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New Communion Wafer a Blessing for Catholics with Gluten-sensitivity
Jefferson Adams

Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He has covered Health News for http://Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for http://Sharecare.com. His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate, among others.

By Jefferson Adams
Published on 10/13/2010
Until now Catholics with gluten-sensitivity have found it difficult to participate fully in Mass by consuming the communion wafers, which traditionally contain gluten.

Celiac.com 10/13/2010 - Until now Catholics with gluten-sensitivity have found it difficult to participate fully in Mass by consuming the communion wafers, which traditionally contain gluten.

To address that situation, the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Mo., have developed a Communion host that is extremely low in gluten – allowing Catholics with gluten sensitivity an alternative to taking only the cup during communion.

Low-gluten communion wafers mean that more Catholics with gluten-sensitivity will be able to consume both the body and the blood of the host, both the communion wafer and the wine, in their celebration of Mass.

Canon law and tradition require that communion wafers contain a percentage of wheat for a valid celebration of Eucharist, said Timothy Johnston, Director of Liturgy of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

However, the host made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration contains gelatinized wheat starch. The sisters report the hosts test to a level of 0.01 percent gluten. The Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that these hosts meet the requirements of the Code of Canon Law (924 §2) and may be used at the celebration of the Eucharist with permission of the person’s pastor.

“They are the only group of sisters (or Catholic group at that) that make valid low-gluten hosts. Any other company or group is not approved for use during the liturgy,” Johnston said.

He encourages Catholics with gluten-sensitivity who wish to learn more to begin a discussion with their pastor so that each may understand the church doctrine and teaching regarding low-gluten hosts, as well as the practical steps necessary for Holy Communion.

Johnston also advises Catholics who wish to receive the low-gluten wafer to discuss the matter in advance with the celebrant and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion so that everyone is comfortable with the procedure.

“There are several parishes that use low-gluten hosts,” Johnston said, including St. Andrew, the Cathedral of the Madeleine and Saint Thomas More.

Responding in a letter to expressions of gratitude from many Catholics with gluten-sensitivity, the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration write that they are “inspired by the deep desire of those suffering from gluten intolerance to receive Holy Communion…[and] humbled by the many letters, emails, and phone calls we have received thanking us for our efforts to produce low gluten altar bread.”

The letter adds that the Sisters “blessed to have the opportunity to allow God to work through our hands…[and] honored and privileged to provide for you and your parish the bread that becomes the Body of Christ.”

Obviously, since the new wafers are not completely gluten-free,  questions of individual sensitivity will need to be addressed. However, this is a huge step toward allowing people with gluten sensitivity to take both the body and the blood when taking communion.