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Celiac or Gluten-free? Common FAQ’s for Communion

With news circulating earlier this month that people with celiac disease were banned from receiving Communion, it led to a lot of confusion. Here’s a quick list of FAQ’s to refer to regarding celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and the options for receiving the Eucharist.

Can I have gluten-free hosts?
Gluten-free hosts are invalid matter, meaning, for these hosts, Transubstantiation will not occur. In the Vatican document Redemptionis Sacramentum from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, it states that “the bread used in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist Sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition.” Read more about the type of host required for the Eucharist here.

Is this “news” new?
These were existing norms regarding valid matter in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Nothing was changed. In this case, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a letter to bishops reiterating these existing norms. This usually happens when someone has raised a question or has been alerted of a possible abuse of the norm.

Why does the host need to contain gluten?
Wheat bread and wine from grapes are the matter of the sacrament because Christ instituted it under these species. They cannot be changed.

What are my other options?
In a 2003 letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it states that low-gluten hosts that are “partially gluten-free are still valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.” Low-gluten hosts aren’t low enough to be considered gluten-free, but are approved by the Celiac Support Association.

You can buy low-gluten hosts, bring them to a parish you visit and ask the priest to consecrate it on a separate paten — that’s what one Catholic gluten-free travel blogger writes. You can read more about how they purchase the approved low-gluten hosts and work with the priest or parish so their son can receive communion here.
The USCCB also has a list of where to buy low-gluten hosts here.

I can’t have low-gluten hosts for health reasons, either. What do I do?
You may receive under the species of wine only, and if especially severe, request to receive the Precious Blood from a separate chalice from the one the priest uses to avoid cross-contamination.

Featured image by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic

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