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    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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    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.

    It doesn't work that way. Would you tell someone with a severe, life-threatening peanut allergy to just try a little? NEVER! I can appreciate your personal experience and I know you are trying to be helpful but please do a little research before giving incorrect medical advice. Gluten causes more than just vommiting in celiacs. It can set off a chain of reactions and eventually lead to many cancers and autoimmune diseases. Thank you.

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    When my twin daughters were about to receive their 1st holy communion this past May, I told the priest that Em was gluten-free and he ordered the gluten-free wafers for us with no incident. Now Maddie has been diagnosed with Celiac, too, and is taking the gluten-free wafers. Father is soooo good with it all.

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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.

    Exactly! Have faith, holy communion is a miracle, the Lord cures everything!

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    You know, I'm no catholic so maybe I don't have a dog in this fight, but I am a celiac patient and I am a Christian and I take communion. I think it is ludicrous to tell someone with an allergy this. Do you think our Lord is going to say "you took communion without a wheat cracker so I'm going to judge you"? Absolutely not! But he does say that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost and therefore one shouldn't do anything to tear it down. For a celiac, it would be doing just that. You know when I take communion, I don't take real "wine" either. I drink grape juice. I don't drink alcohol. Does that make my communion "unholy" as well? I don't think so. It's the heart of the matter. It's doing it in remembrance of Him. I think He could care less whether it's gluten-full or gluten-free. Besides, if you want to play that card, you need to go back 2000 years and get some of their wheat from them because this stuff that we have now is NOT the same stuff. It's been genetically engineered.

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    It's 10:20 PM and I am still in pain from Communion at an 8:30 AM Mass this morning. Wine wasn't offered. Even if wine was offered, I have to agree this is a source for cross-contamination of spreading wheat through others drinking from the same cup or a host being dipped into it. I know the reaction I am having, and I'm upset because I know I will feel this for 2 days, meaning it has just caused me pain through Christmas Eve and Christmas. Yes, I have celiac disease. No, I won't take Communion at a Catholic Mass again, even the "low-gluten" wafers.

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    If you discuss this issue with your pastor, Fran, he may accommodate you with a chalice set aside exclusively for your use. I know of a case where this was done in Massachusetts.

     

    What's missing here in the complaints of some of us celiacs is any kind of sense that transubstantiation is a gift of Jesus Christ, not a kind of magic the rules of which the Church totally controls. The Church can't transubstantiate rice because Christ has not given it the authority to do so. If someone were allergic to both rice and white, which could happen, the Church could not then consecrate mashed potatoes. Jesus Christ is the one who changes the wafer into His own Body and Blood, not man. You may want to speak for Him and say of course, He would consecrate according to YOUR directives, but you have no proof this is true.

     

    Do you want to worship the Soul, Divinity, Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist or would you like instead to worship a plain old rice wafer? Do you want the truth or a lie? People are not unkind or insensitive because they will not accommodate your condition to the point of lying to you. They are showing you respect, which you refuse to acknowledge.

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    If you discuss this issue with your pastor, Fran, he may accommodate you with a chalice set aside exclusively for your use. I know of a case where this was done in Massachusetts.

     

    What's missing here in the complaints of some of us celiacs is any kind of sense that transubstantiation is a gift of Jesus Christ, not a kind of magic the rules of which the Church totally controls. The Church can't transubstantiate rice because Christ has not given it the authority to do so. If someone were allergic to both rice and white, which could happen, the Church could not then consecrate mashed potatoes. Jesus Christ is the one who changes the wafer into His own Body and Blood, not man. You may want to speak for Him and say of course, He would consecrate according to YOUR directives, but you have no proof this is true.

     

    Do you want to worship the Soul, Divinity, Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist or would you like instead to worship a plain old rice wafer? Do you want the truth or a lie? People are not unkind or insensitive because they will not accommodate your condition to the point of lying to you. They are showing you respect, which you refuse to acknowledge.

    Our pastor accommodates those that must avoid gluten by first administering to them the chalice containing the Precious Blood.

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    One has to wonder if communion wafers were derived from peanuts because some guy 1000 years ago said they had to be because the Bible says that they ate peanuts at the last supper. Would the Vatican still force people with violent peanut allergies to take peanut containing communion wafers if they wanted to participate in the sacrament? Somehow, after a few people dropped dead in church, I doubt it. Just because untreated or ignored celiac disease is a slow death, it doesn't mean that those of us with celiac disease should be made to suffer needlessly. I really don't think God wants us suffering needlessly in His name. Some people have reactions just from kissing someone who recently ate gluten containing foods. I'm not sipping wine from a chalice wheat eaters are drinking from either. It only takes a miniscule amount of gluten to cause reactions in some of us, meaning a fraction of a fraction of a crumb. This is a perfect example of why I left the Catholic church years ago...

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    It's 10:20 PM and I am still in pain from Communion at an 8:30 AM Mass this morning. Wine wasn't offered. Even if wine was offered, I have to agree this is a source for cross-contamination of spreading wheat through others drinking from the same cup or a host being dipped into it. I know the reaction I am having, and I'm upset because I know I will feel this for 2 days, meaning it has just caused me pain through Christmas Eve and Christmas. Yes, I have celiac disease. No, I won't take Communion at a Catholic Mass again, even the "low-gluten" wafers.

    I feel for you. When I get glutened, I feel it for a good 5-8 days. It hurts and it's unnecessary.

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    Thank you all for all your comments, which are educating me. I am trying to ensure that our parish can accommodate all people. I have a lot to learn about many differently-abled people, and I thank you for all this information. I was going to order some gluten-free hosts, but now I wonder. What do you all think is the right thing for a Catholic parish to do about this issue?

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    This should not even be an issue. Once again, the church leaders are focusing on the material rather than the spiritual. Even the Rabbis tell celiacs that if they eat gluten-free matzo at Passover they are not obeying the Mitzvah. If following a rule/law is going to do harm to oneself, I don't believe God would expect one to do it. God is so much more understanding and forgiving than those who think they are God's mouthpiece. Thank you, God!

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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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