Paul tells us that wives should be subject to their husbands, but he also told us that a woman brings shame on herself by praying with her head uncovered (1Cor. 11/5). At times Paul and Moses simply repeated the rules that were in effect in their days. With Moses we see this in Exodus 21. That chapter says that a Hebrew slave must be released after six years of servitude, however in verse 4 we read, “If a master gives a slave a wife and she bears him sons and daughters, the woman and her children shall remain the master’s property.” That was Egypt’s regulation not God’s.
We are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. With twenty-five hundred bishops coming together for three-month-long sessions four years in a row, and with their prayerfully debating every aspect of Catholic practices and beliefs, there is little on which we should fault them or their decisions. However, many who were raised on the stricter principles of the Council of Trent choose to sing, “Give me that old time religion. It’s good enough for me.”
Returning to the questions as to whether or not women must be subject to their husbands and wear hats when they pray, one dominant teaching of Vatican II frees them in both cases. That is Vatican II’s emphasis on the dignity of persons as persons.
There was no individual document that drew attention to the dignity of each person created in God’s image. No, all 16 documents taken together are an Emancipation Declaration from the feudal attitudes that classed humans as royalty or serfs, as shepherds or sheep. One sentence that repeats Vatican II’s greatest theme is in the Declaration on Christian Education that states, “All men (humans) of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education.”