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July 28, 2004



My understanding is that in the earliest years of Christianity, respectable women in the Mediterranean world kept their hair covered, and a woman with loose, flowing, visible hair was...shall we say...available for rent. (I've seen icons of St. Mary of Egypt and Mary Magdalene that show them with long hair). So naturally Christian women would keep covered, not only in church but whenever they left the house.

This custom seems to have lasted a long time, judging from the medieval and Renaissance portraits still existing, but I think it's safe to say that this particular bit of visual shorthand no longer obtains, so the original rule is no longer necessary.

I must admit this covered/uncovered rule always puzzled me, and not only for women. Jewish men cover their heads before God as a sign of respect; Christian men remove their hats for the same reason. Who's right?


You've piqued my curiosity. You quoted Canon 1262 Section 1 of the 1917 Code which said that men and women had to sit apart from each other. As far as I know, for all of the 20th century families sat together at Mass. So when did men and women sitting apart die off?

Mr. Akin

How do you account for St. Paul's writing on the matter? Canon Law has not specificaly abrogated Head Covering and scripture seems to require it so why are we not bound by scripture in this matter?

Eric Giunta

"How do you account for St. Paul's writing on the matter? Canon Law has not specificaly abrogated Head Covering and scripture seems to require it so why are we not bound by scripture in this matter?"

The New Testament also requires us to abstain from eating blood, eating animals that are stangled, and required men not to wear headcoverings in Church.

If these were all forever binding, then we Christians would not be allowed to eat blood or animals that are strangled, and priests and bishops would be sinning when they wore birettas or mitres in Church! Or when Eastern monks wore their own special headcoverings in Church!

I too would like to know how Mr. Akin relates this to the larger scope of the veil being used throughout the 2000+ year history of the church, in light of the scriptures, and the following canon:

Can. 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.

The wives of the US presidents have been instructed to veil even in the presence of the Holy Father, and except for Kennedy, all were protestants! (Hillary refused.)


I would like to find out what the church teaches in regards to what color should been worn for the tridentine masses. If the color changes for different worship services etc. thank you


What about canon 21 in the 1983 code where it says, "In a case of doubt, the revocation of pre-existing law is not presumed ..."? If canon 6 revokes all pre-existing canon law there is no law remaining that could erroneously be presumed revoked.

Jimmy Akin

Canon 21 refers principally to laws that are found outside the Code of Canon Law, either universal legal norms not mentioned in the Code or the laws of particular territories or groups.

Whether those laws have been revoked can more easily be in doubt than whether the 1917 Code has been revoked. There is no doubt about that.

Canon 6 revoked the prior Code of Canon Law, which contained the requirement of head coverings. Thus that law is revoked. If it is not repeated in other currently-in-force legal documents (and it is not) then there is no requirement.


What would be examples of 1)universal legal norms not mentioned in the Code, and 2)the laws of particular territories or groups. Thanks

Jimmy Akin

1) The more detail-oriented rules for processing the causes of saints or the evaluation of apparitions.

2) Norms passed by the USCCB for the dioceses of the United States.


Do 1) "detail-oriented rules", and/or 2) "norms" have the same legal status as "pre-existing laws"? Can the words "rules" and "norms" be used interchangeably with "law" in canon law? Thanks


Spoken like a true neo-con Jimmy!! I suppose St Paul would aprove? I think not!! As for myself I'll just "stand fast and hold to the traditions which were taught whether by word or epistle".(2Thes2.14)In the case of head covering ,its both.
Jimmy who do you think you are? There is not one statement from any pope or legal authority (which you are not) on this issue.All women must keep thier heads covered at Mass.I credit you with the work you do but this one you are dead wrong Cowboy

John Henry

Your beef appears to be with Canon Law, not Jimmy.

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