In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: As you well know, the use of the Mantilla (chapel veil) is becoming increasingly popular. Could you help me by providing as reasonable explanation as to why wearing one is not necessary? I have been getting questions.  You always have a great way of explaining these things. 


A: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal calls for vesture for priests, deacons and other ministers (119), as well as concelebrants (209). A wider treatment of sacred vestments is given in 335-347. It places no expectations on the garb worn by the faithful who participate at Mass. You can imagine how difficult this would be to establish uniformity throughout the countries and climes of the world.

Some Catholic women choose to wear a chapel veil or mantilla when entering a church, even outside of Mass. Popular images of the Blessed Virgin Mary depict her wearing a veil. Some people in Islam find this a connection in piety between their faith and that of Catholics.

St. Paul asked women to cover their heads when praying or prophesying (1 Cor 11:3-16) in a culture where the interpretation of styles was surely different from the way it is today. The Catholic Church does not expect women to do the same. In fact, the only instance of these verses occurring in the Catholic liturgy is in the Liturgy of the Hours, where those who follow the two-year cycle of the Office of Readings encounter them in Year 1 on Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time. The passage is not included in the lectionary nor in the one-year cycle of the Office of Readings.

If Catholic women find it helpful to their prayer to cover their head in church, they are free to do so. Those who choose not to cover their heads at prayer are also free not to do so. However, no one is free from withholding “charity toward brothers and sisters who participate with them in the same celebration” (GIRM 95). No matter one’s choice pertaining to a veil, each of us must choose charity toward all those with whom we worship.