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Sunday, August 20, 2006
On Women and Veils

Before Vatican II, women were required to wear veils, mantillas, hats, etc. while at Mass. Today few women wear the veil, and many are asking why women should wear veils at all. First and foremost, the 1917 Code of Canon Law stated: "...women, however, should be with head covered and modestly dressed, ..." The new Code of Canon Law from 1983 does not mention the requirement of women to wear veils in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. However, the absence of a direct reference to the subject does not automatically imply a change of Church teaching. As stated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Can. 21: "In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones, as far as possible, harmonized with them."

Women should still wear veils while in the presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. Why? Even if the Code of Canon Law does not apply, St. Paul's words in 1 Cor. 11:4-6 do still apply:

Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil.
I wanted to share this as well:
"Women are definitely more mysterious than men, not only because their affective life is more complex and more refined, but especially because there is something in women that calls for veiling. It is not by accident that women traditionally wore a veil, and that, up to Vatican II, they wore veils in Catholic churches. This custom was deeply symbolic, and alas this symbolism is now lost. Under the influence of feminism, many Catholics were led to believe that veiling indicated some sort of inferiority, and for this reason it was abolished.

This interpretation rests on a misunderstanding. Far from indicating inferiority, the veil points to sacredness. While we do cover what is ugly or decaying, we also veil what is sacred, mysterious, and sublime. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he covered his face to hide the glow that was apparent because God had deigned to speak with him: Moses' body reflected the depth and mystery of his experience.

Every woman carries within herself a secret most sacred, mysterious, and sublime. This secret is life. Eve means "the mother of the living." In the mystery of the female body, human life finds its beginning: not in the male semen but in the fecundated egg, hidden in the cavern of the female body. There God creates a new soul which is exclusively his work, and in which neither father nor mother has a part. This creation takes place when the male seed fecundates the female egg. Thus at that very moment a closeness exists between divine action and the female body which marks the latter as sacred ground. This is why the way a woman dresses, the way she sits, walks, laughs, should always be marked by a note of holy reserve. A woman conscious of her unmerited privilege will necessarily adopt a bodily posture- what is today called body language- which adequately reflects this calling."

-Alice von Hildebrand, from the book Women and the Priesthood


del_button August 20, 2006 at 3:28 PM
Anonymous said...

Before Vatican II all females wore head coverings or veils and all wore skirts or dresses---No PANTS. In 1973 the radical feminists who tried to be priests burned the veils and the main stream liberal media reported in newspapers that women didn't have to wear the veil.
The canon code n 1983 just didn't mentiion it not to upset the feminist. Do we truly believe
that the Church was wrong for 2000 yrs. and just recently became wise?

Fr. Robert Fox
or theveil.html

del_button August 20, 2006 at 5:16 PM
Kim said...

I've been moved for the last month or so to aquire a veil and stsart wearing it for Adoration and such. I have to wait for finances to get in order before that happens, though.

However, I've become much more conscious of my dress at Mass, and actually have a (small) stock of skirts (which should be growing the next time I hit the thrift stores) that are MassWare ONLY (and well, special occaisions). I think I have a pair of dress pants to wear for Mass when skirts are dirty. But it's been a while since I've worn pants to Mass. I love skirts - I feel much more ladylike and feminine. :) I don't wear skirts at all outside of Masses and special occasions, so my MassWare sets off Mass as something entirely different and special in my life.

del_button August 20, 2006 at 8:08 PM
Cathy said...

Kim, you are doing the right thing. Many times I am the only one wearing a skirt and veil during Adoration or Mass. You may feel odd, but they are being disrespectful to Our Savior, Jesus Christ.

del_button August 20, 2006 at 9:19 PM
The Catholic Knight said...

If I may ask; where specifically does the new Code of Canon Law say that women are no longer required to wear veils in the presence of the blessed sacrament?

Secondly, does the absence of a direct reference to the subject automatically imply a change? If so, where can this automatic rule of change (through silence) be found in Canon Law?

del_button August 20, 2006 at 9:59 PM
Moneybags said...

Let me start by saying that I do support and like when women wear veils. However, I don't dislike women that don't.

If I may ask; where specifically does the new Code of Canon Law say that women are no longer required to wear veils in the presence of the blessed sacrament?

It doesn't.

does the absence of a direct reference to the subject automatically imply a change?


del_button August 20, 2006 at 10:09 PM
Ginny said...

