QUAERITUR: School principal orders girl not to wear a chapel veil during Mass

From a reader:

My daughter attending Catholic school at our novus parish determined after reading 1 Corinthians that she should be wearing a chapel veil at Mass. She began wearing it at Sunday Mass two months ago. However, when she tried to wear it at Friday daily Mass during school, the principal made her remove it, referring to the dress code. I argued with the principal that a sacramental is not subject to the dress code. She referred the subject to the priest (self-proclaimed child of VII) who backed the school rather than the Bible.
Do you see any point in pushing this further? Note: we don’t attend the novus anymore as there is now a latin Mass nearby.

You would think they would be pleased to see that a girl was serious about her faith and trying to be reverent at Mass.  But nooooo…. liberal ideology trumps common sense once again.

You have every right to pursue this matter with the diocese. A reasonable priest and principal would make a reasonable accommodation to their dress code, but, it seems, we’re no longer living in reasonable times.

HOWEVER… I suggest NOT pursuing this with the diocese right now, mostly for the girl’s sake. You would probably end up in a nasty battle.

It rarely pays to argue with the obtuse.

This could be a good opportunity chat with your daughter about respect for authority, even when they are wrong.

When faced with an order that’s just plain wrong, we have to use our God-given reason to discern whether obeying the authority (unless the order is against divine or natural law) could be the better course for growth in holiness.

But… wouldn’t it be great if all of a sudden all the girls showed up wearing chapel veils?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. It rarely pays to argue with the obtuse.

    This could be a good opportunity chat with your daughter about respect for authority, even when they are wrong.

    Two points that are worth learning young and reflecting on throughout life.

  2. keithp says:

    First of all, I am so happy and pleased for you and your daughter. How wonderful to have a daughter so recollected.

    I agree with both Fr Z and Fr Maurer. This can be an opportunity to learn about obedience and humility.

  3. Precentrix says:

    What is the school uniform? Could the school accommodate headcoverings of some sort, for example a beret or hat, as part of an updated uniform?

  4. mamajen says:

    At the parish I grew up in, the priest required all the girls receiving their First Holy Communion to wear identical veils (provided by the parish). This was to ensure uniformity so that there were no showy ruffles, crowns, bows, etc. Nobody was distracted, nobody was outdoing anyone else (at least from the neck up). While I am not seeking to defend the school, especially since the girl’s heart seems to be in exactly the right place, perhaps that is part of their concern? [Perhaps.] It would be nice if they adapted veils as part of the dress code and then purchased them in bulk so that everyone could have the same type. I know some people have special veils, and those could be reserved for mass outside of school.

  5. jflare says:

    How does a chapel veil violate a dress code?
    Let me guess: The rule declares that “headgear” may not be worn indoors, or at least for Mass. That sort of thing usually aims to bar baseball caps and similar items. If they can’t figure that out, they need some serious refresher in decorum.

  6. So when SHOULD they bring it up?

    Your answer is troubling to me. Not the obedience aspect, I understand that much, and agree mostly. My problem is that you suggest to do nothing and accept their decision that is wrong on MULTIPLE accounts, not just the canonical aspect of it. [And that would be what, exactly? The canon in the Code of Canon Law requiring females to wear a head covering?]

    I just feel as a parent that the solution of explaining obedience and humility is an improper parenting solution to this problem where issues linger.

  7. homeschoolofthree says:

    If the school is this wrong about something that is an easy concept, how do you think they are doing with the rest of Religious Ed.? [Hard to speculate about that.] Catholic schools are rarely Catholic anymore; unless of course, you are homeschooling. My children left the ‘Catholic’ school when one was told that most of the Saints were not real people but rather just stories to get people interested in church. We have never looked back, and now we have one at Christendom, Stuebenville and one making a campus visit to Wyoming Catholic next month! [WCC! Oorah!]

  8. inara says:

    When we lived in IL, our children went to a Catholic school. Before I registered them, I spoke with both the principal & pastor about our girls wearing veils to school Masses/adoration (since I knew they’d be the only ones) & they were, thankfully, fine with it. I also asked permission for them to wear skirts that were longer than those on the uniform list, and they agreed to that too! I came prepared to offer official documentation on both issues, but it turned out I didn’t need it.

    I agree that this might not be a fight you should pick, but I would recommend writing a letter to the principal & pastor anyway, both to tell them that your daughter will be obedient and to charitably restate your case in hopes they might reconsider. If they don’t like St. Paul’s argument from natural law in Corinthians, quotes from Church Fathers in favor of veiling probably won’t sway them, but I’d be happy to point you to a few if you thought they’d be helpful. At least they will have them to ponder, you never know what the Holy Spirit might do…

  9. mamajen says:

    As Fr. Z pointed out, there is no longer a requirement for women to wear a head covering in church, as much as I wish there was. I think we can disagree with the school’s stance, but unless we understand their reasoning, how can we assume they’re in the wrong? As a parent (albeit a relatively new one) I think his advice is wise. Hopefully the parents will pursue this a bit further to discover the reasoning and reach a compromise (if not a victory).

  10. No, I am not suggesting that it is Canonical required to cover, I am saying that to have a priest support the sanction for wearing it. I am assuming a bit here, [Yah… a little…] but I would guess that the conversation was something to the order of: “Don’t wear that veil at Mass or face punishment.”

    When the priest steps in, it seems he is acting in his ecclesial role and supporting the punishment through the parish school of some act at Mass. This would be like punishing a child for receiving on the tongue, kneeling at Consecration, etc… if there was some “school rule” against it.

  11. RichR says:

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. I think most of the rising clergy would be all for rediscovering Catholic roots, and they’d support a child opting to use a veil. I’m seeing more and more of them. People are more interested in a Catholic culture because they see the depravity of the secular culture and know that it is empty. Little symbols like the chapel veil encapsulate a wider, deeper, ancestral spirituality that modern novelties will never approach. People want a part of that. They want what St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Therese of Lisieux had.

  12. anilwang says:

    I agree that this is a good teaching moment on obedience….however obedience can be done gracefully to support a petition.

    The catechism has much to say about this ( http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a8.htm ).

    When the Pope told St. Francis that he couldn’t have his religious order and that he should go play with the pigs, St. Francis obeyed and returned to the Pope covered in pig manure. Obedience does not mean witnessing to the truth.

    Off hand, I can’t think of the graceful way to obey, but I would ask, “If the class were ever to visit a Jewish Synagogue to get a better understanding of the roots of our faith, would you tell the boys in the class that they could not use a Kippah/Yarmulke because it violates the dress code, even though it would deeply offend the Jews of the Synagogue?”. Given that “Spirit of Vatican II” followers are committed to non-offense of other faiths, this might open his eyes.

