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 CUF.org (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:
- The people with celiac disease sit in the front and drink first from the (uncontaminated) chalice.
- Celiacs get their own separate chalice.
- Celiacs bring their own GF wafers to church (completely wheat-free wafers are invalid according to Catholic doctrine).
- 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 CUF.org:
“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.