ASK FATHER: Priest tells woman not to wear veil at Mass

From a reader…

A woman was told by her priest to NOT wear her veil to Mass. It was blessed and so she didn’t know if she was required by obedience to not wear it, or since because it was blessed she should ignore his request. I believe she stopped when he gave a scorching homily about women trying to seem holier than thou by what they wear to church.

First, shame on that priest.

While there is nothing that requires a woman to cover her head in church (except perhaps for Paul’s inspired words in 1 Corinthians), neither is there anything to prohibit a woman from covering her head.

Moreover, there is nothing immodest about these head coverings.  On the contrary.

Moreover, there is a long and well-founded tradition of women wearing a head covering.

The blessing of the veil would not make a difference insofar as obedience is concerned.  Father doesn’t have the authority to tell her what she can wear on her head unless it is patently immodest.

Does he also tell women that they cannot wear makeup or jewelry?  Those are certainly vanities, whereas a head covering is meant to obscure rather than to reveal.

And I doubt that Father is psychic so that he can read the hearts of women… the most  obscure of all mysteries to men, come to think about it.

Father ought to mind his own business and see to himself and how he is appareled.

Does Father wear the proper vestments for liturgical worship and dress properly as a cleric?

I don’t know who this priest is, but I suspect the answers to the above are “No” and “No”.

Does he similarly preach about the beachwear worn by the rest of the non-veil wearing congregation?

I’ll bet he doesn’t.

Anyone who wears, say, shirts with the flashy logos of their favorite teams is also saying: “Hey! Look at me and think about something that has nothing to do with why we are in church!”

Maybe Father is distracted by the beauty of modest women in veils.   In that case, I recommend two solutions to his problem.  First, back in the day and today in traditional circles priests were instructed to keep their eyes lowered while processing and while saying Mass.  Second, stop saying Mass facing the people and start saying Mass ad orientem!

These could help him with either his distraction or his misogyny.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tamranthor says:

    I should think, if this had happened to me, that my husband would have had a quiet word with Fr. Fussypants. I seriously doubt that a woman’s veil is an act of pride. No proud woman would ruin her hairstyle with a veil unless she was serious about the devotion behind it. Was he concerned that she was showing him up somehow? I cannot image a good outcome of publicly shaming someone for their devotion.

    I doubt any woman was ever denied entrance to St. Peter’s for covering her hair, but I am certain several were because they didn’t cover their shoulders.

    If he is so concerned about attire, perhaps he could post a sign, as I have seen at several parishes, denoting precisely what NOT to wear to Mass.

  2. Unbelievable. If someone at a Church told me to remove my veil I would walk out and find another Mass to go to, especially if it was the priest. Something is very wrong there. Many women at the Parish I belong to wear the veil. At another Parish I attend sometimes, a lot of women cover their heads so I have no problem there either. I will pray for the woman who was told to remove her veil. Grrrrr….it really angers me.

  3. Here’s what I would urge the woman to do:
    1. First, pray for inner calm and peace; pray for the priest.
    2. Compose a letter, with utmost politeness and humility, that says: I want to obey you in this, but I am very confused, because I cannot figure out any basis for you forbidding me to wear a veil at Mass. So I am writing you, asking for your guidance on this matter. Will you please explain to me the basis for your command that I not wear a veil?
    3. If you get an answer, it will either be:
    a) a reaffirmation of his forbidding you to wear a veil — in which case you can forward to the bishop, or;
    b) he will back down (because he can’t forbid that).

  4. bibi1003 says:

    At least he didn’t incite a liberal leftist Catholic flash mob to surround the veiled women shouting, “We don’t serve your kind here!!”

    [How far behind can it be?]

  5. Sawyer says:

    If a priest gets suspended for rapping, why not for this outrageous abuse of authority?

  6. ejcmartin says:

    I suppose the above mentioned priest would be quick to correct a woman dressed immodestly or a visiting moslem woman wearing a hajib.