    I’d also add, if it were -20C (i.e. -4F) outside, would we in violation of the dress code if we wore a hat? If he says yes, he’s opened up a can of worms on policy endangering the health of students. If he says no referring to special circumstances, you can make a case for the a place of God being a special circumstance and express a deep love, on the order of the woman anointing and crying and at Jesus’s feet (Luke 7). Often once you open a crack in the door through reason, a sincere heart can do far more than a detailed point by point well reasoned dissertation why you are right and they are wrong. That dissertation might actually harm your case.

    Let’s take it for granted that the Principle has good intentions (see CCC #2477). He has a school to run and has to deal with people who want to push the limits. His first reaction will *always* be to say no since if you open the crack to one situation, you open it to many others. He just needs an excuse to help your daughter without opening Pandora’s box or being flooded with valid special case requests.

  13. Patti Day says:

    Presumably the dress code at Catholic school is in place to ensure that children meet some standard of uniformity, that they don’t wear team ballcaps, tee shirts with obnoxious statements, expensive jewelry, etc. While the veil is certainly not in the same category, allowing the exception for one child would probably result in endless requests for other exceptions to the dress code. I would suggest that the child’s parents work with her to persuade the priest of the value of veiling for young women rather than drawing a line in the sand.

  14. Sigh…I’m sorry to the family for this happening. I know I wouldn’t have handled it that way.

    Let me tell a good story to cheer you up.

    In my parishes, I have some women who have taken it upon themselves to wear veils. I don’t recall ever being asked, but if I was, I’m sure I said I had no problem with it and blessed those who chose to wear one. But I don’t even recall, to be honest. What I’ve seen is one veil, two veils, a few veils…including on one of the lectors. I can’t wait until someone tartly asks me about it–as if it’s something I did; and I can say, nope, that came from the empowered laity! Spirit of Vatican II! Hurrah!

    Something similar is afoot with reception of holy communion. I’ve done a few things to cultivate more reverence, but I haven’t made a big thing about receiving on the tongue. I have simply called attention to it, and specifically I required that the first communicants, when they practice, they practice that approach.

    Again, I’ve noticed a trend of adults–and children!–receiving on the tongue. The children seem to be intrigued, and when they see one of their friends do it that way, they sometimes like to do the same. No problem. I see a handful of children do so regularly–and I suspect they are doing a little encouraging of it with their peers. [Brick by brick, brother.]

    Now doesn’t that make you feel better?

  15. Dr. K says:

    Find a new Catholic school, if at all possible.

  16. James Joseph says:

    Have the girls wear bandanas!

    That’s what the girls wore in chapel back in the 1990’s when I was in Catholic highschool.

  17. disco says:

    I realize there’s no requirement one way or another regarding the wearing of a veil, but it’s certainly a worthy aspiration for a young lady.

    I wonder if the principal and pastor would have taken a similar approach if a Jewish Hindu or Muslim student were wearing a veil at the school. Somehow I feel like they’d be bending over backward to make every accommodation.

    On the other hand, being a kid whose parents make trouble at school, however justified they may be, is probably more unbearable than it’s worth.

  18. Thank God for homeschooling.

  19. letchitsa1 says:

    “But… wouldn’t it be great if all of a sudden all the girls showed up wearing chapel veils?”

    And even greater still if they could manage to get the entire parish to support them by doing the same on Sundays as a sign of solidarity with the students of their school until the priest and/or principal acquiesced. I would up my donation to see Father’s reaction in THAT instance, especially if it is a fairly large parish and he is a fairly liberal priest.

  20. Flambeaux says:

    Yet another reason we’ll never put our kids in school, Catholic or otherwise. [I am not sure what “or otherwise” could mean here, but it would be silly to make that sort of decision based on an experience somewhere else. Check the actual conditions of your local school to make decisions… or otherwise.]

  21. Maltese says:

    I have four daughters, if this happened to one of them I would confront the principal face-to-face, and respectfully ask why, exactly, she couldn’t wear a maniple [So! You are in favor of the ordination of women!] during mass. Then I would take his (presumably) negative response to my bishop. And if my bishop gave a negative response, I would take it to the Vatican as redress.

  22. Tantum Ergo says:

    It seems pastors often side with principals. I’ve got the bloodied T-shirt on that one, from the discussion over the explicit 5th grade Benzinger sex-ed books, and the introduction (at day one) of class that “divorce is normal.” We took our kids out of catholic school 15 yrs. ago, and gave them a Catholic home school education. Oh yes, we did everything in charity, following all the proper procedural steps, beginning with an informal talk with the principal, making an appointment with the pastor, and (at a confessor’s advice) attempting to see the Bishop (we were stonewalled.) We were told that we were the ONLY ones who expressed objections, though we knew of others who had also.

  23. jdscotus says:

    “It rarely pays to argue with the obtuse.

    This could be a good opportunity chat with your daughter about respect for authority, even when they are wrong.”

    Fr. Z., would you please remind me why you blog? I’m a bit confused. In the post Vatican II world of twisted logic land you can make all sorts of arguments why we should all just “pay, pray and obey.” But I do not believe you fall in that category. Why shouldn’t the girl’s mom honor her daughter’s effort to obey St. Paul (and that pesky magisterium) rather than this common-place presbyter who obviously knows enough to stifle what he thinks is a reactionary practice?

  24. Maltese says:

    I have four daughters, if this happened to one of them I would confront the principal face-to-face, and respectfully ask why, exactly, she couldn’t wear a maniple [So! You are in favor of the ordination of women!]



    Mea culpa!

  25. Nora says:

    I think adding veils as an optional uniform item for Mass is an excellent idea that could be a vehicle for getting an accommodation. As long as schools don’t see you as challenging their authority, you can frequently get a change in policy made.

    Ask them when the uniform policy is reviewed each year and how you can get on the agenda to propose adding the veils. Prepare by getting some quotes for a chapel cap or a mantilla style in a lace that matches a color in the plaid I assume your school puts on girls; there are lots of home based veil making enterprises on the web, who could no doubt make you a good deal on 6-12 dozen veils.

    My high school was Episcopalian (of the Tridentine rite, we joked); boxes of plain white cotton “chapel caps” were by the doors to the church and we grabbed one and put it on each morning before Morning Prayer. Why we were not permanently infested with lice, I do not know. Some verger may have been in charge of washing them regularly; if you had enough for several days and if they were permapress, that is a singularly practical solution.

  26. heway says:

    I agree with Father Maurer, Father Fox and Father Z. It is one thing for an adult to choose his battles, it’s another to involve your child. Children seem to have hard enough time with the social aspect of school, making friends and at a certain age, they want to be like the others!
    This is a wonderful teaching moment. Before wisdom, come humility and obedience.

