This week the US Conference of Catholic Bishops held its event in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of the topics of discussion was about providing the sacrament of Holy Communion for people with celiac disease.
Communion for Celiacs
According to a USCCB news release, “The bishops…approved by a 207-1-1 vote, to begin the work on updates and revisions to the 1995 document Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities.” The Bishops are taking into consideration communion for people with celiac disease when they revise this document, which currently doesn’t mention celiac disease or anyone who can’t have the host because of the ingredients. Canon Law states the eucharist must contain wheat.
With this week’s meeting, bishops agreed the 1995 document needed revisions because of developments with celiac disease, autism and other disabilities in the last 20 years.
“I can tell you, brothers, there are still horror stories of people disabled in various ways rejected by the church because of ignorance or bad will,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas during the meeting, and quoted by the Washington Times. “That’s one thing we don’t have to do at all. It could be [we were] nervous about these things that’s why this could be of assistance to us [in providing] sacramental life for our brothers and sisters.”
Current Communion Rules Regarding Gluten
A 2003 letter entitled Circular Letter to all Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences concerning the use of low-gluten altar breads and mustum as matter for the celebration of the Eucharist from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) explains the details on how catholics can get communion if they can’t have gluten.
The letter states a few options if you have can’t have gluten:
- you can have wine only
- you can have a low-gluten host (one in particular is made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri, which claims less than 0.01% of gluten.)
Another option I have witnessed first hand is going up for a blessing instead of taking communion. Some people may choose this option because they can’t have ANY gluten. Plus, the wine, may be considered cross contaminated since it is a communal cup, shared by people taking the wheat-filled hosts.
The Washington Times quoted Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey saying, “Our goal is to ensure those with special needs have easy access to sacraments with appropriate accommodations.”
What these accommodations will be for people who can’t have gluten– remains to be seen. I suppose it is possible they will just revise the document to include the information from the aforementioned letter by Cardinal Ratzinger. Or maybe a larger change will be made.
I have an email into the USCCB with a few more questions regarding communion for celiacs. When I hear back from them, I will let you know.