I also wear a veil and a dress or skirt to Mass or to visit the church. I believe that is the proper show of reverence, whether it is acceptable to do otherwise or not. I feel it is an honor to be in Jesus presence and He is due all that respect and more. I feel honored to be a women and very proud to wear my veil and what proper dress stands for. I believe it is a true Act of Faith

del_button August 20, 2006 at 10:55 PM
Anonymous said...

Moneybags, You need to read Fr. R Fox's article "Why The Veil" in July 2004 archive on his website and it will enlighten your thought on this.
Why do you think St. Paul made a point to write this in the inspired word of GOD.

del_button August 20, 2006 at 11:18 PM
The Catholic Knight said...


Thank you for answering my questions, and for doing it so promptly. Yes I agree, nowhere does the new Code of Canon Law specifically say that women are no longer required to wear veils in the presence of the holy sacrament. The new code is just silent on the matter with no specific instruction given. Furthermore, I agree that silence on a particular subject nowhere implies a change in canon law. Therefore, I am of the firm belief that the historical practice of women veiling in the presence of the holy sacrament is still in force, specifically because the 1917 Code of Canon Law proscribed it, and the new (1983) Code of Canon Law makes no mention of it. Silence on an issue does not imply a change, but rather, the new Code of Canon Law specifically states that where it is silent, previous customs should prevail...

canon 28 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 5, a custom, whether contrary to or apart from the law, is revoked by a contrary custom or law. But unless the law makes express mention of them, it does not revoke centennial or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs.

So when making a legal case, based entirely on canon law, it is clear that the custom of veiling is still in force and should be observed by the faithful.

Having said that, I should agree with you on another point. I do support and like when women wear veils. However, I don't dislike women that don't. Personally, I don't think it's my place to "like" or "dislike" any woman based on how she does (or doesn't) veil her head before the blessed sacrament. I am a man, and the veiling custom doesn't apply to me. So really, it's none of my business. What a woman does with her head in church is between her and God, and I think that's the healthy way to look at it. Nevertheless, we should seek to teach both orthodoxy and orthopraxy in our churches (no matter who it upsets), and then work on a nonjudgmental attitude privately. In other words; here is what the Church teaches. How well you follow it, is between you and God, not anyone else. We're all rebels at some level. Who are we to judge a woman over a head veil? Just because it's inappropriate for women not to veil their heads, doesn't mean that it is appropriate for us to judge a woman over it. Like Jesus said; "He who is without sin, cast the first stone."

del_button August 21, 2006 at 12:07 AM
Tito said...

Another fine posting.

del_button August 21, 2006 at 9:03 PM
The Epiphany Artist said...

just curiousI know past presidents and possibly their First ladies have visited the vatican havent they? what did the first ladys wear? I sure they did not wear pants I may be wrong but I think one of them even may have worn a veil?

del_button August 21, 2006 at 9:19 PM
Moneybags said...

Some first ladies have indeed worn a veil at the Vatican, although, I am not sure who.

del_button August 21, 2006 at 11:06 PM
Jennifer said...

I remember Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton wearing a black veil to meet Pope John Paul II.

I also did a quick google search and found Jackie Kennedy wearing a black veil too...why black all those times? Does anyone know? I've only seen white veils at my parish.

del_button August 21, 2006 at 11:41 PM
The Catholic Knight said...

Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, and I believe Chelsea too, all wore short veils (not only during mass times, but all throughout the Vatican) during their visit with the pope. That's because the State Department makes sure that all American dignitaries follow the protocals and customs of the foreign governments they visit. Yes, even the US Department of State recognizes that the mandate for veiling is still in place. (You know there has got to be at least one canon lawyer on salary at the State Department these days.) For heaven's sake! Even our secular government knows canon law better than American Catholics do. Now if that isn't an indictment of the abysmal state of Catholic catechizes in the American Church today, than I don't know what is.

del_button August 22, 2006 at 7:49 AM
Anonymous said...

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered that the world would not change so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it too seemed immovable

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last attempt, I settled for changing only my family; those closest to me. But alas, they would have none of it.

And now, as age has caught up with me and soon I will leave this world, I suddenly realize that if I had only changed my life first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would have been able to better my country. And who knows, I might have even changed the world.

Think hard before you set out to change everyone else piety.

del_button August 22, 2006 at 9:57 AM
Moneybags said...

Anonymous, that is excellent advice. If we change ourselves, we can then help to change others, etc., etc. I will certainly try to live by this. When I read your comment of thought of Holy Scripture:

“Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matt 5:16 NAB)

del_button September 3, 2006 at 7:27 PM
Anonymous said...

