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Celiac In Toronto News Today
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66 posts in this topic

Hi!

My husband was telling me after work that Celiac Disease was discussed today on MOJO Radio here in Toronto. Apparently, there is an 8 yr old girl who is being refused her First Holy Communion by the Catholic Church here because she cannot take the communion wafer.....

Can you believe that??? I have had shaken my head a few times because of the idiotic rules of the Catholic church (I am Catholic, by the way!!!), but this takes the cake (gluten free, of course!!!). They obviously have no idea about the seriousness of Celiac Disease.....

Karen

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I heard about this, too...

8-year-old's first Holy Communion invalidated by Church

By JOHN CURRAN

Associated Press Writer

August 12, 2004, 2:25 PM EDT

BRIELLE, N.J. -- An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot consume wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained none, violating Catholic doctrine.

Now, Haley Waldman's mother is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the Vatican to make an exception, saying the girl's condition _ celiac sprue disease _ should not exclude her from participating in the sacrament, in which Roman Catholics eat consecrated wheat-based wafers to commemorate the last supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.

"In my mind, I think they must not understand celiac," said Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman, 30. "It's just not a viable option. How does it corrupt the tradition of the Last Supper? It's just rice versus wheat."

It's more than that, according to church doctrine, which holds that communion wafers must have at least some unleavened wheat, as did the bread served at the Last Supper.

The Diocese of Trenton has told Waldman's mother that the girl can receive a low-gluten host, drink wine at communion or abstain entirely, but that any host without gluten does not qualify as Holy Communion.

Pelly-Waldman rejected the offer, saying even a small amount of gluten could harm her child.

Gluten is a food protein contained in wheat and other grains.

"This is not an issue to be determined at the diocesan or parish level, but has already been decided for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world by Vatican authority," said Bishop John M. Smith.

"Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist," Smith said in a prepared statement released Thursday by the diocese.

Celiac sprue disease, an autoimmune disorder, occurs in people with a genetic intolerance of gluten.

When consumed by celiac sufferers, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, blocking nutrient absorption and leading to vitamin deficiencies, bone-thinning and sometimes gastrointestinal cancer.

It isn't the first such communion controversy. In 2001, the family of a 5-year-old Natick, Mass., girl with the disease left the Catholic church after being denied permission to use a rice wafer.

Some Catholic churches allow the use of no-gluten hosts, others don't, according to Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, a Studio City, Calif.-based support group for sufferers.

"It is a dilemma," said Monarch. "It is a major frustration that someone who wants to follow their religion is restricted from doing so because some churches will not allow it."

"It is an undue hardship on a person who wants to practice their religion and needs to compromise their health to do so," Monarch said.

Haley Waldman, a shy, brown-haired tomboy who loves surfing and hates to wear a dress, was diagnosed with the disorder at 5.

"I'm on a gluten-free diet because I can't have wheat, I could die," she said in an interview Wednesday.

Last year, in anticipation of the Brielle Elementary School third grader reaching Holy Communion age, her mother told officials at St. Denis Catholic Church in Manasquan that the girl could not have the standard host.

The church's pastor, the Rev. Stanley P. Lukaszewski, told her that a gluten-free substitute was unacceptable.

But a priest at a nearby parish contacted Pelly-Waldman after learning about the dilemma, volunteering to administer the sacrament using a gluten-free host.

She said she won't identify the priest or his parish for fear of repercussions from diocese.

On May 2, Waldman _ wearing a white communion dress _ made her first Holy Communion in a ceremony at the priest's church. Her mother, who also suffers from celiac and had not received communion since her diagnosis four years ago, also received.

But last month, the diocese told the priest that Waldman's sacrament would not be validated by the church because of the substitute wafer.

"I struggled with telling her that the sacrament did not happen," said Pelly-Waldman. "She lives in a world of rules. She says `Mommy, do we want to break a rule? Are we breaking a rule?"'

Now, the mother is seeking papal intervention. She has written to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, challenging the church's policy.

"This is a church rule, not God's will, and it can easily be adjusted to meet the needs of the people, while staying true to the traditions of our faith," Pelly-Waldman said in the letter.

For her part, Pelly-Waldman _ who attends Mass every Sunday with her four children _ said she is not out to bash the church, just to change the policy that affects her daughter.

"I'm hopeful. Do I think it will be a long road to change? Yes. But I'm raising an awareness and I'm taking it one step at a time," she said.

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Wow! Unbelievable!!!

Thanks, celiac3270, I didn't realize it was in New Jersey, I thought since it was on MOJO radio here in Toronto, it was up in Canada somewhere......