  7. JesusFreak84 says:

    I would point out that there’s still some Protestant traditions in which women are expected to cover their heads, (few, and usually with a hat rather than a veil, but still.) Also, the Orthodox. Isn’t Fr. Fussbucket being un-ecumenical??? (OK, tongue may have been sliiiiiightly in my cheek in the last sentence =-p )

  8. JayDeee says:

    Okay, on to Plan B: HATS. This will probably anger him, but perhaps he wouldn’t go so far as to say anything.

  9. tamranthor says:

    Another quick thought: If Father Fussypants has time to exhort the faithful to not wear a veil, does this mean he has already spoken repeatedly on the evils of abortion, the need for constant prayer, and frequent attendance at confession? I assume he has already parsed the words of Corinthians I and II, as well as the finer points of the Books of Daniel and Revelation, and he has certainly covered gossip, detraction, fornication, adultery, bearing false witness, I’d say he has been very busy indeed to get down to the minutia of a woman’s veil.

    This sounds like the parish for me! (or maybe not…)

  10. Ages says:

    I wonder if Father could name a single female saint who did not wear a veil in church?

  11. Dick Verbo says:

    Find a new parish.
    In the meantime, start wearing a hat.

  12. monstrance says:

    My parish priest actually presented a bulletin article lauding the benefits of the mantilla.
    Of course, he also says Mass ad orientem.
    Go figure

  13. jaykay says:

    Ummm, so if a Palestinian Christian woman attends Mass, with a hijab, what’ll he say?

    Just, y’know, speculating.


  14. Hey, I thought this was the Golden Age of the Laity! That’s what the liberals have been saying for years! Instead it looks like the Golden Age of Rank Clericalism, where the laity have to do all the stuff priests do in order for their worship to count, and priests substitute their own judgment for that of the laity in areas where they have no competence.

  15. defenderofTruth says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the 1917 CIC require veils, and that particular canon was never abrogated in the 1983 CIC, thus that canon would still bebon force.


  16. JuliB says:

    I’d almost feel guilty for doing this, but I’d throw out the sexism card. Aggressively.

  17. hwriggles4 says:

    A few years ago, I remember going to confession. The priest was on his way to the confessional and mentioned that he kept his eyes low, saying he did this to protect the anonymity of the penitent. This was the first time I ever heard of this practice, but I really did appreciate this and the explanation.

  18. Gaetano says:

    Does Father understand what he’s doing is the height of abusive clericalism?

  19. Suburbanbanshee says:

    First off, obviously this priest is off his rocker. Or he has a guilty conscience.
    Second, I hope every woman in the parish starts wearing headgear, just to teach him a little lesson about letting the laity do whatever is reasonable, without desiring to poke his nose in. It is not as if there is a shortage of real moral problems in any parish.

  20. Malta says:

    Unreal. I guess this priest should direct men to only wear made in Italy Diesel jeans to mass.

  21. WVC says:

    Women’s veils – which it’s the Immemorial Custom of the Church, ain’t it?

  22. benedetta says:

    One has to wonder exactly what this priest is so afraid of to divisively single out a woman wearing a veil. With all the problems in the Church right now it’s amazing that he would devote an entire sermon to attacking women who dress appropriately for the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Meanwhile, at my Byzantine parish, we have had a series in the bulletin these last few months reminding men and women of what is appropriate attire for Divine Liturgy. If I lived in that locale I’d organize the local homeschoolers to pay a regular weekday visit to that priest’s Mass, dressing appropriately of course, so that we could support him during what sounds like a difficult and conflicted, bitter time for him.

  23. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I believe she stopped when he gave a scorching homily about women trying to seem holier than thou by what they wear to church.”

    Would that be called a “veiled” threat?

    Is Father dyslexic, because, after all, “veil” to a dyslexic person could look like something “evil”. Maybe he had a vile experience with a veil? Could his “lived” experience make him sensitive to “veil(d)” women?

    Alas, his pleas were to no-a-veil.

    Life is a veil of tears…

    Nothing says holier-than-thou than wearing linen with holes poked in it on the head.

