Since Jul 11, 2002
-- Bishop Fulton Sheen
For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., during sick calls). It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads -- "especially when they approach the holy table" ("mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt") -- but during the Second Vatican Council, Bugnini (the same Freemason who designed the Novus Ordo Mass) was asked by journalists if women would still have to cover their heads. His reply, perhaps innocently enough, was that the issue was not being discussed. The journalists (as journalists are wont to do with Church teaching) took his answer as a "no," and printed their misinformation in newspapers all over the world. Since then, most Catholic women in the "Novus Ordo world" have lost the tradition.
After so many years of women repudiating the veil, the Vatican (as the post-conciliar Vatican is wont to do), not wanting to be confrontational or upset the feminists, simply pretended the issue didn't exist. When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was produced, veiling was simply not mentioned (not abrogated, mind you, but simply not mentioned). However, Canons 20-21 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law make clear that later Canon Law abrogates earlier Canon Law only in certain outlined situations and that, in cases of doubt, the revocation of earlier law is not to be presumed; quite the opposite:
Canon 20 A later law abrogates or derogates from an earlier law, if it expressly so states, or if it is directly contrary to that law, or if it integrally reorders the whole subject matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, does not derogate from a particular or from a special law, unless the law expressly provides otherwise.
Canon 21 In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as possible, harmonized with them.
Canons 27 and 28 add to the argument:
Canon 27 Custom is the best interpreter of laws.
Canon 28 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 5, a custom, whether contrary to or apart from the law, is revoked by a contrary custom or law. But unless the law makes express mention of them, it does not revoke centennial or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs. Hence, according to Canon Law and immemorial custom, women are still to veil themselves.
Veiling is a very serious matter, and not one that "just" concerns Canon Law, but also two millennia of Church Tradition -- which extends back to Old Testament tradition and to New Testament admonitions. St. Paul wrote.
1 Corinthians 11:1-17:
Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that in all things you are mindful of me and keep my ordinances as I have delivered them to you. But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ: and the head of the woman is the man: and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven. For if a woman be not covered, let her be shorn. But if it be a shame to a woman to be shorn or made bald, let her cover her head. The man indeed ought not to cover his head: because he is the image and glory of God. But the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man [c.f. Genesis 2-3]. For the man was not created for the woman: but the woman for the man. Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels. But yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God. You yourselves judge. Doth it become a woman to pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you that a man indeed, if he nourish his hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Church of God [i.e., if anyone want to complain about this, we have no other way of doing things, this is our practice; all the churches believe the same way]. Now this I ordain: not praising you, that you come together, not for the better, but for the worse.
According to St. Paul, we women veil ourselves as a sign that His glory, not ours, should be the focus at worship, and as a sign of our submission to authority. It is an outward sign of our recognizing headship, both of God and our husbands (or fathers, as the case may be), and a sign of our respecting the presence of the Holy Angels at the Divine Liturgy. In veiling, we reflect the divine invisible order and make it visible. This St. Paul presents clearly as an ordinance, one that is the practice of all the churches.
Some women, influenced by the thoughts of "Christian" feminists, believe that St. Paul was speaking as a man of his time, and that this ordinance no longer applies. They use the same arguments that homosexualists make in trying to prove their case. In this quote, homosexualist Rollan McCleary, who believes that Jesus was "gay," tries to show that Paul's admonitions against homosexuality were culturally conditioned:
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes about "men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due" (Romans 1:27).
Asked about these texts, McCleary said references in the Scriptures to homosexuality were misunderstood or taken out of context.
"In those days they didn't have kind of concept of homosexuality as an identity such as we have it," he argued. "It has much more to do with other factors in society ... homosexuality was associated with idolatrous practices."
In the case of Paul's writings, he continued, "does everybody agree with St. Paul on slavery [or] on women wearing hats? There is such a thing as historical context."
Of course we Catholics agree with St. Paul on slavery (St. Paul wasn't talking about chattel slavery, by the way), and on veiling, and on everything else! Please! But the liberal above makes a point: if Christians want to reject veiling, why not reject the other things St. Paul has to say? The traditional Catholic woman has the snappy comeback to the defiant homosexualist: "we do veil ourselves and don't disagree with St. Paul!" But what leg do the uncovered women have to stand on? And what other Scriptural admonitions can they disregard on a whim -- or because of following the bad example of a generation of foolish or misled Catholic women who disregarded them?
Now, I ask my readers to re-read the Biblical passage about veiling and note well that St. Paul was never intimidated about breaking unnecessary taboos. It was he who emphasized over and over again that circumcision and the entire Mosaic Law were not necessary -- and this as he was speaking to Hebrew Christians! No, the tradition and ordinance of veiling is not a matter of Paul being influenced by his culture; it is a symbol that is as relevant as the priest's cassock and the nun's habit.
