A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH
On Gluten-Free Communion Breads
The question of using gluten-free Communion hosts has been raised recently in the United States and Australia by those suffering from a gluten intolerance known as celiac sprue disease.
In the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, and in Sydney, two families with members who have celiac say they will appeal to the Vatican in order to receive Communion hosts made of something other than wheat.
Officials at the Vatican said this week that the case of Communion for those with gluten-intolerance has already been addressed in several instructions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that those suffering from celiac disease can partake of a valid Communion by receiving only the Precious Blood.
The relevant canons on the question fall under the section "The Rites and Ceremonies of the Eucharistic Celebration," particularly:
Canon 924:2 — The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling.
Canon 925 — Holy communion is to be given under the form of bread alone, or under both species according to the norm of liturgical laws, or even under the form of wine alone in a case of necessity.
Canon 926 — According to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church the priest is to use unleavened bread in the eucharistic celebration whenever he offers it.
The doctrinal congregation has further issued several instructions on the question including a June 4, 1979, letter to the U.S. bishops' conference on the nature and matter of the Eucharistic bread; an Oct. 29, 1982, response on Communion of the faithful under only the species of wine; and a June 19, 1995, letter to presidents of episcopal conferences on the use of bread with small quantities of gluten.
The above instructions say that:
a) The "matter" of the Eucharistic host must be bread since this is what Christ instituted at the Last Supper. Bread, by definition, must contain some gluten.
b) Jesus is the same under both species. In the case where one cannot eat the Communion host, receiving the Precious Blood alone can be considered a valid Communion.
It will seem intransigent to some that only bread can be used for the Communion host. But Vatican officials stress that this is not an administrative question but a doctrinal one.
Further, it is a doctrinal question that concerns the sacraments, and the Church, officials note, does not have the authority to change the substance of the sacraments. ZE04082622
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