    [Help me, help me. I can’t stop…]

    The Chicken

  24. MrsMacD says:

    It was so hard for me to start wearing a veil! I only did it at the gentle coaxing of my kind husband. It’s more about submission to authority than it is about modesty. To be the only person in a parish where you receive on the tongue, kneel or wear a veil can be very hard/penitential, but they are all signs of humble submission to God over the world. If the priest is preaching against the wearing of a veil he is being the mouthpiece of satan whether he knows it or not. He is undermining the authority that he has as an alter Christus and inserting his own authority as a man.

    “Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the 1917 CIC require veils, and that particular canon was never abrogated in the 1983 CIC, thus that canon would still bear force.” I found this on a website and gave a talk about modesty in which I said that we still were obliged to wear veils, quoting that line, but our priest was quick to correct me that the obligation had been lifted.

    I think that when we women begin to do what we believe God wants us to do and stop making noise to drown out our consciences that we will naturally return to the veil with the gentle chiding of our fathers, husbands, and priests. The only obligation that is imposed on us is that of pleasing God but I think that should be enough.

  25. tho says:

    Was this particular priest at the Red Hen restaurant while Sarah Sanders was there?

  26. James in Perth says:

    Great comments. It is utterly odious for a priest to presume to give a woman instructions that she should not wear a veil if she likes. I am nearly speechless. I would estimate that nearly half of the adult women in my parish wear a veil and I can’t even imagine it ever being an issue.

  27. TonyO says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the 1917 CIC require veils, and that particular canon was never abrogated in the 1983 CIC, thus that canon would still bebon force.


    Thank you, Fr. Z. However, in the interest of putting this issue (which KEEPS coming up) to bed forever, can you enlighten us as to why there are some traditionalists who think that wearing a veil (for a woman) was written into liturgical law, so that women had to wear a veil (or scarf, or other head covering) in order to obey the written law?

    I am sure that it was a custom for many, many, many years. [No. It was law.] And we do have obligations toward customs, to observe them when suitable and lending toward virtue. So it would have been an upright and correct behavior to follow the custom during the early and mid-1900’s to wear a veil or scarf. Those who knowingly and intentionally broke away from following the custom in the 1960’s and 1970’s almost certainly were wrong to do so, since they had no change in law to tell them the custom was no longer applicable.

    However, once the custom ceased to be either obeyed generally or ceased to be enforced by social or other penalties, it is no longer obligatory. This even applies to LAWS that are not observed: if the failure to observe the law goes on long enough, and the authorities fail to enforce it, and even go so far as to explicitly tolerate non-compliance, then eventually the law ceases to have binding force. St. Thomas Aquinas says as much: it is essential to law that it be promulgated, and law that has the authorities no longer taking any effort to enforce or support has lost effective promulgation.

    So, if there WERE some law applicable before the Novus Ordo was promulgated, which said that women must cover their heads, it is apparent that that law is no longer enforced or observed. There are no bishops that cite such a law or require its observance, no penalties administered, not even a reminder in homilies of the requirement: nothing. Hence, even if it were a law, it’s binding force will have lapsed with respect to NO masses.

    What is different, though, is traditional masses (i.e. in the EF). In that milieu, it is still customary for women to cover their heads. Hence it is not accurate to simply say that the custom has fallen into disuse altogether. It has fallen into disuse in the ORDINARY FORM of mass.

    All that says nothing at all about whether it is good to cover your head, and whether a priest has any role in saying not to.

    I would add slightly to Fr. Martin Fox’s excellent comment: Ask the priest to list or reference the law he is asking you to comply with. For, of course, he will be unable to do so.

    That said, I would also offer additional options: Obey the priest even though he has no authority to tell you not to wear a veil, and let the burden of being in the wrong be on his shoulders – and offer up your obedience as a sacrifice to God. Or, obey the priest for the masses he says, and not otherwise. Or, take off the veil when you go to communion, but otherwise sit in the middle or back of the church and wear the veil there. Or, wear a hat instead, or a scarf that is stylish.

    [Based on Scripture (1 Cor) and the practice and law in the early Church (cf. Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, John Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, legislation of numerous councils and synods, etc.) the 1917 Code of Canon Law 1262 §2 said, “women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.” 1261 §1 said, by the way, that it was desirable that women sit apart from men. This was not just a custom. It was the law. It is no longer the law, but it is still custom.]

