The Canon Law of Head Coverings

Q. Is a woman assisting at the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite obliged to wear a head covering?

A. No. This obligation was codified in the 1917 Code of Canon Law as Canon 1262. The 1917 Code, however, has been abrogated in toto.[1] Since the obligation was a disciplinary norm that had been codified in the Code, its omission from the revised code, together with the abrogation of the 1917 Code, means that the prior norm is of no effect.

The instruction Universae Ecclesiae,  issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei on the implementation of Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, makes two pertinent points:

27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.

28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.[2]

Thus, rubrics and matters of law set forth in the liturgical books themselves are governed by the liturgical book in use: for the Mass celebrated according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the Missale Romanum as promulgated by St. John XXIII on June 23, 1962, and the accompanying Codex Rubricarum[3] promulgated in 1960.[4] Laws and norms from other sources, however, are not revived: these matters remain governed by the ecclesiastical law otherwise in force today, even in the context of the celebration of the Extraordinary Form.
[1] 1983 CIC c. 6 § 1(1).

[2] Instruction on the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum of His Holiness Benedict XVI Given Motu Proprio, 103 A.A.S. 413 (Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, April 30, 2011), available in translation at

[3] See Patrick L. Murphy, The New Rubrics of the Roman Breviary and Missal (1960), available at

[4] SeeRubricarum Instructum, 52 A.A.S. 593 (St. John XXIII, July 25, 1960).


2 thoughts on “The Canon Law of Head Coverings

  1. Can you describe in what way a woman, veil or no, is (at least in regards to the above question) “assisting” in the Extraordinary Form?


  2. The phrase “assist at Mass” is simply common (or, at least, traditional and accepted) parlance for attending Mass and participating, mentally, spiritually, and physically, as befits one’s station. Thus, the first precept of the Church, often formulated as “to assist at Mass on Sundays and holydays and to refrain from servile labor thereon.” (See also, e.g., this EWTN adaptation of a passage from the Baltimore Catechism, discussing “assisting at Mass”:

    A woman assists at Mass in the Extraordinary Form in just the same manner as any other member of the laity, and just as any such person would in the Ordinary Form or, for that matter, in a non-Roman Catholic rite.


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