Why the Catholic Church Frowns Upon Gluten-Free Communion Wafers
And what options are available for people with celiac disease.
One of the most unusual offerings in the ever-expanding world of “It’s gotta be gluten-free” edibles? Would you believe…communion wafers?
These plain, quarter-sized wafers used in the Holy Communion service are an answer to the prayers of parishioners who suffer from the autoimmune disorder celiac disease and cannot tolerate wheat (the wafers are typically made from wheat flour, shortening, salt, and water).
In truth, gluten-free "hosts" are hardly a new thing: they've been around for almost a decade, but the Vatican found them unacceptable, ABC News reports. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote in a statement that “it is impossible to consecrate a host made of something other than wheat and water.” (The reason: Jesus ate wheat bread with his apostles during the Last Supper.)
To the rescue: A group of resourceful nuns—the Benedictine sisters in Clyde, Missouri—who make low-gluten wafers which contain slightly more wheat than true gluten-free products. To be labeled gluten free, a product's gluten content must be less than 20 parts per million; the Missouri nuns' bread contains less than 100 parts per million. That number is small enough to be safe for many people with celiac disease, while substantial enough to appease the sticklers in the Catholic Church (the low-gluten wafers have been approved by the Vatican). Talk to your doctor if you're concerned that you won't be able to tolerate the wafers.
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Some members of the church suspect that not all parishioners partaking in the sacrament are celiac suffers, but rather, dieters looking for yet another way to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. But as Mark Meridian, the vicar of health care for the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, told ABC News: “We aren’t interested in addressing lifestyle choices with the wavers, only medical needs.”
Amen to that. Now if they could only come up with a way to prevent those little discs from sticking to the roof of your mouth…
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