  28. SanSan says:

    I love wearing my Veil. I usually attend EF Mass, but when I have to attend a NO Mass, I wear my Veil to hopefully demonstrate the extreme reverence I feel towards my Lord and Savior.

  29. chantgirl says:

    And yet, if a man who was “transitioning” to becoming a woman wore a veil to Mass, my spidey sense tells me that he would be applauded for being courageous.

  30. Ave Maria says:

    Oh, Chicken–you are funny! I myself only wear a veil during Lent and than also when I attend a TLM. I always wear a skirt, though, and that rather sets me apart a bit right there. I did hear a priest say we should NEVER do anything different at Mass and gave examples that if everyone holds hands at the Our Father, we should too and if everyone chats and visits before and after Mass, we can too. I never went to hear one of his talks again.

    But to this person, I agree to the advice to wear a hat.

  31. Irradiated says:

    So when is this priest going to explain to the Vatican how the protocol for a woman meeting the pope – which includes the wearing of a veil or hat, even for royalty – is actually letting the women look holier than the Pope?

  32. WVC says:

    @ SanSan – Without any intent to offend, the phrase “extreme reverence” made me think of someone praying a Rosary while jumping their BMX on an X-Games coarse. “Xtreme Reverence!!!”

    Honestly, women of the Church, if you want to strike a blow for tradition, reverence, submission, and to be a true and right rebel in this world of homosexual activist Jesuits, then wear your veil, wear it proudly, and teach your daughters to do the same. Arguments about whether it was a law or a custom are time wasters. In this fight, symbols are more important than legal preening, and the veil is a clarion symbol of true, authentic femininity. And that is something this wicked world fears more than anything – it’s why they hate it, why they fear it, why they try to come up with any excuse to brow beat women who wear them. Priests belong in their cassocks. Women belong in their veils (not hats, VEILS). Men should be wearing a coat AND tie to Sunday Mass. And lets all stop being a bunch of weak-kneed, excuse making, lukewarm fools.

    . . . . maybe I’ve been reading too much Anthony Esolen of late . . .

  33. Joy65 says:

    There are always 2 sides to the story. Maybe her actions were not in correlation to her veil wearing. Maybe this Priest saw or knows something we didn’t see or know about the situation.

  34. Malta says:

    It is not about misogyny, it’s about elegance to be veiled. My Spiritual Adviser at San Miguel, the oldest church in the US, who does the TLM, said that just as the chalice is veiled and unveiled, so a woman veiling herself is a privilege; it’s a sign of her sanctity, just as our Lord’s Mother was always veiled. I don’t know the mentality of some modern priests.

  35. jhayes says:

    The requirement for some headcovering was taken seriously by women before the 1983 Code although it often came down to a bit of Kleenex held on by a bobby pin.

    Cardinal Burke points out that there is no longer a requirement, under pain of sin, for a woman to wear headcovering, even at an EF Mass.

    The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to the 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. It is not, however, a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.


    The rest of the EWTN document points out that the 1917 Code requirement was abrogated by Canon 6 of the 1983 Code.

  36. jhayes says:

    The link to Cardinal Burke’s statement is HERE

  37. chantgirl says:

    Irradiated- If you think about it, this priest was actually asking this woman to dress in a less reverent manner for Christ than she would need to dress to meet the Pope!

    Down with Papolatry- wear a veil ;)

  38. Bunky says:

    My home parish has never been prosperous and laypeoples’ dress has always tended toward the casual, but the parish has a growing Hispanic population (Spanish mass is standing-room only, thanks in part to Dolan’s downsizing, but that’s another issue for another post) and many of the Spanish-speaking women wear lace mantillas. They invented ’em, after all. The parish is novus ordo all the way but I think that if a priest tried to tell them to stop, he’d have a big problem seeing as how they are the numerical majority and some of the English-speaking women have started to wear scarves or shawls over their heads. Sounds like this priest has a lot to learn about choosing his battles.

  39. No priest would ever talk to my wife that way, not without answering to me.

  40. maternalView says:

    Rather than ask the priest for an explanation I think it would be wise to say the rosary for him regularly. Some priests seem to have an adversion to traditions and rituals and anything that smacks of reverence. That he would use a precious opportunity to single out the practice speaks of the likelihood of bigger problems at that parish and with that priest.