  27. Dismas says:

    What a sword of sorrow this story inflicts. The hurt and anger this insufferable injustice tempts me to, caught me by surprise. May you, your daughter, and Fr. Z gain every spiritual blessing and virtue not only from your sacrifice offered to God in the face of this injustice but mine as well and may someday soon this parish witness a sea of lace covered heads in it’s pews.

  28. MominTexas says:

    If the decision was made publicly, in front of all the teachers/students, I could see a principal siding with his teacher’s decision for that incident. Especially if he was not there, but pulled in because the teacher said to remove it, girl said she would not, etc. And perhaps the principal found it a lesson on respecting authority as well, for the girl.

    We can “what it” all day.

    I would charitably schedule a meeting with the principal to find out what happened from his perspective, and discuss the issue. If he finds chapel veils distracting to the other students, could a dark bandanna be acceptable, etc.

  29. Joe in Canada says:

    My only concern – I agree with Father otherwise – is that this smacks of Protestantism to me. It seems from what the parent wrote that the child has “determined” the meaning of Scripture to be other than what the Church teaches. By Church I don’t mean the principal or the pastor but the due legislative authority of the Church which has determined that women are NOT obliged by our Catholic scriptures to cover their heads. We might disagree with this decision, but to act on our disagreement is the essence of sectarianism.

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    I say let the poor kid wear whatever she wants. At least she was trying to be a good kid.

    I am going to give up trying to figure out Catholics. I think that at least half of them are completely bereft of their senses.

  31. Geoffrey says:

    “This could be a good opportunity chat with your daughter about respect for authority, even when they are wrong.”

    That is the stuff of saints!

  32. TravelerWithChrist says:

    My niece was assisting at a school in SA (no longer a student) and told not to veil at the daily Mass for the students. So – it’s not just the students but the staff as well who are “encouraged” to not veil.

    Meanwhile, some nuns from (St Benedict) Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary http://www.saintbenedict.com/ are coming to Dallas for a girls retreat, and when I checked out their website – I saw girls all veiled, sitting on the left, and boys dressed in suits on the right of the Tridentine Mass they attend daily!!! Wow

  33. flyfree432 says:

    Our school and priest are for the most part run by pretty faithful people (I am a graduate of Steubenville myself, and no we are not all charismatics). Our parishioners of course have a long way to go after 40 years of liberal conditioning. My wife has worn a veil to Mass there for the 5 years we have been there and has been the only one who does. The older women think she is crazy and hate it, but some of the younger women and teens think its kind of cool. I put some out for sale (I am the DRE) on our lit rack and several have been purchased and now 4 women in the parish wear them. Brick by brick. I have made it clear that no one has to, just like no one has to pray the rosary or use holy water, but why wouldn’t you?

    I am just waiting for the uproar when our son starts going to the school Mass and won’t hold hands at the Our Father. We’ve already had problems with that.

  34. mamajen says:

    You know, something struck me after being away from the computer for a while, and I suppose it kind of relates to Joe in Canada’s comment above. The questioner states that the girl decided after reading the Bible that she needed to wear a veil. The questioner also throws in that this is a “novus” parish and the priest is a “self-proclaimed child of VII”, apparently in stark contrast with this family who prefers to attend a TLM. My question, then, is why is this girl just now discovering the veil? A traditional family has not brought up their daughter to wear a veil, but it’s shocking and unacceptable that the school won’t let her wear it now that she has decided she must? I am not trying to be critical, but something about this is confusing to me. Perhaps they are relatively new to the faith? Is the household all male? Or has she refused to wear one up until now and the parents didn’t enforce it since it wasn’t required? I guess it’s of little consequence, but the tone of the question made me wonder.

  35. jflare says:

    Upon further reflection, I’m inclined to think there may something to this besides disgust with traditional practice. A key phrase here: school at a NOVUS ORDO parish.
    (all caps mine)
    I manage a pizza store; I’ve had occasions in which one employee will whine about having to remove her earring when I didn’t REQUIRE another employee to remove her hair extensions. So too, even if the principle knows about the traditional practice, she may be all too aware that, after allowing the chapel veil, another girl will scream–perhaps literally–about her “right” to wear a neon-pink birette. Some young man will howl about having to remove his beloved team ball cap.
    When I went to school, we didn’t have uniforms, but rather a dress code that merely required that our t-shirts and whatever should be in good repair, no rips and tears prevalent, and shouldn’t bear anything offensive or inappropriate. So..All School Mass on Wednesday morning tended to be a jeans and t-shirts affair. Dresses and suits WOULD tend to stick out. A lot!
    This strikes me as a similar situation.
    I think it’d be wise to collaborate with other parents and with the principle and school board. It seems to me a good opportunity to better educate many regarding the decorum expected for the students and staff.
    You never know, you might persuade a bunch of people to dress up a little for school in general.

  36. Michelle F says:

    Joe in Canada,

    I checked the website of Dr. Edward Peters, a Canon lawyer, and he says that “the canonical requirement that women cover their heads in church is almost completely unattested until the appearance of the 1917 Code, specifically, in Canon 1262, where we read “women, however, shall have a covered head” when assisting at liturgy.”

    The requirement was not included in the 1983 edition of the Code of Canon Law.

    In light of this, I do not think it is fair to accuse the daughter of engaging in the “Protestant” practice of interpreting Scripture with the implication that she contravened the mind of the Church.

    Also, the Church has dogmatically defined the meaning of only a relatively small number of passages of Scripture. Catholics are free to determine the meaning of passages that have NOT been dogmatically defined – and, evidently, whether women should cover their heads is not one of those defined passages.

    One should also consider the fact that, while the Canonical record is spotty, there is a long-standing pious tradition that Catholic women cover their heads while attending Mass, or other liturgical or para-liturgical services, such as Adoration and Benediction. The point of covering one’s head at such services is to show respect to the Lord, who is physically present (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity), hidden under the species of the consecrated Bread.

    I don’t know yet how to do the HTML tags, but here is the address of the page on Dr. Peter’s website:


  37. jflare says:

    I happened to catch a potentially critical tidbit near the end of the original message: Apparently the family has BEGUN attending a traditional Mass fairly recently.
    If the parish they had been attending WAS a Novus Ordo–as seems the case–I doubt the young lady would’ve heard anything at all about veils or other decorum concerns. Most Novus Ordo parishes don’t. It appears as though the whole idea MAY have come about in part because the young lady attended Mass in the traditional rite, re-checked St Paul, THEN decided to wear her veil. In that case, this would be a stone along the path of a growing awareness of Catholic culture.
    ..Possibly combined with a bit of discerning how we can appropriately go about solving problems in the Church.
    This seems to me a good thing.

  38. Michelle F says:

    I suppose I should have said that the Lord is hidden under the consecrated Wine as well as the Bread at Mass lest anyone think I’m denying some part of the doctrine of Transubstantiation, but I wanted to emphasize devotions outside of Mass, such as visiting our Lord in the Tabernacle, or going to Benediction, when only the consecrated Bread is present.

