Catholicism and Celiac Sprue

communion wafers Attending Catholic mass is not necessarily complicated by Celiac disease, but in many cases problems arise. Normally a layperson who cannot eat gluten can simply drink the wine instead of eating the wafers. (If a person is also alchohol intolerant or an alcoholic, there is a type of low-alcohol grape juice, mustun, that the congregant may request in advance to have blessed in a separate chalice.) According to (Catholics United for the Faith):

Because the entire Body, Blood, soul and divinity of Christ is present in each species individually, a person may receive only the host or only from the cup and still fully receive Christ.”

However in some services priests dip a wafer into the wine. Even if this is not the case, a communal cup can be contaminated with gluten by other congregants before reaching the person with Celiac disease. Several people have solved this by talking the priest beforehand. Various agreements include:

  1. The people with celiac disease sit in the front and drink first from the (uncontaminated) chalice.
  2. Celiacs get their own separate chalice.
  3. Celiacs bring their own GF wafers to church (completely wheat-free wafers are invalid according to Catholic doctrine).
  4. People can eat the officially sanctioned low-gluten host (100 ppm) made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri. Celiacs can request these wafers from the priest or buy their own.

Controversy arose in 1995 around the problems of priests with celiac disease. According to

Because celebrating Mass is central to the priesthood, the 1995 norms added that men who are affected by Celiac Sprue disease or suffer from alcoholism or similar conditions may not be admitted to the priesthood. In his 2003 letter, Cardinal Ratzinger noted a modification to that norm, saying “Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of a priest, one must proceed with great caution before admitting to Holy Orders those candidates unable to ingest gluten or alcohol without serious harm.” The Cardinal’s 2003 letter also provides norms for the celebration and concelebration of Mass when the celebrant or concelebrant suffers from gluten or alcohol intolerance.”

For those who are not Catholic, gluten-free wafer recipes abound. Check out the Catholic Celiac Society for more information.

4 thoughts on “Catholicism and Celiac Sprue”

  1. Not sure if this may help but it’s worth looking into. If the bread and wine is totally transformed to the body and blood (which is what I think Catholics believe) Is it really a problem??? I grew up Catholic and am now Greek Orthodox, we have 3 sons severely affected by gluten two are celiac and one is Autistic. Communion has not been an issue. They do not receive the endethido or prossfrido (spelling??) breads after communion or mass but the bread in the chalise Christ’s body has not been any problem. May be worth a try….

  2. I think its odd how the Catholic Church must stick to a gluten based wafer during mass, without providing the option of a simple rice based wafer for those who are gluten intolerant. However in their defense, they do provide .01% gluten wafers for those who are celiac/gluten sensitive.

    I also find it disconcerting that the Catholic church is so rigid in that point, but yet considers receiving the bread by itself, or the wine by itself, as complete communion.
    Some catholics receive just the wine and do not partake of the host, and sometimes children vice versa.

    Jesus served both to his disciples.

    Why budge on that very point, but not on the ingredients of the bread, or the fact that they serve wafers instead of loaves?

    Lets face it, Jesus emphasized NOT being so rigidly technical about the aspects of the “law.”

    Let me paint a picture to emphasize a point regarding communion.

    Would you honour your young child if they gave you a mess of a crayon scribble drawing as a gift to you?

    Or if they picked a handful of dandelions to give as a gift of flowers?

    Would you HONOUR, Thank and accept your young childs intentions if they made you orange juice by way of a pitcher of water and 3 floating oranges? And cornflour pancakes because they mistook the cornflour for baking flour?

    Of course you would!

    If we as humans in our understanding can accept intentions like this from our own children, how much more would GOD honour us with our motives and intentions if we Remember our Lord and his sacrifice for us by way of a rice wafer and grape juice.

    GOD loves us so infinetly that we can’t even comprehend the fullness of it!

    This is why I believe a rice wafer vs. wheat wafer or grape wine vs. grape juice in communion are not going to be important when all Catholic and Protestant Christians will be rejoicing together in Heaven someday.

    Hopefully, in the future, the Catholic Church will change its stance on this issue of gluten/non-gluten communion and the validity of the sacrament.

    Just some food for thought!

  3. I only have a problem when I eat the antithoro after church…never a problem with the body of Christ. Now Orthodox fasting, that is another issue…

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