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  42. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    It is extremely uncharitable on the part of this priest to presume this woman’s inner dispositions regarding the veil. Furthermore, this priest then proceeded to give a scorching homily about female spiritual pride manifesting in their wearing “holier than thou” dress ware to Mass. I dont get the feeling from the snippet that there are a lot of women at this parish veiling and so everyone present for the homily would clearly understand he was “scorching” this particular woman, or the small group of women veiled like her, for spiritual pride. How unbelievably uncharitable, unchivalrous, and frankly sexist of a way to treat a woman….in public….and by a priest no less.

  43. RichR says:

    That is my favorite photo of ladies in chapel veils. Beautiful and inspiring.

  44. hwriggles4 says:

    I live in the South, and oftentimes a 95 degree day from May to September is normal. Over the last 10 years, I notice more women (many under 45) taking the initiative to cover their shoulders in the sanctuary. For example if a woman is wearing a sundress, she will voluntarily bring a wrap, a light jacket, a sweater, etc. Some ladies do this because of the air conditioning, and many others do this because of reverence and modesty.

    By the way, I am a guy, not dead, and I notice things like this. Years ago, I was an usher in one town I lived in, and ushers are always walking and observe quite a bit. Ladies, I do appreciate when time is taken for matters like this. My mother is an EMHC at her parish and she has shared with me a few stories concerning proper attire when presenting oneself for communion.

  45. Alaskamama says:

    Our clergy (clad in jeans and sneakers and minimum/wrong vestments) make nasty comments about veiling. Their remarks have actually inspired some teenagers to start to wear a veil.

  46. BrionyB says:

    A very odd anecdote. I have never known a priest comment on a woman’s clothing choices in Church, even when their dress is (to my eyes) very immodest – in fact, I can’t see how that could be anything but a very awkward and embarrassing conversation, and if a word is needed to anyone about modesty it would probably be better coming from an older female parishioner!

    I admit I don’t wear my mantilla at the Novus Ordo Mass for this reason – it feels too attention-seeking, ‘more pious than thou’ – I wear a hat or ordinary headscarf instead. I think I will get brave enough to put on the mantilla eventually, though. I already started kneeling for the incarnation part of the Creed – not to show off my piety but because it feels right to show that reverence, and if anyone notices and thinks ‘hmm, why is she doing that?’ and it makes them go away and look it up or think about it – then surely that’s a good thing.

    Maybe I’ll get a smaller, unobtrusive mantilla for Novus Ordo purposes… at least to start with.

  47. Nan says:

    I started veiling last year, while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, with a priest who may or may not read this blog. I had encountered a couple of vintage veils at a thrift store and bought them just in case. I threw them in my purse before leaving home, and one day, I was inspired to put one on. No idea what day or in what church but it was easier to do so in a group with several veiled women.

    My next spiritual direction session, I told Father that I’d stopped scandalizing the Angels. He had no idea what I meant, but the woman I’d bought veils from after losing one and tearing the other knew exactly what I meant.

    St John Chrysostom said that women are to cover their heads so as not to scandalized the angels present at Mass.

    I wear one of my veils at church most of the time but there are times I simply don’t think to put it on, whether I’m at my little Byzantine Church or visiting a parish in the Archdiocese. Nobody has ever had the, um, fortitude to say anything to me, except someone from my old parish l hadn’t seen since I’d begun veiling, who merely commented that he’d seen me at Mass, wearing a veil.

    I can’t imagine a priest having the audacity to tell me not to wear a veil.

  48. michaelthoma says:

    My family and I are Eastern Christians of the Syriac Tradition, of one of the Church’s based in India. Women cover their heads at our Church every day, and even at home when praying. Our Church’s in America and Europe and even in India do not mandate this, it’s a custom that is preserved and handed down. Many women choose to cover their heads even when occasionally attending Latin Rite Churches – if the priest were to denigrate or ridicule one for doing so, they’d never set foot in one again. God have mercy on that priest’s soul.

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