  39. Mantillas banned at Mass, eh? Really? SMH

  40. Mike says:

    I love the chapel veil! I have expressed this to my wife and daughters and it has been met with, at best, a Luke warm OK. My 11 year old daughter has been showing signs of interest in the TLM, asking questions as she does attend from time to time with the family when we all go as it is my preference. My son and I both serve the TLM in our diocese and love it a great deal – wishing our local parish offered it. I see so few chapel veils at our local parish but when attending Mass at the FSSP parish or nearby or the TLM also offered by the FSSP priests in another local parish, nearly all women and girls wear them, but they are not required. There is something wonderful about tradition. It is so sad that tradition was so quickly tossed out when the Mass was changed in the late 1960’s. I wish more priests encouraged their use but when many priests in my diocese say there is no interest in the TLM and have no plans to offer it, let alone learn it so that they may offer it, there is very little hope. Thank goodness for the Fraternity of St Peter and other groups like them who carry on the beautiful traditions of the Church and are in communion with the Church.

  41. NoraLee9 says:

    I am paying through the nose to send our daughter to the prestigious Notre Dame in Manhattan. A tenth grader, she is already getting letters from colleges. This is good.
    She has had to deal with some bad theology. Her religion teacher could not explain the “discrepancies” between the nativity gospels in Matthew and Luke, and followed up by asking the class for a “scientific explanation” of Jesus’ conception…. Catherine, brought her questions home, and I was able to answer them all to her satisfaction. She took those answers back to her class, and the girls too were satisfied. However they have begun to ponder why the Sister-Mary-No-Habits and their Jesuit friends seem intent on killing their nascent faith! In any case, Catherine sleeps in on “Liturgy Days.” After attending only the TLM, the puppets and the girls on the altar make her angry and she can’t pray.

  42. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Just a shout-out from a regular hat-wearing Catholic: Veils in church are charming and most reverent, but hats of various kinds, as well as scarves, also qualify as head-coverings for women: berets, fedoras, straw hats with brims (spring or summer), and many other styles, as well as scarves and bandanas tied over the head.

    What would happen if theMom who originally wrote to you, Father, were to campaign among her fellow parishoners to promote the wearing of veils, hats, and / or scarves to Sunday Mass. If she is successfuly in doing so, it may become difficult for the principal and the pastor to justify continuing to require their students to attend Holy Mass bare-headed.

  43. MyBrokenFiat says:

    @ Father Martin Fox – YES!!! Yes it does. Bless you and your congregation a million-fold, Father. May Our Lady ever shine her smile upon you!

    @ Letchitsa1 – Amen! Those were my thoughts exactly (and much better relayed!). :) Thank you!

    @Maltese – Ha ha ha ha ha ha. What a typo! That absolutely made my morning.

    @Flyfree432 – Love, love, love it! I was hoping to begin selling veils for the same exact reason. Thus far, it’s just me donning one for Mass. Be the change, right? Blessings to you and your wife – may your enterprise bear much fruit!

  44. Gail F says:

    I agree with the school and not with the parent. There is no requirement for women to wear a head covering and frankly, if my daughter decided on her own that St. Paul meant for her to wear a chapel veil and everyone else in the country was wrong, I’d be worried about her. It’s OPTIONAL. All kinds of things could go wrong here — perhaps she is setting herself up to be teased and disliked by other kids who think she being “holier than thou” — perhaps she IS being “holier than thou” — perhaps she is deciding that private interpretation is more important than the magisterium of the Church — perhaps she is scaring herself to death (I don’t know how old she is) over not doing something that is optional — perhaps she is starting a lifelong struggle with scrupulosity. Not knowing the girl, the school, or the family, there is no way to know [Exactly… and yet you have chosen a side.] if she is just a very devout girl who would like to wear a chapel veil, or whether she is heading down the divisive path of the “I am more Catholic than you” crowd. This is not a matter of something being done wrong at the school mass (no kneeling during the mass or something like that), it is simply not the CUSTOM at that school. St. Paul gives a long argument that boils down to, “it’s the custom for women to cover their hair so quit arguing about it.” The girl should learn the valuable lesson that over things that are not vital, it is okay to put up with things that are not your preference.

  45. missy says:

    I feel that even though the Mass is during the school day, Mass is nevertheless not “school.” It is something wholly outside of school; it is the Church and therefore Church regulations, not school dress codes, should prevail. Therefore, if the Church permits veils (even though they are not required), then the girl’s veil should be permitted during Mass, period. She can remove the veil when school itself resumes and the school’s dress code once again prevails.

  46. Joe in Canada says:

    Hi Michelle F
    I don’t quite follow your argument from Dr Peters’ post.
    Dr Peters says “the 1983 Code simply does not require women to cover their heads in church.” My point was that for someone to say that Scripture DOES require it, is to have two different judgments about the matter, one of the Church and one of the individual.
    I personally think that we should do as St Paul suggests. As a priest I would recommend to a woman who asked me, to do as St Paul suggests. There are many, I think, practices useful for our salvation that are not required by canon law. But I would never tell anyone that the Church does not require it but that Scripture DOES require it.
    I regret having given the impression of ‘accusing’ the girl of anything; that would certainly not be my place.

  47. jarhead462 says:

    I would go down to the school, and start throwing bodies around :)
    Seriously, I do like the suggestion of writing a very respectful letter to the priest, and principal, explaining why you think they are in error, but that your family will indeed show humble obedience.
    I would also add that your entire family will say a daily rosary so that the Holy Spirit will move them to change their decision. That is a win/win, because if they do not change, your family still prays a daily rosary together, (a good thing) and if they DO change, then maybe some of the other girls may decide to follow suit, and have this very wonderful tradition spread.
    (But I’d still like to throw some bodies ;)
    Semper Fi!

  48. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    “the divisive path of the ‘I am more Catholic than you’ crowd.”

    I don’t know if Gail means to use the word divisive in the way I am going to describe, but divisive is on my list of words that are often used as code for something Dissenting Catholics don’t like.

    Again, not necessarily Gail, who may be a good and loyal Catholic, but many Dissenting Catholics use divisive to indicate any thing they want to stop in its tracks. For example, Faithful Catholics didn’t appreciate removing our statues, our stained-glass windows, our altar rail, and often complained bitterly about doing so. However, these actions were not considered divisive because Dissenting Catholics liked them and supported them.

    However, when Faithful Catholics persuade Father to hold monthly Benediction and Adoration, this is something Dissenting Catholics don’t want to see get traction and grow in popularity. Most of the parish might get behind the idea, and thus leave the Dissenting Catholics, who loathe Benediction and Adoration, behind. Thus, Benediction and Adoration become divisive.

