Father Kenneth Doyle

Q. Recently, I have been “convicted” to wear a veil in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament — both when I am at Mass and during my adoration hours in our parish’s Chapel of Perpetual Adoration. Several other women in the parish have also felt led to do so.

However, I am told that some of these women have been “counseled” by our pastor that he does not want this and feels the wearing of a veil to be prideful. As a child, of course, I wore a veil at my first Communion and even for some years afterward and never thought it to be prideful. I would like your opinion. (South Carolina)

A. The custom of women wearing a veil in church finds a basis in the earliest days of the church, as reflected in the 11th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. That custom, though, may well have reflected the cultural bias of the times because the same chapter says: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

The 1917 Code of Canon Law (in No. 1262) said that men in church should be bare-headed while women “shall have a covered head.” (That same canon also said, “It is desirable that, consistent with ancient discipline, women be separated from men in church.”)


But in 1976, an instruction issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith indicated that this 1917 directive was no longer in force. (The CDF said, “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. … Such requirements no longer have a normative value.”)

In the current Code of Canon Law currently in force, published in 1983, the canon about head veils was not reissued. Clearly, then, women today are not required to cover their heads in church.

Does that mean that they are not permitted to? Of course not. Within the bounds of modesty, people are free to wear whatever they want — and the only one who is in a position to judge motivation is the wearer.

If you are using a mantilla, or chapel veil, out of vanity — to draw attention to yourself — then that is wrong. But if you wear it as a sign of reverence, out of respect for the dignity of the Eucharist and our unworthiness before it, then that is a laudable choice. It’s your call, left to your prayerful discretion.

Q. What is the church’s position about “destination weddings,” which may or may not be performed by a priest? If two previously unmarried Catholics in good standing are married in such a non-church ceremony, will the church accept that marriage? (Schenectady, New York)

A. My take on “destination weddings” (Cabo San Lucas seems the current rage) is that they are fraught with complication — both from the religious point of view as well as the civil.

To answer your question simply, two Catholics must be married by a Catholic priest or deacon. Sometimes an “exotic” wedding venue will assure a couple that the venue will find a member of the clergy to officiate, but whether that will turn out to be a Catholic priest or deacon in good standing is always uncertain. (More often than not, it will not be a Catholic at all.)

Further, there is the matter of securing the proper license from a foreign municipal authority and assuring that the marriage will be recognized in the United States. On more than one occasion in the recent past, I have persuaded Catholic couples bent on a destination wedding to be married beforehand in a quiet ceremony in our parish church with me as the celebrant and with a marriage license from our own city hall.

Following that, they can leave and party in the tropics with their friends and family, confident that their marriage is recognized as official by the church and by the state.