Occasionally, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to Diocesan Bishops will reiterate the guidelines for the Eucharistic bread and wine.
The reminders are necessary because, at one time, it was mainly religious communities that made the bread and wine used for Communion. Today everywhere from the local supermarket to Amazon sells communion wafers. As can be expected, it is of great importance to ensure that the quality and ingredients used are worthy of the Sacrament.
“The bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharistic Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition. It follows, therefore, that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament. It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools” (n. 48).
The secular media grabbed hold of this paragraph and used it to write headlines that portray the Church as being unwelcoming and insensitive to the needs of others. Titles such as Vatican Refuses to Go Gluten Free at Communion (New York Times), Gluten–Free Host A No-Go, Says Pope (NPR), and others, made it seem as if the Catholic Church offered no sympathy to those who cannot eat gluten and provided no other options for them to receive Holy Communion.
Though the Church cannot offer gluten-free hosts, “Low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread” (A. 1-2).
The low-gluten hosts contain just .001 percent gluten. So, although they are not completely free of gluten, Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told the Washington Post that someone with Celiac disease would have to consume 270 wafers daily to reach a danger point.
Nothing Has Changed for Catholics in the U.S.
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops has implemented this teaching for quite some time. The guidelines posted on their website have been there since October 2012 and were updated in April of 2016. Though it has made headlines, this news is nothing new.
Catholics should also remember that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus is just as fully present in the Blood of Christ (Wine) as in the Body of Christ (Bread).
St. Timothy, patron of stomach illness, we ask for your powerful intercession for all those who suffer from Celiac’s disease, allergies, food sensitivities, and all ailments of the stomach. St.Timothy, pray for us!
Lord, we ask you to bring healing and comfort to all those who battle sickness and suffer in your Holy Name. May your Mother encourage them and Your Holy Spirit empower them to offer up pain and discomfort for the salvation of souls. In Your Name, we pray, Amen.
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