    Similarly, the introduction of folk Masses, blues Masses, rock Masses, jazz Masses, and funk Masses would not be described as divisive, because although many faithful traditional Catholics were shocked, horrified, and offended by the introduction of these, and stayed away from them in droves, (thus dividing the congregation!), yet Dissenting Catholics supported and sponsored these novelties, and so, although they further divided the parish, they were not deemed divisive.

    Whereas the Latin Mass, even the Novus Ordo Mass celebrated in Latin, is something that Dissenting Catholics abhor, and don’t want to see become popular. If it did become popular with the parish generally, the Dissenting Catholics might become somewhat marginalized. That’s an eventuality to be avoided at all costs. Therefore, any celebration of the Latin Mass is condemned as divisive.

    In fact, here’s Marion’s official definition of that word in a nutshell: Di•vi•sive, adj: any initiative or introduction in liturgical practice or observance, especially those observed before 1965, that Dissenting Catholics don’t want to see become the norm, as this eventuality might lead to a diminuition of Dissenting Catholics’ power and influence within the various Church circles they currently inhabit.

  49. mamajen says:


    Yes, I caught that too…perhaps the entire family has only recently ventured down a more traditional path, which is feasible since I know that Fr. Z’s blog has that effect on people. I grew up in a NO parish that used the altar rail and most women wore veils, but that certainly isn’t everyone’s experience. In any case, the tone of the question still troubles me. If the family has only recently decided to be more traditional after years spent doing otherwise, then all the more reason to be patient with others who aren’t on the same page yet. Perhaps the parents feel that the school is standing in the way of one individual expressing her reverence, but I suspect that the school is thinking about how one person standing out could become a distraction. I can’t think of any other reason why a priest, even a NO one, would actually forbid something like this. It seems that the questioner is painting a bad picture of the school and the priest without us fully understanding both sides of the story, and that is unfortunate.

    @Gail F,

    Very well said. I was very scrupulous as a child and teenager, which caused many problems for me.

  50. mamajen says:

    @ Marion Ancilla Mariae

    I have known Catholics who I think would fit Gail F’s description. They are cliquey and try their best not to interact with people who are not just like them. Unfortunate, because that’s not how you win people over (and it CAN turn people away). If I had the same attitude, there would likely be two less Catholics in the world now (my husband converted a year after we married, and we have a beautiful son). Being more traditional (or less) is not in itself divisive. Shutting people out or criticizing them because they are different is. It happens too much.

  51. Alice says:

    Gail F, I agree 100%.

    If the Church does not interpret that passage of Scripture as being binding on all women, then the student needs to obey the dress code. Period. When asked about headcovering, Father Gregor Hesse (RIP) mentioned that the Pope had given a dispensation for the women in the Austrian court in the 18th century, so it was a good thing, but not required by divine law.

  52. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:


    I agree that it’s important not to be cliquey, which cannot win others.

    There was a story of a Vietnamese priest who was captured by the VietCong during the terrible wars in that country. The VietCong, of course, being Communists hated and loathed Catholics and Catholic priests, and so at first this prisoner priest was mistreated cruelly. He responded, however, to his captors, with such love, sincerity, and gentleness, that his very guards were gradually won over. Little by little, and without his requesting it, some of the guards risked their own lives to smuggle extra food and blankets in to him. Father did ask them for and received booklets of Sacred Scripture to be smuggled in by these friendly guards. And several of these VietCong Communists ended by asking for instruction and to be baptized.

    Kindness and openness to others wins souls over.

    Cliqueishness and an attitude of arrogant superiority do not. We must be the servants of all, as Our Lord and Our Lady are.

  53. anilwang says:

    Gail F,
    I think you completely misunderstand the situation. It’s not about you. It’s not about “everyone else is wrong and I’m right”. It’s about God and adoration.

    You might not know this but the Catholic faith is global and spans 2000 years. There are *many* current variations on devotions that date back to the time of the apostles, and the Church has declared that these valid variations should be accommodated for. Here are two examples:

    Another example is the sign of the cross. Latin American’s kiss their hands after the sign of the cross. Eastern Catholics hold their fingers differently and make the sign of the cross from the right to the left rather than left to right. These are all valid and anyone who wishes to force all people in a particular parish to rigidly follow the particular customs of that parish alone is not acting in accordance the with wishes of Rome and has forgotten that the Church is universal.

    The chapel veil is a valid form of reverence. It has been for 2000 years. While it is written in scripture, it is also written in Tradition.

    I do believe that obedience is required, but obedience does not mean being silent on things that are true. Jesus was obedient onto Pilate, but he still spoke the truth.

    As I’ve said, the dress code has a reason and I appreciate that the Principal doesn’t want to open a can of worms and be flooded wish special cases. However, as I have stated, I believe that there are some reasonable well defined assumptions in the dress codes which allow for hats or head coverings to be worn (visiting a Synagogue or it being cold outside or they are visiting a construction zone) under certain conditions and the Principal would turn a blind eye to those “violations” whenever they happen. As such, if the Principal is approached and in private without causing scandal or causing him to dig into his position, he would likely make those assumptions explicit.

  54. MyBrokenFiat says:

    anilwang – spot on the money. I wish I could shower you with a million kudos. ;)

  55. mrose says:

    Joe in Canada et al who say Chapel Veils are not required:

    The omission of an explicit requirement does not mean that no requirement exists. Canon Law is not the be-all, end-all of everything; Canon Law itself says as much. See Canons 2 and 5 in this manner. The veiling of women at Holy Mass, etc., is a universal custom taught by St. Paul, attested to by countless Church Fathers, and practiced universally from Apostolic times until recently. That it goes unmentioned in the 1983 CIC does not abrogate the custom or law, for the Code itself says that universal customs apart from the Law and unmentioned in the Code remain in force, such as veiling/head-covering.

    To assert that there exists no requirement to veil because it fails to appear in the 1983 CIC or the Paul VI liturgical documents, etc., demonstrates an irresponsibly narrow reading of the text and a problematic understanding of Law that omits the category of “custom apart from the law.”

    So, to argue that this faithful young women committed a Protestant error because she read Scripture, did what St. Paul commands and what is in accord with the constant and universal practice of the Church, is slanderous.

  56. Marcus de Alameda says:

    >This would be like punishing a child for receiving on the tongue, kneeling at Consecration, etc… if there was some “school rule” against it….<

    I know many Catholic adults and children who have been refused communion for kneeling (confrontation in the line up), and also most recently at our local Cathedral, an older liberal priest refused the Eucharist to a pregnant woman I know for attempting to receive on the tongue.
    Displays of Orthodoxy = extremist and disordered

  57. MyBrokenFiat says:

    mrose and Marcus de Alameda,

    Might I introduce myself? I’m Gina (aka MyBrokenFiat), and I’m a huge fan of yours with those last two statements…


  58. Nicole says:

    “Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the Word of God as found in Scripture and Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.” — From the First Vatican Council…

    I think that pretty much ends any argument on this issue: everyone who professes to be Catholic must believe by divine and Catholic faith that which is contained in the Word of God as found in Scripture and Tradition…which includes women covering their heads at prayer and prophesy.

