Headcovering 1Cor 11

Why do most Christians of any sect not practice Head covering any more? \

Why did the Pope (who ever he was at the time) change this when Paul says this?

I do know that angels, creation order, submitting to husbands (not obey there is a difference) and submitting to God is not a cultural thing… which are reasons paul gives for head covering.

Many think it is to be done in Public Worship such as church or a meeting because of this being mentioned with other Church service rits and issues… when praying and or prophesying…

Others think it needs to be worn all the time as we are told to pray without ceasing and how our lives are suppose to be a type of worship and witness to Christ.

There is also Lack of evidence it was to distinguish between prostitutes and non… (prostitutes having short hair or shaved hair)

  • I also do not think it is talking about long hair vs short because if your hair is already short, what is the point in shaving it if it is just as dishonorable either way?

Naturally a woman would have long hair, so I see why it is mentioned to help convince those who wanted a natural explanation to cover the head (since the creation order and story is brought up with has alot to do with nature)

And I do not think this is something legalistic either… as it is mentioned in the bible so must have importance… esp being in the NT. If this is considered legalistic… so would modesty… as this would be a type of modesty.


I’ve heard a few diferent explanations on this, one being that back in St Paul’s day, as was the case right into the last 50 years, the way a lady was expected and compelled to show respect was by covering the head at Church, or any event, just as a man is compelled to remove his hat. Its dissappointing that this custom is dying out in my opinion, even for the mere romantic notion of it.

I think now it’s mainly a cultural thing. Women aren’t expected to do this out of respect because leaving the head uncovered isn’t disrespectful! There was no Pope who outright said “women must not cover their heads”, but it just fell out of “fashion.”

The best example I can think of is it being similar to the word gay, which meant happy and now means a homosexual person.

My Lutheran grandmother still covers her head. At least she does for Church every now and then.

And as far as I’m aware, this is still a tradition in Eastern Europe.

Though in both circumstances, as with most Americans no longer following the passage, it’s interpreted as a cultural recommendation and not a binding obligation.

I had a grant to survey Rust Belt religion, and I asked various Christians about this passage alongside those relating to gay marriage and gender roles. A handful refused to answer as to why they no longer follow this on the grounds that I created a “gotcha” question that made their worldviews seem inconsistent. Others said it was cultural, and some said they realized it was binding but chose not to.

I have nothing substantial to offer as to why things are they way they are in the Catholic Church, as I studied Protestants, low-church Evangelicals, and Baha’is.

It’s my understanding that it would have been akin to a modern woman removing her wedding ring. If a woman in our culture covers her head, but takes off her wedding ring, it would be defeating the purpose, in other words. Head covering here does not equal “married.”

yeah but the thing is that head covering is only mentioned for women here and it is not mentioned as a way of saying a woman is married. While wedding rings are for engaged and married and they are for both sexes…
Headcovering as Paul stated was for the purpose of the angels, creation order, and for submitting to husbands (here i can see how it could be for married but not the others) and submitting to God (as God is above the man’s head)


Head covering was never a dogma or doctrine. It was a discipline. Even in the time of Christ & St. Paul.

In order to properly understand it, it’s important to understand where it comes from and what it historically meant. Head covering actually is an ancient custom that was not exclusive to the Jews or Christians, nor was it specifically religious in nature. It was a form of modesty.

It is actually tied to a cultural tradition that linked the length of a woman’s hair to a sign of chastity.

When a woman had short hair, it actually meant that they were not practicing chastity. As late as the 19th Century, one of the punishments in Europe for prostitution was cutting the woman’s hair short.

Head covering (veiling), long before Christ, actually started as a way to make a woman’s hair appear longer than it really was. This would make her seem more chaste and desirable, or hide her if she had shorter hair for whatever reason.

Overtime, head covering took on the sign of modesty & chastity that was associated with long hair. By the time of Christ, it was a cultural sign of modesty & chastity.

Over time, the length of ones hair was no longer tied to chastity, but one’s age. Young girls had long hair, but it was OK for older women to cut their hair. But it still remained as a form of modesty. This lasted pretty much until the end of the 19 century. The World Wars & swim suits of the 20th century helped to effectively end the idea that head covering were a form of modesty.

When woman helped in the wars (whether in the Army, Navy or private sector); super long hair wasn’t practical nor was head coverings. Additionally, hats had already started to replace bonnets, veils, etc at Church. Then, as Hollywood movies started showing women in swim suits which show more and more parts of their arms, legs, neckline, and eventually navel, covering the hair became insignificant.

By the 40s and 50s hats were often worn by woman in public and outdoors, but men wore them too. Hats didn’t cover nor hide the length of the hair. So the original reason to cover one’s head (to hide the length of hair as a sign of modesty) was not longer being done. Women and girls were even wearing small pieces of cloth on their heads, which didn’t hide anything. Plus the once piece swimsuit was in full acceptance by the 40s and 50s with the bikini growing in popularity.

So, when society stopped viewing hats as a form of modesty but rather simply as a form fashion, and when some women were wearing tissues on their heads as a form of head covering, the religious purpose behind the head covering disappeared.

Because head covering no longer had any societal & cultural purpose, the discipline was removed.

NOTE: it’s important to understand that Church discipline can be changed, as the purpose of discipline is to help Christians live a Christian life in a fallen world. If the discipline means nothing or loses it’s meaning, and becomes simply an issue of obedience then it potentially hurts the Christian life.

