Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Head coverings
Head coverings QUESTION from James Rojek May 2, 2001
When did the Church stop requiring women to wear head coverings in church, and why did they stop requiring it?
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on May 15, 2001
Dear Mr. Rojek,
The requirement that women must wear head coverings last appeared in the 1917 Code of Canon law. It is found in canon 1262 §2. I will not quote it because I cannot find an English edition of it, and I doubt that one even exists. Anyway, the Latin states that women must cover their head and dress modestly in church, especially when they approach the meal of the Lord.
Now, this fell out of practice in the sixties, if what I have been told is correct. (I was not there in the sixties!) Perhaps women's liberation movements had something to do with it, or maybe the lay faithful stopped wearing them when nuns removed their habits. No Vatican II documents authorized this. The 1983 Code of Canon law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, does not mention head coverings at all. Since the new code replaces the old rather than supplements it, the requirement no longer exists. No official reason is given.
If scripture verses such as I Corinthians 11:6-7 bother you, remember that scripture is not guidelines for current liturgical practice. Occasionally in the New Testament we see verses like these which are regulations for the early Christians.
Women are still permitted to cover their heads. I see this frequently at the church which I attend. The tradition may be maintained that girls and unmarried women wear white, while married women wear black.
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