I appreciate all of your kind and loving insights about Catholic women veiling in church. I do not feel that I am holier than anyone, nor do I judge others on this matter. It is a very personal aspect of my experience with Jesus. He has been so merciful to us!

Thank you.

del_button May 24, 2007 at 1:04 PM
phatcatholic said...

To answer Jennifer's question, the reason the first ladies were shown wearing black veils instead of white ones is because, traditionally, only virgins wear white veils. Once you are married (and you consummate your marriage) you wear a black veil.

del_button May 25, 2007 at 6:36 PM
Seminarian Matthew said...

Thanks, PhatCatholic.

del_button November 17, 2007 at 2:43 PM
Eireann Jason said...

Contrary to the theoretical view, many Catholic wives are shorn on marriage like Hassidic Jewish brides. A Catholic wife is, after all, not dissimilar to a nun in that she 'takes the veil' in marriage and submits to her husband by relinquishing her hair. Dressing plainly with short hair uncovered at home but covered with a mantilla in church is not unusual.

del_button March 15, 2008 at 8:42 AM
Anonymous said...

It always astounds me how people can get so bent out of shape over such an insignificant unimportant topic. If a woman wishes to wear a veil, then she sould wear one. If a woman does not wish to wear a veil then she should not wear one. Mother Teresa wore a veil but God will not judge her or anybody by how they dress. but by whether or not they love their neighbor as themselves... by how we treat other human beings. She has given us a great example to follow by her actions, not her choice of clothing.


del_button September 28, 2009 at 11:57 AM
Anonymous said...

I just want to say that i don't think it was ever required that women wear a veil, per se, but that their heads were covered when inside a church. I know many old timers who wore their 'sunday' hats to church, and still continue to wear them. I've taken to wearing a nice, modest hat, as i am uncomfortable and fidgity in lace veils, and my sister in law (who is a byzantine catholic), wears scarves wrapped around her head, a la eastern european style. Are we considered less modest because we choose to 'veil' in something other than spanish mantillas?

del_button October 3, 2009 at 11:03 PM
Anonymous said...

I am 21 years old and a group of friends and I have decided to begin to wear veils. We are starting just at daily mass and morning prayer since only a few attend. We don't want to be a distraction from the Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday and are afraid that by veiling ourselves we may distract others.
We could only find black veils. Is it wrong to wear a black veil if we are not married? I didn't know their was any smbolism to the colors.

del_button October 4, 2009 at 12:58 PM
Matthew said...

Anonymous, following the words of St. Paul (But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head) will not distract from the Sacrifice of the Mass. Wear the veil not only on weekdays but also on weekends! The Sacrifice of the Mass is the same Monday - Sunday; it is always the same. Using that logic, if veils are a distraction, they should never be allowed just as talking on the phone during Mass is never permissible.

So, wear the veil always. It is not your fault if another person is distracted because you follow the Church's directives.

And, I have always seen unmarried women wear white (or cream colored) veils. You can find some on

del_button February 19, 2010 at 8:49 PM
Anonymous said...

I have a few questions about the proper "etiquette" for wearing veils. We just started attending the traditional Latin mass a few months ago, and I just bought some veils for my daughters and I. Is it proper for a married woman to wear a white veil? I bought us all white, and have worn mine a few times but don't feel quite right wearing my white one. Should I be wearing a different color? Also, at what age should a girl begin wearing a veil/ covering? Thanks and God bless!

del_button February 21, 2010 at 8:33 AM
Matthew said...

The tradition has been that married women wear black and that single women/virgins wear white. Now that is not saying that if you wear a white veil it is somehow bad or condemned. The thing that matters is that you understand the reasoning for the veil, submission to God and imitation of the Blessed Mother.

Girls should start veiling at young ages so that it is just natural instead of something strange. The easiest way is when they are young to have them wear bonnets, which they grow used to having on their head. Then at about 4+ you can start the veil but hats work as well. Sometimes children don't like wearing veils but rather just would rather wear a hat. The thing that matters is they are veiled in the presence of God Almighty

del_button March 31, 2010 at 11:18 AM
GraceMarie said...

In the Vatican Council II Post-Conciliar Documents, Section 4, #97 (Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial PRiesthood, S.C.D.F., Inter insigniores, 15 October, 1976) In part 4, it says, "But it must be noted that these ordinances, proabably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on the head (1 Cor 11:2-6); such requirements no longer have a normative value."