Sitting here shaking my head...... can you spell "rigid"????? I have had a few run-ins with the Catholic church in the last few years myself, but not about celiac, but about christenings of my children, etc. etc. They made me feel like you had to jump through hoops to "join" their church, instead of being inclusive, they were being exclusive.... My husband, myself and my four children are all Catholic, but I have already told my husband that I am considering looking for a different church, e.g. United, Anglican, that can better meet my spiritual needs.....

This is just one more reason for me to do so......

Karen

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Aahhhhh........ ummmmm - it's a good thing you don't live in Ireland, eh??

I have often pondered the last few years while I have been having these feelings that the Catholic church just does not meet my spiritual needs, if the Protestant church would take Irish Catholic converts!!!!

I just need a church that includes everyone into their flock. I don't want to belong to a church that makes you jump through hoops to meet their criteria... I don't think Jesus had that in mind..... I don't think Jesus would care what grain the host was made from.... besides, who's to say that the bread in the Last Supper was made from wheat anyway?? Maybe they used rice flour back then, who knows??

Karen

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Hate to be cynical, but maybe they didn't offer the first priest enough money....

I too was denied being a Godmother to my niece by them (in 2002 not 20 years ago!) because I didn't marry Catholic (I got married in a Baptist Church). But, get this, a woman who never married, but had live in boyfriends - year after year --- is good enough to be a Godmother, but not a woman who was married 22 years to the same man! After I was rejected, I later learned from a Papal Lawyer (Canon law) that the priest could have given me a special dispensation because I am qualified in other ways (Baptism, Communion, Confirmation and a practicing Christian who is in a long standing marriage). The lawyer was youngish, and shook his head saying these older priests are what's keeping the church from growing and being there for the people.

Since the Irish have a high proportion of celiac disease, how does the Catholic church in Ireland handle this problem?

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There is a very low gluten host that the church has approved and that at least some celiac medical experts have also said is all right. Some Catholics take that. Some preists quietly give a gluten-free host. And some Catholics just take the wine.

richard

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Not to be sacreligious, but the girl's family should raise some hell...and let the priest know that God created her as equally as he made everyone else--let her sip the wine, and for the love of the Lord, how hard is it to provide a mere rice cake? Surely the Catholic churches can do that for the however million other Celiacs in the world...but somehow, for whatever reason, religious or not, therein lies some coveted difficulty.

As for the priest, the molestation scandals of some of his kind make him lose credibility in my eyes and doubt his sincerity---she's only a child. Someone please shake him and ask, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Does that ring a bell?"

Lord have mercy on my angry soul.

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In my humble opinion it's not important what the sacrament is made of, it's the symbolism of the last supper and the remembrance of the Lord's sacrifice that is important. I've heard that in my offbeat religion during WWII when bread was hard to obtain in Germany, they sometimes used slices of potato. I don't really think that God cares one way or the other whether the "bread" is made of wheat, soy, corn, or bananas! It's what your heart is made of that matters to him. I feel sorry for this girl's family, I hope they can find resolve somehow.

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Technically she couldn't drink the wine either. Wine isn't normally gluten free is it?

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Meh... the Catholic church doesn't seem to be afraid of looking silly in the eyes of the public for ridig adherence to long-standing tradition, regardless of modern evidence to the contrary. In fact, there's something of a revitalization of the conservatism that existed pre-Vatican II. I hope this is resolved in the girl's favor, but the pessimist in me doubts it.

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With regard to Catholic sacramental wine could be problemic as the Priest puts the communion hosts into it. Those hosts could defragment and leave gluten residue in the wine after all of the hosts are removed. A celiac could possibly ingest gluten by sipping the wine during the communion service. Giving the girl the communion wine is not a realistic answer therefor.

Even as a "lapsed" Catholic I know that the sacrament of communion for Catholics only is not a symbol of the Last Supper, but is "transubstantiation."

Many Protestants prefer "consubstantiation" -the host is the spirit of Christ. In "transubstantiation" the Priest actually transforms the bread into the actual body of Christ & the wine is Christ's blood by the miracle of the Mass.

According to their philosophy, the elements still look like bread and wine, but they are now flesh and blood. Taking Communion on Holy Days of Obligation is mandatory in the Catholic Church; so many celiacs - young and old - are hurt by these non bibical rules.

According to Catholic dogma, the taking of Communion imparts "grace" on your soul and is mandatory. Therefore, the pressure is on the celiac - that if they want to be a practicing Catholic they must take Communion. The Protestants who practice "consubstantiation" do not have such a burden where their salvation is based on whether they take communion or not.

How does the Catholic church leaders and Canon Law lawyers know that Jesus doesn't like rice bread and he will only transubstantiate into wheat-based bread? In my humble opinion, God made both rice and wheat so therefore, something God made cannot be wrong, nor can one product be inferior to another. Therefore, a 100% rice wafer is not unreasonable. Also, does anyone know what grain is indigenous to Israel during Jesus' times? Was it wheat? I realize the bible does talk alot about wheat but they used other grains as well. How could anyone really know?

