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The Status of Low-Gluten Hosts for use at Mass in the Roman Catholic Church

(Celiac.com 05/14/2000) Some bishops conferences (e.g.: Chile) have allowed communicants to take communion in the form of consacrated wine alone. Nowadays, in some countries (the U.K. for instance), wafers made of wheat which contains only traces of gluten - and hence probably not deletereous for the celiac patient - are being made. The Vatican has allowed the use of such wafers through a statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith of June 19th, 1995.

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales, for instance, has stated recently that they follow the 1995 norms on low-gluten altar breads from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In implementing these norms, the Conference established a certificate for those affected by the coeliac condition. This is then administered in the local diocese.

The following comes from the report of the English and Welsh bishops meeting of November 1997. Certificate for coeliac sufferers:

At its Low Week 1996 meeting, the Bishops Conference asked that its advisory panel on the coeliac condition draw up a suitable certificate for use by those with the coeliac condition to show that they have received permission for the use of low-gluten altar breads as valid matter for the celebration of Mass. Such a certificate was approved by the Bishops Conference. Britain has one of the highest rates of the coeliac condition in the world. This certificate enables sufferers to present a low-gluten host for consecration, particularly when traveling and in regions where they are not known by the priest. Those with the condition may obtain the certificate by applying to their parish priest. - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, norms concerning the use of low-gluten altar breads and mustum [non-alcoholic wine] as matter for the celebration of the Eucharist, 22 June 1995.

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  • I. Concerning permission to use low-gluten altar breads:
    • A. This may be granted by Ordinaries to priests and laypersons affected by celiac disease, after presentation of a medical certificate.
    • B. Conditions for the validity of the matter:
      • 1. Special hosts quibus glutinum ablatum est are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist;
      • 2. Low-gluten hosts are valid matter, provided that they contain the amount of gluten sufficient to obtain the confection of bread, that there is no addition of foreign materials, and that the procedure for making such hosts is not such as to alter the nature of the substance of the bread.
  • II. Concerning permission to use mustum:
    • A. The preferred solution continues to be Communion per intinctionem, or in concelebration under the species of bread alone.
    • B. Nevertheless, the permission to use mustum can be granted by Ordinaries to priests affected by alcoholism or other conditions which prevent the ingestion of even the smallest quantity of alcohol, after presentation of a medical certificate.
    • C. By mustum is understood fresh juice from grapes, or juice preserved by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods which do not alter its nature).
    • D. In general, those who have received permission to use mustum are prohibited from presiding at concelebrated Masses. There may be some exceptions however: in the case of a Bishop or Superior General; or, with prior approval of the Ordinary, at the celebration of the anniversary of priestly ordination or other similar occasions. In these cases, the one who presides is to communicate under both the species of bread and that of mustum, while for the other concelebrants a chalice shall be provided in which normal wine is to be consecrated.
    • E. In the very rare instances of laypersons requesting this permission, recourse must be made to the Holy See.
  • III. Common Norms:
    • A. The Ordinary must ascertain that the matter used conforms to the above requirements.
    • B. Permissions are to be given only for as long as the situation continues which motivated the request.
    • C. Scandal is to be avoided.
    • D. Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the priest, candidates for the priesthood who are affected by celiac disease or suffer from alcoholism or similar conditions may not be admitted to Holy Orders.
    • E. Since the doctrinal questions in this area have now been decided, disciplinary competence is entrusted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
    • F. Concerned Episcopal Conferences shall report to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments every two years regarding the application of these norms.

Thanks are given to Tom Horwood, Esq., Catholic Media Office, The Bishops Conference of England and Wales, and to Ernesto Guifaldes, M.D. of the Pontificia Unicersidad Catolica de Chile.

According to the UK Coeliac Society you can now obtain gluten-free Communion Wafers from the following:

Eiren Religious Supplies
Concord House
Union Drive
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
IB73 5TE
UK

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