So, while I think that it is wonderful if a woman feels called to veil, it is not required. The spirit of St. Paul's teaching is that women are modest (hair was a temptation in the early church). I think that encouraging modesty in church (and elsewhere!) is more important than trying to get women to embrace the veil again.

del_button May 20, 2010 at 6:16 PM
Paul Cat said...

Why hasn't anyone mentioned St. Paul's conditional statement "But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil." ?

Paul is drawing on local customs here. In some cultures it is very shameful to have hair cut off and shaved. So a veil should be worn. If it is not shameful to have hair cut off and head shaved in some cultures then no veil need be worn.

Also, if you are trying to convince people that veils are of importance, I suggest you take the role of Alice von Hildebrand and try to show women how precious they are and the need to veil what is precious. as a long time catechist, telling people to do something because "such and such church document says so" doesn't cut it with about 90% of catholics. Now it is a valid reason. But is is very unconvincing.

del_button May 26, 2010 at 1:29 PM
viagra online said...

Contrary to the theoretical view, many Catholic wives are shorn on marriage like Hassidic Jewish brides. A Catholic wife is, after all, not dissimilar to a nun in that she 'takes the veil' in marriage and submits to her husband by relinquishing her hair. Dressing plainly with short hair uncovered at home but covered with a mantilla in church is not unusual.

del_button June 8, 2010 at 3:08 PM
Anonymous said...

I have been feeling led lately to wear a veil in Church. I have been praying that God help me increase my love for Him. I have not started the practice yet but am trying to learn all I can about the practice. (I am a convert of almost 25 years). I have seen ladies veiled in some of my parishes where there is a large foreign group but not in my current parish. I will be the only one. I think it looks so reverent and feminine.

del_button July 26, 2010 at 12:47 AM
Anonymous said...

I thought that "covering" meant to cover one another, let the light shine through and defend each other (married couples), not speaking ill or exposing each others flaws to others. In Corinthians 11:16 (Douay-Rheims)Paul states "But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom nor the church of God." He was stating that the veil was a custom not a church law. He also states in Corinthians 1, verses 11 and 12 that "But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord." "For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God." This would indicate a mutual respect and loyalty to each other, equally under the Lord. To let the light shine through and not cover it by our sinful actions or words against each other.

I do wear a veil as I belong to a Traditional Catholic Church, however I do not wear it because of men. Women have never been required to wear a veil because of the presence of men. If that were the case, Catholic women would have to wear the veil all the time. I wear it because it is a Sacred Tradition of my Church. I wear it in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and during prayer while in church. That is the only place where I wear the veil. Its meaning is focused on serving the Lord, not man.

del_button September 5, 2010 at 3:04 PM
Anonymous said...

I don't "veil"....I "hat". As in, a sassy grey fedora in winter and one of those lovely straw hats with the black band in summer...called a Panama hat? At any rate, when I first read about veiling I resisted because it seemed way too matronly for me. I found my hat in a resale shop, added my tall winter black boots and opaque tights, a slim pencil skirt,and black turtleneck, added a faux Hermes scarf and decided that Traditional Catholic does NOT have to mean dressing like the Amish.

del_button September 13, 2011 at 7:12 PM
Anonymous said...

If you choose to wear a veil : a young lady that is unmarried should wear white but I have seen girls wear other colors too. Mature women who are either married or unmarried are to wear colors other than white. It is a choice to veil, not a requirement. It is a calling to be closer to God and is something you must find within yourself. I choose to veil and I teach my daughter to veil. I think my 4 boys respect females who are modest. Veil if you want to but before you do, search within your heart and do it because you want to in your heart, not because it is popular or tradition. My mother did not veil. My grandmother, taught me the value of veiling and I made my choice when I became a woman and was married.

del_button April 17, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Emily Davis said...

I just used your post in my post.
It will be up in 20 minutes. Blessings!

del_button April 3, 2015 at 12:11 PM
Chez84 said...

I have been praying and considering wearing a veil for some time now but I don't attend a traditional Latin Mass so I don't know if it would be ok to wear one or not. I will be baptised into the Church at this year's Easter Vigil. Any help would great, thanks!

del_button April 4, 2015 at 12:43 PM
Matthew said...

Thank you for the comment. Yes, you absolutely can wear a veil. You don't have to attend a Latin Mass to wear a veil. The words of St. Paul admonishing women to cover their heads in the presence of God apply to all Masses and Liturgies. I go to the Divine Liturgy from time to time and I see women cover their head there (only a few but I do see some of them do so). God bless!

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