How do Catholics and Eastern Orthodox justify their clergy praying with those big hats on their heads in the face of this scripture?

1 Cor 11:3-4 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

The head of man is Christ, and every man who prays with his head covered dishonors his head (Christ). So how can wearing big hats while praying be justified?

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    Great question! I'm now imagining the solemn effect that removing a mitre in order to pray would have on a congregation. – bruised reed Jun 30 '14 at 2:44
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    Terrible question. It looks like an ill-informed attack on Catholics based on the distortion of a single verse from the Christian Oral Tradition that is not binding as law. Read 1 Corinthians 11: 16. Paul is explaining the customs of Roman and Greeks when they prayed to the pagan gods. He transferred these customs to his churches but it is pagan based 'oral tradition' as is much of what he did and preached. Men praying with uncovered heads pray to Zeus - they are pagans. Follow Jesus and withdraw the question. – gideon marx Jun 30 '14 at 7:11
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    @bruisedreed In the Catholic Church, mitres are removed to pray. – Andrew Leach Jun 30 '14 at 8:53
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    I am confident that there are no occasions where mitres or birettas are worn to pray. Zucchetti tend to remain when other headgear is removed, but even they are taken off in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. – Andrew Leach Jun 30 '14 at 9:22
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    "how do they justify" sounds combative... Is there a way to edit the title to be less accusatory? – David Stratton Jun 30 '14 at 12:36

Orthodox bishops, priests and monks always remove their hats (of whatever kind) when praying. The Bishop removes his mitre at the Altar. Monks hang their klobuk over their shoulder or remove it entirely during the service. So the question seems to stem from ignorance, or not actually attending an Orthodox Liturgy to see what we do. Incidentally it is correct for monks (and Orthodox bishops are monks) to keep their klobuks on during much of the Offices.


I don't know if you've ever read Baruch, but it's the only instance of the word mitre I could find in the Bible

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God's worship.

Bar 5:1-4 - Roman Missal 2nd Sunday of Advent

And even here I think they've changed the translation from mitre to diadem in the NABRE. But, it would have been a good and useful instance of worshiping God while clad in a fancy hat.

Nevertheless, you're obviously talking about a New Testament injunction. And I won't offend you by asking why you permit your women to pray uncovered nor will I call you a hypocrite by asking how you manage to "pray without ceasing" as St. Paul also says you should do, because this is a good question which is hard to answer because as far as I could tell the instruction for bishops (like Pope Francis) to remove their mitres or zucchetos is not in the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal). But upon further digging (Somewhere between EWTN to Zenit) I found something awesome I never heard of before called the Ceremonial of Bishops and that's got all the particulars. I don't have the book and I couldn't get exactly why you want to know (proof for Andrew Leachs well founded assertion in the comments) in link form, but I did find it quoted elsewhere:

"the bishop does not use the miter: during the introductory rites, the opening prayer, prayer over the gifts, and prayer after communion; during the general intercessions, the Eucharistic prayer, the gospel reading, hymns that are sung standing …."

Fr. Edward McNamara LC quoting the Ceremonial of Bishops - Zenit 3-15-2013

Now, the Mass in and of itself is a prayer, the greatest of prayers, but the parts that the Bishop is involved in where it is obvious that he is praying, he does not wear his mitre.

But the more important point, because a Biblical injunction is so specific here:

The bishop wears his zucchetto, or skullcap, throughout the Mass except from the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer until he has returned to the cathedra on concluding the administration of holy Communion.

and you'll see that if you ever watch Mass on a Solemnity on EWTN or in person at your local cathedral. Bishops always have someone ready to nab their hats, it's all very well documented and exceptionally rigorously laid out that at the very important times, Bishops will remove their hats.

But I think it is out of respect for the solemnity of what is happening, not the act of praying, but the fact of being in the presence of the Lord.

  • It does appear that the 1984 Caeremoniale Episcoporum is not available online. I'm not even certain it's been printed in English (although there is a French printed translation). – Andrew Leach Jul 1 '14 at 6:38
  • I thought I saw it in amazon, there was a preview that said it was from Pope John Paul II. I just didn't link to it because, as the American Chesterton society points out Amazon is not an apostalate – Peter Turner Jul 1 '14 at 11:08
  • +1 Whether the word mitre occurs in the Bible and where depends on the translation The KJV of your citation is "..and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting." As to "And I won't offend you by asking why you permit your women to pray uncovered..." women aren't permitted to pray publicly in our church. – david brainerd Jul 5 '14 at 23:51
  • @davidbrainerd with the diadem citation, the OT of the New American Bible was recently re-done and they must have translated it diadem again. – Peter Turner Jul 6 '14 at 4:06

The 1917 Code of Canon Law says:

Canon 1262 §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.

Head coverings of the clergy (e.g., skullcaps, birettas, etc.) indicate ecclesiastical dignity; thus, they are permitted even inside churches. Generally priests only wear birettas when they want to indicate authority (e.g., the authority to preach a homily), and they will take it off after approaching the altar. (See this video.)

Other exceptions would be, for example, a police or military officer or someone else of such authority attending a funeral Mass. He could wear his formal uniform, including hat, even in church.

  • I can find nothing of this sort in the currently applicable Code of Canon Law - indeed, the book you link, which for most canons of the old code refers to the corresponding canon of the new code, specifically says "NA" for this canon. – Matt Gutting Jul 4 '14 at 21:35
  • The danger with quoting the 1917 Code of Canon Law is the provision of Canon 6 §1 in the 1983 Code. – Andrew Leach Jul 4 '14 at 22:12
  • Yes, the '83 Code is silent on the matter. – Geremia Jul 4 '14 at 23:59
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    I agree that the 1983 Code of Canon law does not mention head coverings at all. But the reference to the 1917 code shows a long-standing custom which protects a certain value: removing men's head-coverings during prayer. Assuming no change to the value, it is reasonable to expect the value to remain --- even if the new laws do not specifically demand it --- unless there is evidence to the contrary. – ltcomdata Oct 18 '14 at 19:09

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