    The principal and priest can command that which is against the divine mandate given through the mouth of St. Paul and Tradition, but the student would be bound to adhere to the divine mandate.

  59. Joe in Canada says:

    mrose: I will leave a judgment as to whether I am irresponsible in stating that there is no current requirement in Church law for women to veil, to the authorities of the Church. I regret that you can read slander into what I have written.
    Nicole, I don’t think one has to be a modernist to say that your quotation does not “pretty much end any argument on this issue”. The Church herself has decided, it seems, to say nothing, at least for now, on the matter.

  60. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I’m thinking about the teasing and bullying that used to go on among the girls at the Catholic school I attended for two years. The experience very nearly destroyed my faith, and I’m sure it had a very bad effect upon others, too. Perhaps the school is wise to insist upon sticking to a strict dress code: to give the mean kids one less thing to pick on the others about.

    That mother would be wise, I think, to encourage her daughter to design and to make, with Mom’s help, a small chapel veil – a circle of lace no more that 4″ – 5″ round, in a color that blends in with her own hair color. Lace from a fabric store comes in shades of ivory, coffee-tan, brown, as well as black and white. The daughter can wear her creation to Holy Mass with the family on Sundays, and Mom should wear something similar, too. Mother and daughter will be wearing “beginner” head coverings that will be discreet, that hardly anyone will notice, and if they do, will hardly excite comment.

    When I was a girl, back before Vatican II, all the ladies wore hats and gloves to Mass on Sunday. And dresses and high heels and stockings, too. And sometimes after school, Mom would take us shopping, and we would sometimes stop in to the church afterwards to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. If Mom couldn’t find her chapel veil in her purse, she would grab a Kleenex tissue and pin it to the top of her head as a head covering. And me, too. And that’s how we would go in to the church in the early 1960s, with paper products pinned to our heads. Very weird. But that’s how it was, back in the day.

    Speaking of dress codes: has anyone attended a wedding in a Catholic church lately? I did not long ago, and ooh! la la! If the bride’s and the bridesmaids’ were cut any lower or fit any more tightly, I think we would have had to change the wedding venue to a stage in a Las Vegas hotel. The question that kept going through my mind was, “why bother to actually wear anything, if one’s clothing is going to be that revealing?” I guess in the case of the bride, all the frou-frous and the sequins are very desirable, but they can’t very well be sewn onto her personally, so you’ve got to have the gown. And the bridesmaid, who don’t have much in the way of frou-frou and such like would nevertheless want to fall in line with whatever the bride is wearing, so hence their gowns, too.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble: what does an old crustacean from the Pleistocene era know, anyway?

  61. In the spirit of both obedience and loopholes, I’d be interested to see the rules on hair accessories. When I was in Catholic elementary, there were no rules beyond “keep it neat.” So there’s nothing preventing your daughter having a giant snood o’ doom over her whole head, or a ponytail-wrapping scarf on a ponytail starting high on her head. Or even braiding/weaving a scarf onto her head, for that matter.

    Cantored for the Confirmation Mass with the Archbishop last night. Wore my red hat with the black band to match my black jacket and red blouse. I looked pretty darned cute, if I do say so myself. :)

    Apparently a lot of Catholic girls’ schools used to have very cute hats (berets, Robin Hood hats, etc.) to go with their plaid jumper-dresses and blouses. People forget the days before chapel veils.

  62. And if it’s the same color as your hair or similarly discreet, the chance of anybody bringing themselves to object goes down radically. Especially since nothing I’ve named is actually a “chapel veil”, and she could wear said hair stuff all day instead of just when she gets to church. If nobody objects at school, nobody can object at church. (One would think.)

  63. Nicole says:

    Suburbanbanshee – it seems to me that the snood/caul, hat or cleverly wrapped babushka/mantle work better than these lacey things women call chapel veils (though I do have a very pretty 150-year-old chapel veil that I like to wear from time to time). My ease with these other articles stems from my parents always wrapping us girls in bonnets, scarves or hats to go out when we were very young…and my sisters and I always got new spring hats for Easter as we got older. It seems so much more instinctive to wear a head covering when one has done so all her life, basically. I don’t know why women in general are so reluctant to cover their heads at prayer or the heads of their daughters, though; perhaps it is part of rejecting one’s natural role?

  64. mrose says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae,

    Thank you for your wonderful story! I appreciate the beauty and simple faith of your mother and you when entering a Church and improvising a head-covering – a heartwarming witness! You are blessed to have had such a mother!

    As for weddings, at my own this past summer, I was scandalized by the dress (or lack thereof) of some of our guests. We wrote explicit instructions for all, specifying that ladies cover their shoulders and wear dresses at least covering their knees. We endured criticism from a couple about our “rigidity” beforehand, but I was shocked by what some women, even those who I thought would know better, wore to Holy Mass.


    Thank you!



  65. mamajen says:

    As a young lay Catholic, I don’t presume to be able to accurately interpret the Bible on my own. However, after reading and re-reading 1 Corinthians 11-16, it seems to me that St. Paul is in part commenting on the female tendency toward vanity. She should not glorify in her own beauty (ie. luxurious hair), because it is not hers. She comes from man and man is created in the image of God. Therefore, I cannot help but wonder what St. Paul would think of more recent chapel veils made from ornate pieces of lace that often work to beautify the woman even further (whether or not that is her intent). This brings me full circle to my original conclusion that the school is NOT automatically wrong in this, even if you look to St. Paul for your rules. It could be that they believe a strict dress code is more in keeping with Paul’s message than permitting one student drawing attention to herself (or girls trying to outdo each other with fancier veils). It is completely feasible that their concerns are valid and just and have little to do with being “modern” or “liberal”. I am NOT slandering the girl in question or trying to suggest that she is motivated by anything other than a desire to please God. However, her concerns are not the only concerns in this situation. Passing judgment on either party is not in keeping with our faith. We have only tidbits of the story.

  66. LaudemGloriae says:

    I find that I have better luck when I tell people that “in our family we ….” (veil, receive on the tongue, etc etc.) By framing the matter in terms of “our family’s traditions” others are less threatened, that I am not trying to insist on my own brand of Catholocism. Also there is more acceptance for cultural traditions than Catholic tranditionalism. Many go on to assume that I am not American. I let them think whatever they want.

    Suburbanbanshee, you made me lol pretty hard with your “giant snood-o-doom” : ) I suggest a wide lace head band. Something close to the young lady’s hair color. Perhaps an over-sized lace bow? I’m sure something can be done to accommodate the the call of conscience while blending in.

