Women, Long Hair and Head-Covering


Salvete, omnes!

In his discussion on head-covering, Paul tells us that women’s (presumably long) hair is given to her for a covering.

So, then, why shouldn’t all Christian women be required to have their hair long? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church (apparently) require this?

Also, why, if woman already has a covering in her hair, was she, at least early on, required to have a veil as well? Indeed, why did this practice largely cease in recent times and why does the Church no longer require head-covering in church on the whole?

Also, should not women be required to cover at all times, not just while praying? If not, why were they befroe at least required to wear a covering while praying?

If Paul says that long hair was given by God as a covering for women, shouldn’t both the practices of keeping long hair and of taking the veil be universal, both in time and space?

When Paul says that hair was given to woman by God as a covering, he seems to be saying this with authority as a teleological argument about the naturalness of long hair to women (and not to men). He seems to make the claim that it is God’s design for women to have long hair and, indeed, for men to have short hair. He seems to apply this timelessly and universally. Yet, where does this statement come from? Was it directly inspired by God as infallible teaching? Did it come from some traditional understanding of which we are presently unaware? It seems not necessarily to be a teaching on faith and morals per se, but one about the reasons for the origins of the naturalness of long hair for women and short hair for men. So, then, must we consider this teaching infallible, since it is not on faith an orals proper? (When I say “this teaching”, again, I mean the one that dictates the origins of the anturalness of long hair fro women and short hair for men.) Also, this teaching occurs in an inspired text, so are we safe, even if we wanted to, saying that it is not on faith and morals, to dismiss it outright as some cultural/traditional teaching that may not necessarily be correct? (Indeed, what about Africal women, many of whom cannot grow their hair long?) However, it would seem that we cannot say that Paul’s teaching here simply applied to his culture as he seems to make it universal. He seems to say that all women were given that their hair should be long as a covering.

Finally, can anyone direct me to some good online Catholic commentaries on the passage in question?

I realize that there are a lot of questions in the above paragraphys, so feel free to answer any or all of them in your replies.

Gratias maximas!


I wrote a little bit on that passage, but it wasn’t from a historical perspective that investigated what Paul was actually talking about (whether he was addressing customs or moral norms, or whatever). Here’s what I wrote:

“While it’s a good argument for head coverings in a subjective sense, there is nothing there that currently obligates, per se, a Catholic woman to cover. One person understands this as an ordinance for the whole Church, where another sees it as Paul pointing out cultural customs in a particular region. Theologians and lay people can argue all day long about whether it is a requirement to “cover” or not, but the fact remains that Catholics are not bound by opinions…we are bound by the Laws and Doctrines given by Christ’s Church through the Magesterium. And, as it turns out, the Magesterium didn’t bind any woman, at the ‘whole-Church-scale’, to veil until the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Nowhere else in any Council will you find such a requirement. So, while the appeal to Scripture is a good one, and one which I happen to agree with, it doesn’t represent a current binding law on the entire Church faithful. We can, and should, use this Scripture to point out the REASONS Paul used in order to show the importance of humility and respect. But it fails when trying to show it as some obligation for Catholic women to cover their heads at Mass, unless you also want to defend that women should be silent in Church, or that a woman can excuse herself from the obligation by shaving her head.”
(From THIS article on some folks using faulty logic to claim that veils are mandatory.)


I cannot understand some of the practices… what I gather, from St. Paul, is that the long-hair of a woman could be distracting during Worship… many times I’ve sat behind/near/across such distractions… some women, even if their husbands/boyfriends are next to them cannot avoid giving into the temptation of “eyeing” other fellows… then the hair ‘play’ begins; this is so prevalent in our culture (movies, shows, even tv-adds) that even very young girls start “prepping” as soon as they notice some “hunk/beef…” (they may not be cognizant of their actions but children, as we all know, are good little copiers).

…now, you think that it stopped there?

St. Paul spoke about attire as well–pompousness, sensualness, presumptuousness…

St. Paul also spoke about behavior–how we are to be in the Church, that is, the House of God…

Sadly, I cannot recall the last time I’ve heard, from a Catholic pulpit, that we must engage in our best behavior when we arrive at the House of God.

People go into their local parish as though they are going camping/swimming/clubbing/hanging… it is as though ‘come as you please’ is more important than “Who are you there to meet?”

It is no wonder Christ cautioned that even where two were found in a bed one would be taken and the other left behind (though in today’s areligious world the count of those left behind would undoubtedly be a lot greater).