So the whole point of St. Paul’s teaching was to dress modestly, which is something that many woman (and some young men) today have a problem with.

God Bless.

Also all depictions of the early church women, including mary, all had some kind of a headcovering (see through or not hair showing or not)

Most of the time it was indeed a sign that the woman was married, for her protection. A man, as the classical thinking goes, does not need protecting, he does the protecting. Creation order pertains to that, as well as the idea that a marriage would be evident to the angels as well. All of those things are tied together and having authority over a person, a woman should show outwardly if she has a husband, which means he is in authority over her.

this was an aftereffect and never the intention.

Yeah but if it was about modesty, why not just say modesty? There were other times he spoke about modesty but not head covering (though is a modest practice).

Interesting time line for sure though.

My wife and my children As well as every Catholic woman I know of who attend the Traditional Mass wear a head covering. Even when we go to the Novus Ordo Mass my wife and my girls cover their heads. It is coming back I believe.

Throughout history it has been common for women to wear head coverings. This is something that has precedent in St. Paul’s epistles (see 1 Cor. 11:2-16).

It was mandated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Canon 1262 states:

  1. It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.

  2. Men, in a church or outside a church, while they are assisting at sacred rites, shall be bare-headed, unless the approved mores of the people or peculiar circumstances of things determine otherwise; women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord.

This is something that fell gradually into disuse.

In the 1970s there was a judgment issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document titled Inter Insigniores that basically stated that since chapel veils were not a matter of faith, it was no longer mandatory for women to wear them. In paragraph 4 it states:

It must be noted that these ordinances, probably 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 their head (1 Cor. 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value.

I’ve noticed you are certainly asking many questions in your recent posts. Are you aware of the differences in Doctrine, Dogma and Disciplines?

I’m speaking of ancient customs, which were in different cultures, not just a Christian way of thinking.

Obviously we as Catholics must conclude that this issue is a matter of discipline and not of doctrine as the Church changed it…and it is for the Church to determine such matters. That is not in question. No one on this thread, however, has actually addressed the OP’s question. St. Paul’s reasoning seems to be rooted not in culture but in more “cosmic” elements such as angels and creation… does no one have an explanation for this verse? I don’t. That’s what the OP is getting at.

In today’s world hats are normally worn for fashion or warmth, but unless I’m totally wacked, they are not worn for modesty unless you are Amish/Mennonite and choose to live where you must adhere to uniform rules. I remember in the early sixties pinning a pink kleenex to the top of my head so I could enter mass! During the time of Christ it was the cultural norm for adult women to wear head coverings in Rome, Greece and the Holy Land. In addition, if you want to follow every little “rule” that St. Paul wrote about, then women could never teach men or even be in the Sanctuary of the church. 2015 cultural and Church teaching allow us to dress however we wish regarding head coverings. If you desire to cover, them do so, but remember, your decision to cover does not make you any more Holy than the woman sitting next to you wearing four inch pumps and no hat.:rolleyes:

Thank you. :slight_smile:

Well, for starters, we have to remember that in St. Paul’s Epistles are letters to individual Churches (aka Dioceses) which he founded or assisted with. The majority of Chapter 11 is discussing Liturgical Abuse during Mass in the Church (Diocese) of Corinth.

So, before he starts listing all the things they are doing wrong, he’s commending them for dressing with modesty and utilizing traditional head coverings.

I could be wrong, but I believe that head covering for women was only a sign of modestly and Chasity for some cultures of the Empire, not all of them. The Roman Empire was a larger cultural “melting pot” than any other society in the history of the world (including the United States). So, I think that’s why St. Paul specifically mentions it.

Who knows, perhaps head covering wasn’t a large cultural practice for the people of Corinth at that time? Either way, St. Paul is attempting to build them up before he chastises them for their liturgical abuses which he starts to mention in 1Cor11:17.

In regards to 1Cor11:6, my Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says

veil herself: Many believe the veil symbolizes the subordinate status of women that should be reflected in a liturgical setting (14:34).

  • The Catholic Church teaches that [St.] Paul’s counsel on the veiling of women was inspired by the customs of the day. Because this was a matter of discipline, not doctrine, the Pauline directives on covering and uncovering the head are subject to change.

In regards to 1Cor11:10, my Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says

A warning that gender confusion and improper attire at worship will offend the heavenly hosts. The underlying idea is that:
(1) angels are ministers of the natural order, and
(2) angels are present in the sacramental worship of the Church.

In regards to 1Cor11:14, my Ignatius Catholic Study Bible says

nature itself: The expression can mean “natural law” or “common custom.” [St.] Paul intends the later rather than the former.

So, the based on the above quotes and my understanding of the practice: St. Paul is most likely mentioning the angels because it would be an insult to the angels for a someone to enter the Mass (which is a refection on how the angels pray in Heaven according to Revelation) immodestly dressed or dressed with gender issues.

NOTE: modest dress and “gender dress issues” are subjective to the local culture.

I pray that this helps.

The law seems to be normative at all times and in all places, according to Paul’s reasoning here. The widespread disobedience to this apparent command seems coalescent to the rise of feminism and sexual egalitarianism in the West. I suspect this is a case of the church bowing the knee to the secular culture.

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