  67. Overshoe says:

    I can remember in my early years of elementary school, during the early phases of ‘the destruction’ that the nuns would clip a Kleenex to the heads of any of the girls that forgot their veils for Mass…

    Then came the burlap and things were never the same…

  68. Michelle F says:

    Hi Joe in Canada,

    Thank you for responding to my post. We probably are closer to agreeing on this than it seemed at first.

    I thought you said that the daughter was going against the thinking of the Church when she read the passage from St. Paul in 1st Corinthians, and applied it to herself. I was trying to show that she did not go against the thinking of the Church, which did require women to cover their heads during the 66-year period from 1917 to 1983, and she has the support of a long-standing pious tradition inside the Church.

    As for whether Scripture/St. Paul “requires” women to cover their heads, the answer seems to be that it is not absolutely required.

    Going from 1 Cor. 11:13 to 11:14, St. Paul seems to be making an argument FOR women covering their heads based on Natural Law:

    (v.13-14) “You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray to God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you…?”

    Of course he ends by saying, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church of God” (1 Cor. 11:16)

    Based on this kind of language, one cannot say that Scripture or St. Paul REQUIRES women to cover their heads; the issue seems to fall into the realm of Church Discipline, as does priestly celibacy.

    But there is another pertinent passage.

    St. Paul spends the entirety of Romans chapter 14 talking about Jewish dietary law and whether Christians need to follow it. He says that Christians do not need to follow it, BUT those who avail themselves of this liberty are not to criticize (“judge”) those who continue to follow it. His reason is if a person does something believing it is a sin, even if it is not a sin, it will be imputed to him as a sin because he chose to do something he thought was sinful (14:20, 23). Conversely, people who choose to follow the dietary law are not to criticize or “judge” those who do not follow it because each person will be judged by God on how well he has served Him.

    To apply this to the situation at hand: Women who cover their heads because they believe they are obligated to do this to please the Lord should not be ridiculed by those who choose not to cover their heads, and the women who cover their heads should not criticize or “judge” those who don’t cover their heads. The Lord knows who is motivated by what, and He will judge each accordingly.

    Perhaps my own experience would help. I joined the Church when I was 30 years old. None of the women in my parish covered their heads, and neither did I. I was, however, aware of St. Paul’s admonition in 1st Corinthians, and I was aware of the tradition of Catholic women covering their heads at Mass. After attending Mass for about 2 years, my conscience began to bother me regarding my uncovered head. I also wanted to be as fully Catholic as possible, to stand squarely in the tradition of the Saints. I knew that if I covered my head I would, at best, be seen as a weirdo. I may even be seen as a “Holier-Than-Thou” type. I struggled with it for a few months, but my conscience wouldn’t quit nagging me, so I started covering my head. I’ve been doing it for about 12 1/2 years now. I am very much the outsider, and I get nasty looks at times, but I cover my head to please God and no one else, and I will not uncover it just to make men (particularly other women) happy. I don’t completely understand St. Paul’s argument, but he argues very forcefully that it is a good thing for women to do, and the practice is part of the Catholic tradition, so that settles it for me. In the very unlikely event that the Church would require women to attend Mass with their heads uncovered, I would comply, but I would also complain about it through appropriate Church channels.

  69. Re: 1 Corinthians — Paul’s deal seems to have been not so much beautification (with the braids, etc.) as with women appearing to be “fast”.

    There’s some very interesting books out there, about how a lot of Roman married women were interested in new philosophical and religious movements, but how this was often them using philosophy as an excuse not just to go out unescorted by men and talk to guys about serious subjects (with which a Jewish man would have total sympathy), but to wear the Roman equivalent of lowcut dresses and the same sexy hair fashions as Roman prostitutes. Roman lawmakers struck back by trying to make a lot of these fashions illegal for anybody who wasn’t a prostitute (and legal to assume that anyone wearing them was a prostitute). However, the “new women” pretty much kept up their habits, although some would wear their big hair-and-body-covering Roman stolae outside on the street and then take them off as soon as they came inside. (Or they would wear gauzy stolae, or so forth.)

    Of course, the “new women” weren’t generally walking around or working in the noonday sun of Rome or other Mediterranean/Mideast cities, or contrariwise, in the freezing winter cold or the driving rain or the whipping wind. Otherwise, they’d have to have worn headgear, as most working men and women did for health and utility reasons. They were rich enough to be able to take shaded sedan chairs, or stay home till evening.

    Now, if you were a new Christian or interested in Christianity, it was very likely that you might be one of these “new women”, and maybe not one totally clear on the concept of what a monotheistic religion involves, much less what was a sin and what wasn’t. You probably thought that the homily (at which the bishop sat on a sedes like a philosopher) was a philosophical lecture including questions and discussions. And then, you weren’t really clear about what was part of Mass and what wasn’t. Was the agape meal after the service part of Mass? In a pagan religion, it would be. In a synagogue, it wouldn’t be. If the Spirit came over you to prophesy, did you just let it all hang out, or wait a bit despite the annoyance, like this guy Jeremiah that they read from last month? What to do? And even if you weren’t a “new woman”, was a house being used as a church “inside” like a family’s house, or “outside” like a public place?

    So Paul tells people what they need to know. A church is “outside”, like a synagogue or a king’s court. Keep your stolae on, and if it makes you feel better, think of it as a crown on humankind, like a queen wearing her diadem of authority in the presence of her king. Guys, take your headgear off, even though you’d keep it on in a synagogue; this is a sign that as part of Christ, you won’t die in God’s presence. This is how you behave: x, y, and z.

    Wearing hats or headgear or veils — it’s all basically dressing like an ordinary woman in most of the world before the advent of A/C, perms, etc. The only reason it seems at all weird is that both men and women stopped wearing hats outside all the time. If you were wearing a hat every time you went out of the house to shop, nobody would blink an eye about wearing one to church; the only wrinkle would be guys taking theirs off.

    Hats are still eminently practical, of course. But when you separate daily custom from church custom, it’s not surprising if it’s hard to keep church customs going.

  70. Nicole says:

    Joe in Canada – Sorry I did not respond to you sooner, I did not see your comment to me before now. I honestly don’t know how you come to the conclusion that the “Church herself has decided, it seems, to say nothing, at least for now, on the matter.” The matter of women covering themselves in general, women covering their heads at prayer and prophesy, and men keeping their heads uncovered at prayer or prophesy is nothing new in the life of the Church…and certainly nothing that I’ve just made up. The Church has, in fact, spoken regarding women covering their heads at prayer and prophecy as evident in the teachings of St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, the teachings of the Fathers, St.s Ambrose, Augustine and Chrysostom, again pointed to by St. Thomas Aquinas near the middle of Church history, and echoed recently in Church Law (CIC 1917). The silence in current Canon Law (CIC 1983) and mass disobedience of Latin Rite women regarding this matter does not mean that what was once bound upon one’s belief by divine and Catholic faith is now no longer so. Besides, I do not take myself as an authority in this matter, but rather the Fathers above-mentioned, especially St. Chrysostom who offered a very succinct explanation of the Scriptural source in question.

