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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Gluten-free Communion Wafers Not Holy, Says Catholic Diocese in Ohio

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 08/09/2012 - Among many gluten-free catholics, there's been a good deal of excitement lately about low-gluten and gluten-free communion wafers for Mass in the Catholic church.

    Photo: CC--fradaveccsHowever, much of that excitement seems to have been misplaced, at least in Ohio. That's because the Catholic Diocese of Columbus recently said that gluten-free wafers don’t meet Vatican standards because they don’t contain wheat.

    For Catholics, consecrated bread and wine are the literal body and blood of Jesus, and the sacrament of Holy Eucharist is “the heart and the summit of the Church’s life,” according to its catechism.

    Because Jesus ate wheat bread with his apostles before his Crucifixion, church law requires the host to be wheat and only wheat, said Deacon Martin Davies, director of the Office for Divine Worship at the Diocese of Columbus. Without wheat, the wafers cannot be consecrated and used in Mass, so no gluten-free wafers.

    In 1995, the Vatican said low-gluten hosts are valid if they hold enough gluten to make bread. Worshippers wanting the low-gluten option were required to present a medical certificate and obtain a bishop’s approval.

    The policy was loosened in 2003 to eliminate the medical-certificate requirement and to allow pastors to grant approval. The Vatican also said that Catholics with celiac disease could receive Communion via wine only.

    However, for faithful catholics with celiac disease and gluten intolerance who want to participate more fully, the low-gluten version, which some say tastes terrible, remains the only communion wafer option.

    U.S. Catholic bishops have approved two manufacturers of low-gluten wafers. One is the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri; the order’s website says it has provided hosts for more than 2,000 celiac sufferers. The other is Parish Crossroads in Indiana, which provides low-gluten hosts made in Germany.

    The low-gluten wafers made by the Benedictine Sisters contain less than 100 parts per million, says Mary Kay Sharrett, a clinical dietitian at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She said the amount of gluten in one of the hosts is 0.004 milligrams and that researchers have found it takes about 10 milligrams per day to start a reaction.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule that says products could be labeled gluten-free if the gluten content is less than 20 parts per million.

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    No, the Church is not "showing extreme lack of compassion…" The purpose of Holy Communion is to receive the grace of Jesus Christ through the reception of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, which brings one into greater union with Him. To receive this grace, it's not about quantity. One only need receive even the tiniest piece of a Consecrated Host, OR (here's the important part for this) the smallest drop - or sip - from the chalice. The Church has made it clear people with this affliction can receive from the chalice, just as one without celiac could receive all the grace needed from just the Sacred Host. Alcoholics regularly receive only the Consecrated Host, and they receive the full grace intended.

    What [you] clearly [do] not understand is that for someone with severe celiac disease, ANY quantity of gluten causes horrible consequences! With all the compassion you have NOT shown to those with genetic autoimmune disorders.

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    As a Catholic I very firnly believe I am receiving the actual body and blood of Christ. 28 years ago I gave up drinking alcohol and was afraid of taking the cup because I felt I would be back on booze. After 3 or 4 years I asked myself this question. If I believe the consecrated wine is the actual blood of Jesus would He allow me to go back to being an alcoholic?? From His blood ?? NO NO NO. If your faith is strong I would suggest taking just a small portion of the Host and see what happens. If no reaction take a bigger piece the next time..Jesus will work with you even if you only have a little itty bitty faith in Him.

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    Even the Beneditine sisters don't believe the churches attitude. They actually advertise that these low-gluten wafers are "produced in a dedicated gluten free factility" on their web site.

    Now how is it possible to bring in sufficient gluten to ensure that the end product contains .01% and also claim the facility is GLUTEN FREE?

     

    It simply is a lie!

     

    The issue is silly. God changes the host into his body. He is omnipotent. He loves every human he made and would never purposely do anything to cause suffering and DEATH! Therefore, he is perfectly willing to change that 100% gluten free wafer into his body.

    The Catholic Church is messed up on this point! I was Roman Catholic. Then I was diagnosed with celiac at the brink of death from the disease. I am not confused about the church's attitude.

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    Come on now! It's about what is in your heart...your faith in God and in His son......to say that the gluten free hosts don't "meet Vatican standards" is hog wash! I receive gluten-free bread every time it's offered at my church and feel good about it...

