Rather, they have studied the question and given their answer, and the answer is that the practice is a matter of personal piety, not a binding obligation. This is not like other unintended changes in the Church, either, which have been taken on one by one over the years. Perhaps it is a matter of picking their battles, I won’t argue against the point that this could be a practical decision on their part, but I am saying that when they assert that this is their battle to choose not to pick, and I am with them on that.

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