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  72. inara says:

    @Joe ~ it seems to me the Church *has* spoken quite recently on this issue: The Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship (which handles liturgical matters) said in 1969, “The rule has not been changed. It is a matter of general discipline.”

    The fact that this topic does not appear in the 1983 code does not negate this statement, since (from Dr. Peters’ website): ‘”This Code for the most part does not define the rites that are to be observed in celebrating liturgical actions. Therefore current liturgical norms retain their force unless any of them are contrary to the Canons of this Code.”
    In other words, faithful with liturgical questions probably ought not look to the 1983 Code for answers because, with a few important exceptions, Canon law generally does not treat liturgical matters.’

    Headcoverings are a 2,000 year liturgical norm/custom; therefore, since liturgical issues are primarily not within the scope of the 1983 code, prior/other authoritative sources should be sought. Headcoverings are also not contrary to any of the 1983 canons, so the requirement to wear them is retained, per the 1917 code (as well as Scripture/natural law & the Church Fathers).

  73. kittenchan says:

    As someone who gradually worked her way up to doing all sorts of out of the norm things at school Masses in high school, that is to say receiving on the tongue, genuflecting beforehand then straight-up kneeling to receive, not holding hands during the Our Father, severely curtailing shaking hands/hugging at the sign of peace, kneeling on the concrete floor after Communion (there was no kneeling during school Masses at all), staying in my seat when I was not properly disposed to receive, and – GASPPP – wearing a veil to school Masses my entire senior year, I think I have a better perspective on this issue.

    I was convinced that I should wear the veil based on many things, including Saint Paul’s writing. However, I saw no binding command anywhere, because I understood what the Magisterium is and what it has the authority to do. Just because this girl “determined after reading 1 Corinthians that she should be wearing a chapel veil at Mass” does NOT mean that she saw his writings as a binding command, or that she does not submit herself to the Magisterium, or that she has a flawed understanding of current canon law, and to infer such in the absence of a single shred of evidence is presumptive and insulting. Lots of women cite elements of St. Paul’s passage as being compelling arguments for their own personal decision to wear a veil. It’s a pretty common part of the deliberation process and says nothing about whether the woman “thinks she knows better” than the Magisterium. To call it outright Protestant is, quite frankly, slanderous. I personally find it quite beautiful to think of my veiling as partaking in a small way in the action of the angels, who also veil themselves in the presence of the Most High, but I am under no illusion that there is any dictate that says I or any other woman must wear a veil on pain of sin.

    I notice that no one is concerned that the girl in question may be quite passionate about this subject. I, fortunately, received absolutely zero flack from other students about wearing a veil, and may have once caught an eyeroll from a teacher – and no, we were not in any way shape or form a non-liberal high school, nor did we have a lax disciplinary system. We had two heretical religion teachers and a dean of students who had no qualms about breaking diocesan and school protocol in order to maximize student humiliation and punishment. Some other commenters raised concerns about other kids teasing or bullying the girl. If it hasn’t happened yet, who says it will? If I had gotten snarky comments from anyone, I would have given them the what-for because I was INFORMED about what I was doing, and obviously had the courage to wear a veil in a place where only the most naive soul alive could think that snide remarks would never occur. Obviously this girl has done enough reading and pondering to make the decision in the first place, so she is probably able to defend her position, and if she too has the guts to do something different in a time and place when conformity reigns supreme, she probably won’t crumble in front of her peers. Bullying is the fault of the BULLY, and the BULLY needs to stop. The victim of bullying is usually doing nothing wrong or even that weird and should not be told to change himself out of some misguided notion that the victim “brings bullying down upon himself”.

    In a related vein, everyone is talking about how the *parent* should or should not pursue this. Does wearing a veil matter to this girl? Then let HER defend herself! Of course she should not continue to wear a veil out of disobedience (also it goes directly against whatever symbolism a veil can claim to have) to legitimate authority. On the other hand, it is a stellar learning experience about how to handle situations involving the misguided or inappropriate use of authority. No, there is no obligation to wear the veil. Neither is there an obligation to receive on the tongue, and unlike kneeling, there is no explicit protection for it. That does NOT mean that it is permissible to ban either one. If this girl thinks that being able to engage in a legitimate, centuries-old tradition of the Church is important to her, then let her write letters and argue her case. If she wants to be independent enough to wear a veil on her own, let her be independent enough to see it through. Don’t shut her up just because someone ELSE thinks it’s not worth it… that her convictions aren’t worth it… that her spirituality isn’t worth it… that SHE isn’t worth it.

  74. LadyMarchmain says:

    This situation is reminiscent of the landmark case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), in which the Supreme Court which supported Mary Beth Tinker’s constitutional right to wear a black arm band to school despite dress code regulations. The Supreme Court found Mary Beth protected by the First Amendment and used the term “censorship of symbolic free speech” in its decision.

    Mary Beth was a close friend of mine in High School (not in Des Moines as her family had to relocate to another state due to the notoriety). She was 13 when she wore the arm band, and 15 when her case was heard by the Supreme Court. It was important to her to stand up for what she believed. Her family were Quakers who, with their minister, had decided to spend 3 days fasting and praying for peace in Vietnam while wearing black arm bands. The school suspended Mary Beth, her brother, and his friend, for a dress code violation in consequence of which, the family made the decision to make a stand.

    While the Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines applies only to public schools, the lovely young Catholic woman in this instance, who desires to express her growing faith through a practice that has never been forbidden and was long required by Catholic tradition, canon law, and the inspired words of Holy Scripture, should be upheld in her civil liberties and affirmed in her Catholic conscience. Part of the problem here is that the practice of veiling is symbolic. Had the young woman been forced to stand up in public and deny a core doctrine of the faith, the steps to be taken might have been clearer. However, we, as Catholics, are highly sensitive to the symbolic and the sacramental, and the effect on faith and the conscience in denying a symbolic expression of piety, however small, can be as disastrous as an overt repudiation of magisterial teaching. [Incidentally, we know it is not a small matter, as the school administration thinks the act of veiling must be suppressed.]

    I heartily endorse any measures that can be taken to create a head covering that would be acceptable within the strictures of the dress code. However, even the act of minimizing is a tacit form of compliance with a directive that could be damaging to faith and conscience. Obedience and respect must always characterize our discourse, but how many martrys faced torture and death rather than bend the knee to an idol, or remove a crucifix from around their neck? If the young woman wishes to, I believe she should be supported in respectful and persistent efforts to clarify the situation and forge a new direction at her school.

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