Note, too, that Paul is in no way being "misogynist" here. He assures us that, while woman is made for the glory of the man even as man is made for the glory of God, "yet neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, so also is the man by the woman: but all things of God." Men need women, women need men. But we have different roles, each equal in dignity -- and all for the glory of God (and, of course, we are to treat each other absolutely equally in the order of charity!).The veil is a sign of our recognizing these differences in roles.
The veil, too, is a sign of modesty and chastity. In Old Testament times, uncovering a woman's head was seen as a way to humiliate a woman or to punish adultresses and those women who transgressed the Law (e.g.., Numbers 5:12-18, Isaias 3:16-17, Song of Solomon 5:7). A Hebrew woman wouldn't have dreamed of entering the Temple (or later, the synagogue) without covering her head. This practice is simply carried on by the Church (as it is also by Orthodox Christians and even by "Orthodox" women of the post-Temple Jewish religion today).
That which is veiled is Holy
Note what Paul says, "But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering." We don't veil ourselves because of some "primordial" sense of femine shame; we are covering our glory so that He may be glorified instead. We cover ourselves because we are holy -- and because feminine beauty is incredibly powerful. If you don't believe me, consider how the image of "woman" is used to sell everything from shampoo to used cars. We women need to understand the power of the feminine and act accordingly by following the rules of modest attire, including the use of the veil.
By surrendering our glory to the headship of our husbands and to God, we surrender to them in the same way that the Blessed Virgin surrendered herself to the Holy Ghost ("Be it done to me according to Thy will!"); the veil is a sign as powerful -- and beautiful -- as when a man bends on one knee to ask his girl to marry him. (Interestingly, I read on a website once that women surrender their power to men in order to gain a man's love; men surrender their love to women in order to gain power. If you stop and think deeply about this, you'll see how this is, ultimately, true on a temporal level.)
Now, think of what else was veiled in the Old Testament -- the Holy of Holies!
The former [Old Covenant] indeed had also justifications of divine service and a sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made the first, wherein were the candlesticks and the table and the setting forth of loaves, which is called the Holy. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies: Having a golden censer and the ark of the testament covered about on every part with gold, in which was a golden pot that had manna and the rod of Aaron that had blossomed and the tables of the testament. And over it were the cherubims of glory overshadowing the propitiatory: of which it is not needful to speak now particularly. Now these things being thus ordered, into the first tabernacle, the priests indeed always entered, accomplishing the offices of sacrifices. But into the second, the high priest alone, once a year: not without blood, which he offereth for his own and the people's ignorance: The Holy Ghost signifying this: That the way into the Holies was not yet made manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing. ...The Ark of the Old Covenant was kept in the veiled Holy of Holies. And at Mass, what is kept veiled until the Offertory? The Chalice -- the vessel that holds the Precious Blood! And, between Masses, what is veiled? The Ciborium in the Tabernacle, the vessel which holds the very Body of Christ. These vessels of life are veiled because they are holy!
And who is veiled? Who is the All Holy, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Vessel of the True Life? Our Lady -- and by wearing the veil, we imitate her and affirm ourselves as women, as vessels of life.
This one superficially small act is:
so rich with symbolism:
of submission to authority;
of surrender to God;
of the imitation of Our Lady as a woman who uttered her "fiat!";
of covering our glory for His glory;
of our being vessels of life like the Chalice, the Ciborium and, most especially, Our Lady;
an Apostolic ordinance -- with roots deep in the Old Testament -- and, therefore, a matter of intrinsic Tradition;
the way Catholic women have worshipped for two millennia (i.e., even if it weren't a matter of Sacred Tradition in the intrinsic sense, it is, at the least, a matter of ecclesiastical tradition, which also must be upheld).
It is our heritage, a part of Catholic culture;
pragmatic: it leaves one free to worry less about "bad hair days"; and for the rebels out there, it is counter-cultural nowadays, you must admit!
The question I'd like answered is, "Why would any Catholic woman not want to veil herself?"
Veiling Options for Women and Girls
There are various options here for women:
the classic Catholic lace mantillas
lace chapel caps (this is for young girls)
oblong gauzy or cotton scarves worn over the head and over one or both shoulders, or tied in various ways
standard-sized square chiffon or cotton scarves folded into a triangle and worn tied under the chin in the Jackie-O style or tied behind the head in the peasant style, etc.
large square scarves worn "babushka" style (fold large 36" square scarf into a triangle and place over head with the "tail" side hanging down in back. Then turn back the pointy ends behind the head and tie into a bow or make a knot over the "tail")
shawls worn over the head
elegant but simple hats (cloches, toques, berets, "Lady Diana" hats, etc.)
Traditionally, single women wear white headcoverings, and married or widowed women wear black, but this isn't a hard and fast rule, and is often ignored.
Sisters, veil yourselves, even if you are visiting a Novus Ordo parish and are the only woman to do so. Be true to Tradition, to Scripture, to your own desire to submit to God. Be not afraid... And lovingly encourage other women to do the same, teaching them what veiling means.