Just my two cents worth -- Deb

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the Priest actually transforms the bread into the actual body of Christ & the wine is Christ's blood by the miracle of the Mass.

Not trying to be cynical, but if that were true wouldn't that equate to cannibalism? :blink: I guess I find it hard to take them very seriously sometimes.

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catfish,

I will assume you did not mean to disrespect Catholics when you said:

Not trying to be cynical, but if that were true wouldn't that equate to cannibalism?  I guess I find it hard to take them very seriously sometimes.
But you should be aware that you did say something distasteful to us.

debmidge,

Thank you for your well articulated information and arguments. I too wrestle with this issue. God made us different from those who can safely consume wheat and therefore the Eucharist. I don't know why He has led our church to be so specific about what constitutes valid matter, but I don't believe He has allowed it to be this way for no reason. God has His reason for everything. Perhaps it is so some greater good will be achieved through our inability to consume gluten - perhaps we are meant to challenge our church on this matter and cause it to consider this issue for some higher purpose. I don't know. On its face it does present a significant theological difficulty and challenge to one's faith. I personally choose to be obedient in this matter.

Regarding the main issue, which started this post, the Bendictine sisters have made for us a host of near zero gluten content. I am considering that I shall put my trust in God and accept this substitute as safe for me and other celiacs. I've heard the zero tolerance argument and adamant stance that they will take no risk where their health or their child's health is concerned, but haven't heard anyone say that the special host made them sick. Perhaps they should try it first?

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The problem, I think, with trying the low gluten host and seeing if it hurts her is two fold: first, it requires her to risk her health - something the church shouldn't necessarily be asking her to do. second, and FAR more importantly, it may not be possible for her to determine if it is doing her harm. she would need to undergo repeat, extended biopsies for months to see if the repeated ingestion of low quantities of gluten are damaging her, but not yet causing systemic symptoms. even worse, there have already been studies on this subject (extended, very low dose gluten consumption), and they HAVE shown damage. should every individual need to have themselves studied in that much detail on the issue? what about those extremely sensitive individuals who can't handle the low-gluten hosts? that wouldn't answer the question for them.

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I'm sorry. Not trying to be disrespectful or anything, but...

But you should be aware that you did say something distasteful to us.

Was this supposed to be a joke? ;)

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Sorry, I did not mean any offense and I realize this is a sensitive subject (I also don't wish to see the thread get derailed so I'll try to stay on topic).

But since enough of the wafer is not being converted to flesh that the gluten in it can still be a problem, how's this for a potential solution; encase the gluten in a non-digestible capsule that can be swallowed whole so that it does not actually come into direct contact with the intestines but instead passes safely through the participant's system? :ph34r:

Am I being serious? Sure, why not? Works for me.

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Hi All

I am really serious about what grains other than wheat were in Israel/middle east in Jesus' days.

As an aside, Catfish's question about cannabalism was a point of argument for the founders of Christianity. One of the councils, I don't recall which, Nicene or one of them, some of the members rejected transubtantiation for this very reason.

It is not unreasonable to expect a non Catholic, who having been explained this concept for the first time, not to come to this conculsion. Therefore, please do not take offense - as the founding fathers grappled with this issue too. Ultimately, the concept was developed into Canon Law by the Council of Trent (Session XIII 10/11/1551 Chapter IV).

I think it'll take more Canon Law changes to deem a 100% rice wafer as Ok. It could take years before this change happens.

D.

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I am really serious about what grains  other than wheat were in Israel/middle east in Jesus' days. 

Debmidge,

This link says it was wheat and barley.

http://www.bible.gen.nz/amos/culture/agriculture.htm

I checked it out just out of curiosity - I fully agree with the posts above that it does not matter what the communion bread is made of. Originally, Christ used bread, not a communnion wafer which was developed by the Church much later, I suppose. So, I think the rule about percentage of wheat must have been made by someone who didn't want the Church to be accused of replacing the original bread with something completely different. Also, I think the rule must have been made when no one knew that wheat can be harmful to anyone, so now the Church will have a hard time trying not to admit that they made a mistake when they created the rule about wheat based communion wafers. And admitting that they could have possibly been wrong is the last thing that the Catholic church is likely to do (I was raised as a Catholic, too).

celiac3270,

The reality about the Pope is that many people believe that he is not the person that really rules the Church anymore. He is far too elderly and far too ill and there are plenty of advisors around him who are really holding the power. And I suppose many of them love to stick to rules, however ridiculous they be, just because the rules give them power. Sorry for the cynicism, but with all the reverence that I still have left for the current Pope as a person, I believe in God, but not in Church anymore.

Anna

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I'd like to meet this McGreevey--he works in my county!

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