…as for the Church’s mandates? I can only surmise that it is due to fear: fear of losing members and fear of falling from “like.” (Priests are people too–some more hungry for adulation than for respect [sadly, they ignore Scriptures when we are clearly Taught that to be friends with the world means to be in enmity with God].)

Maran atha!



oodles of threads on this. Simply search.
The previous reply is a good one…


There is some Catholic commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here.

As for me, it seems a little strange that St Paul, who only a few chapters earlier said:
For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. (1 Cor 7:19)
and elsewhere said:
Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. (2 Rom 2:25-29)
and also said:
Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (Gal 3:3)
would be so concerned about the length of a woman’s hair and whether or not she wore a veil, unless some of the Christian women of Corinth at the time were “using [their Christian] freedom as a pretext for evil” (1 Pet 2:16) or it was causing their Christian brothers who were weak in faith to stumble (Romans 14:21) or fall (1 Cor 8:13) or for the sake of the consciences of unbelievers (1 Cor 10:28-29) who at the time were accustomed to seeing modest women wearing their hair long and wearing a veil.


With any scripture, you must know the context it was written in if your are trying to interpret it.
**Paul was speaking to specific issues in a specific cultural context. **


If you continue reading more of Paul’s thoughts on women you would find that they were not to be allowed in the sanctuary or to ever teach males. Amazing what 2000 years does in how we view laws or cultural rules of any given society… There is some kind of über Pentacostal group in my area that is dwindling down as time passes. There might be forty members left with the youngest being in their seventies. They are quite noticable because these elderly women have hair down to their hips and wear dresses similar to the FLDS cult in southern Utah. They stand out like a sore thumb. When my daughter was about five she told me that she felt sorry for the poor ladies because of how they were dressed. I explained as best I could. She is over two decades older now and still remembers how sad she felt.:shrug:


Long hair is a woman’s crowning glory. It’s beautiful. A shame we used to hide it all up in a bun all day long, then let it down to flow and brush for only our husbands to see.
In biblical times, women never wore their hair up, and I believe it was always long, and they covered it with a veil. I always wondered if the veils were to protect it from the dust and dirt.


In the Catholic Church, not every word spoken or written by the Apostles, Early Church Fathers, great Saints, philosophers, and theologians automatically becomes a Catholic doctrine.

There is a specific protocol which the visible Catholic Church on earth follows before a “doctrine” is properly defined and duly declared. Guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (chapter 14, Gospel of John evinced at Pentecost), members of the universal Catholic Church prepare for a major Ecumenical Catholic Church Council. All of the above resources are prayerfully studied in preparation for an official formation of a Catholic teaching based on Divine Revelation.

Paragraph 66, universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, explains in the last sentence.
**CCC 66 **“The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.

One easy way to find what the Councils were grappling with is to use the Catechism’s “Index of Citations” starting on page 689. We can work backwards to the CCC paragraphs which use the citations. However, it is best to first read CCC 20-21 which explain the use of small print.
**CCC 20 **The use of small print in certain passages indicates observations of an historical or apologetic nature, or supplementary doctrinal explanations.

CCC 21 The quotations, also in small print, from patristic, liturgical, magisterial or hagiographical sources, are intended to enrich the doctrinal presentations. These texts have often been chosen with a view to direct catechetical use.

Regarding women’s hair, etc.
As seen in various posts, there are a number of good reasons for this or that teaching. Nonetheless, it is important to realize that the reasons per se do not automatically become a Catholic doctrine duly declared according to Church protocol. The Catholic Church is guided by the promised Advocate, the Holy Spirit.


Actually Aquilla and Priscilla where a husband and wife “team” that instructed Apollo, a male (Acts 18:2, 18:24-26). St. Paul acknowledges both of them as his helpers (Romans 16:3).


I’ve come to look at it like this:

Adam and Eve were front/back joined. The hair was Adam’s. When Eve was separated from Adam, she was bald. So, God gave Eve hair as a covering; it does not truly belong to her.

1Cor. 11:7 - A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.…
8. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

3But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.…

The part that I’ve wanted the answer to for many years:

10For this reason a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. ?

Side note:

In Norse mythology, Loki cut the long, beautiful hair of Sif. Don’t know what he did with it - maybe gave it to Eve?

It’s also interesting that the military makes men bald as one of the means to impress upon them new authority.

The burning question, for me: When does a woman ‘graduate’ to having Christ as her head? :wink:


I believe Paul was against the Greek practice of platting the hair and tying it up around like a wreath. If you look at ancient Greek art you will observe that hairstyle. The wreath was a symbol of victory therefore leadership.

The covering is actually properly a garment, the Greek word literally is “throw around”, hence garment.


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