    I have stopped taking communion as bread and take the Lord in my heart all the same. This is between my Lord and myself. I try to live like a good person and continue to do everything as before.

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    I am a psychotherapist who has celiac disease and who works with clients experiencing the stressors of maintaining health in a world that doesn't always understand. The stigma and the symptoms are enough to cope with for most...and this is not needed. My work requires that I maintain attitude of acceptance - and, it is this that I shall hope begins to appear in areas that are designed to be open and spiritual. Perhaps those in this region will grow in their understanding and acceptance.

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    I am a catholic super sensitive celiac sufferer who agrees that requiring the host to contain wheat is not what Jesus intended. However, I am O.K. with just receiving the sacrament in the form of wine. When I ask if we could set this up in a way that I wouldn't be cross-contaminated by others drinking from the chalice who had just received the wheat host my priest was unreceptive. I just gave up and don't go to communion. My experience was, that the priest was very interested in defending the church's stance on wheat being required in the host but not very interested in helping me receive the sacrament. Priorities?

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    What [you] clearly [do] not understand is that for someone with severe celiac disease, ANY quantity of gluten causes horrible consequences! With all the compassion you have NOT shown to those with genetic autoimmune disorders.

    I would simply agree - a drop or a crumb to someone suffering could mean continued suffering. I do not believe that this is necessary given our options of protecting and caring for anyone who is ill. Compassion, understanding and incorporating knowledge is what is particularly important in such collective understanding.

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    I am a catholic super sensitive celiac sufferer who agrees that requiring the host to contain wheat is not what Jesus intended. However, I am O.K. with just receiving the sacrament in the form of wine. When I ask if we could set this up in a way that I wouldn't be cross-contaminated by others drinking from the chalice who had just received the wheat host my priest was unreceptive. I just gave up and don't go to communion. My experience was, that the priest was very interested in defending the church's stance on wheat being required in the host but not very interested in helping me receive the sacrament. Priorities?

    Hi Susan - I am sorry to read another story of unwillingness to adapt to conditions that we experience. I hope you will continue to speak about this and not allow your voice to be quieted or dismissed. Awareness develops after priorities are challenged.

     

    Best to you!

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    Come on now! It's about what is in your heart...your faith in God and in His son......to say that the gluten free hosts don't "meet Vatican standards" is hog wash! I receive gluten-free bread every time it's offered at my church and feel good about it...

    Gabrielle - I agree with you totally! And, for all of you reading this - isn't it slightly disturbing that we are outsourcing our communion? I have nothing against Germany - but what about finding a location within the US to provide us with creating the blessed gluten-free offering? At least shipment costs would be lower, no?

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    At my parish in southern California, I bring my host from the Benedictine nuns in my own pyx. At Communion time, the ciborium with all the gluten-free pyxes is brought to a special place, and we receive them there, along with the Precious Blood in a chalice from which no one else has drunk. It's a system that works very well. Our diocese has no problem with these low-gluten-free hosts.

     

    I think some priests and bishops just don't get it. I travel often, and the priests have been very helpful except in one place. I urge people to "shop" for a parish that meets their needs.

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    Guest GlutenFreeWorship

    Posted

    If Jesus were here, He would agree that wheat/gluten is bad for the body - EVERYbody. This is just another example of man-made doctrines that are pure blasphemy. I don't care if a HUMAN wrote down into the holy scriptures that we must eat wheat; it was misinformation from the start. Even Jewish people still consider wheat/gluten to be Kosher... and gluten free matzo is NOT Kosher for Seder. This gluten thing has turned many gentiles and semites into hypocrites! Pray for them to see the error of their ways!

     

    These are all the types of people who've lost all sight of what it really means to serve God and help our brothers and sisters. And I'd bet my soul that the Vatican takes kickbacks from the wheat industry!

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    Such middle-ages doctrine by any church is fundamentalist and dangerous hogwash. I can't think that a toxic sweet substance would be given to a diabetic or a packet of peanuts given to a fatal nut allergy sufferer. So why gluten? It's almost like advocating burning witches at the stake. I thank God this idiot isn't in my parish and recommend a gluten-free congregation goes to another church or denomination, if necessary. Perhaps contrary to popular belief, God is bigger than the Vatican.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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