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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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    Jesus has the words of life for they are Spirit and they are life. When we eat of the flesh of the Son of Man we will have life; to eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood is to take on his inner character, His mind, His heart, His divine nature. He sanctifies our minds with His truth and fills our hearts with his merciful love given to us by the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sins. We are His body, a consecrated host, with the communion of saints, as His army of love and light. Jesus is perfect love and pure light. He is the Christ, the Word of God come in the flesh. He is risen, He is alive! We receive Him in a great infusion of the Risen Lord who can walk through doors. He is always knocking at the door of our hearts ; let Him in. He wants to sup with us. If one cannot receive the properties of the bread by no fault of their own they can receive His Body and Blood through spiritual communion. All one needs to do is ask. He desires to share His divine nature and His human nature with us as members of the Body of Christ, which shows us the perfection of the Father in heaven. Pray: Christ Jesus come into my heart and the hearts of all your people. Sanctify my mind in your holy words of truth and life; fill my heart and the hearts of all your people with your merciful love given to us through the shedding of your blood for the forgiveness of my sins and the sins of the world. Pour your Spirit upon me and fill us all with your glorious presence that we may live in you as you live in us. May we all be made one in Christ by the Holy Spirit, with the communion of saints. Thank you Father in Jesus' name, Amen. We sometimes engage in petty human arguments, like whether the water Jesus changed into wine is high in alcohol or not. This keeps us from the very "good stuff" God our Father desires to bestow upon us. Seek the Good Stuff! God is Spirit! Christ is anointing; may He give us all a power surge today. "My Lord and my God!" May God abundantly bless all who cannot receive Holy Communion in the Eucharist with the spiritual food that doesn't perish.

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    Geoffrey, are you celiac? Because you seem to know theory but not fact, and the fact is very few priests know the Vatican rules and even fewer understand cross contamination. If the priest practices intinction, then the wine isn't safe, either. Also, very few parishes offer the cup to the congregation and when they do, I don't want to drink from a cup that someone with a mouth full of wheat has drunk from.

    I was born with coeliac and suffer really bad and I use the low gluten hosts which cause me no trouble at all and most priest in this day and age are very understanding even thou you might think they are not and ignorant to the whole idea of gluten free/low gluten hosts but they are very understanding (well they are very understanding in my diocese) and when drinking wine from a chalice it is wiped after every mouthful that is taken so you are very unlikely to suffer with a coeliac attack...

     

    I cannot eat a crumb of wheat/gluten without suffering for 10 days and ive had low gluten hosts and drank from the chalice at every mass and never had any issues...

     

    If you do have a problem with this and it is bugging you them please speak to your parish priest

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    And for all the stuff going on above is only ONE reason I LEFT the CATHOLIC Church. My choice and I don't regret it. I believe in God, not what some clergy tell me is His Word. I am a celiac and won't touch gluten, therefore no church can tell me what I can and cannot ingest.

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    In our parish our priest has a small chalice dedicated for those with gluten intolerance. This is with Church approval. During the Mass a small piece of host is placed in the main chalice along with the wine, not so with the dedicated chalice which is placed on the altar near the main chalice. Also with "gluten free hosts" there is the possibility of cross contamination from handling. For those with severe gluten intolerance the soul the way the body processes gluten is quite separate from the way the soul encounters Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Church has addressed this problem and considers this to be the safest for those of us who cannot tolerate gluten. The consecrated wine is also the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord and in this way all can participate.

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    The researchers are obviously not talking about those Celiacs for whom even a crumb can cause horrible pain and diarrhea. Even worse, the silent damage that is done to the body even without having a noticeable "reaction". Once again, the Catholic Church is showing extreme lack of compassion for its parishioners in favor of archaic dogma.

    My pastor let me use the low gluten for a short time and one time offered me a regular host by mistake! I refused it which felt like I committed murder or some unforgivable sin and he no longer would allow the low gluten hosts. He said: "It threw his rhythm off"! I have chosen to not attend Mass any longer. God knew I was born with this disease and refuse to be humiliated.

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    The researchers are obviously not talking about those Celiacs for whom even a crumb can cause horrible pain and diarrhea. Even worse, the silent damage that is done to the body even without having a noticeable "reaction". Once again, the Catholic Church is showing extreme lack of compassion for its parishioners in favor of archaic dogma.

    PS. I must add that I am also a recovering alcoholic, another disease I did not ask for, so the wine is not an option either. I sat in the last row of the tiny church and didn't go up for Communion any longer to not disturb the flow. I understand the Intention to receive prayer is acceptable. but now I just stay home.

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    So now you are a theologian? Jesus made no such "analogy". John 6 is a clear indication that Jesus was talking about His actual flesh. It becomes more clear in the Greek original than it does in the English translation. The use of wheat bread doesn't originate in the New Testament, either. The Old Testament has "Temple Bread" that was to be consumed by the priests. Jesus, as both victim and priest of the sacrifice, offers Himself. Since He made wheat bread into His body, we are not permitted to use anything else.

    Jesus was not a pin head. He was no stickler for tradition. I'm sure he would say, "If you can't eat wheat use something else--duh! What is important is that you receive me!

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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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