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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Social and religious issues

Roman Catholic position

Roman Catholic doctrine states that for a valid Eucharist the bread must be made from wheat. In 2002, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved German-made low-gluten hosts, which meet all of the Catholic Church's requirements, for use in Italy; although not entirely gluten-free, they were also approved by the Italian Celiac Association.[1] Some Catholic coeliac sufferers have requested permission to use rice wafers; such petitions have always been denied.[2] The issue is more complex for priests. Though a Catholic (lay or ordained) receiving under either form is considered to have received Christ "whole and entire", the priest, who is acting in persona Christi, is required to receive under both species when offering Mass — not for the validity of his Communion, but for the fullness of the sacrifice of the Mass. On August 22, 1994, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith apparently barred coeliacs from ordination, stating, "Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the priest, candidates for the priesthood who are affected by coeliac disease or suffer from alcoholism or similar conditions may not be admitted to holy orders." After considerable debate, the congregation softened the ruling on 24 July 2003 to "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."[3]

As of January 2004, an extremely low-gluten host became available in the United States. The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, MO, after ten years of perseverance, trial, and error, have produced a low-gluten host safe for celiacs and also approved by the Catholic Church for use at Mass. Each host is made and packaged in a dedicated wheat-free / gluten-free environment. The hosts are made separately by hand, unlike the common host which is stamped out of a long thin sheet of bread by a cutter. Therefore, each host is a slightly different size and shape. Most importantly, the finished hosts have been analyzed for gluten content. The gluten content of these hosts is reported as 0.01 %. In actuality, the gluten content is probably less than 0.01%. Sister Lynn, OSB, said that the result of the analysis of the finished host revealed "no gluten detected". The hosts are labeled as 0.01 % since the lowest limit of detection of this analysis was 0.01 %. In an article from the Catholic Review (February 15, 2004) Dr. Alessio Fasano was quoted as declaring these hosts "perfectly safe for celiac sufferers." [4]


  1. Scott Adams (August 2, 2002). "Bishops in Italy Approve a German-made Low Gluten Eucharistic Host". Celiac.com.
  2. Associated Press (December 8, 2004). "Girl with digestive disease denied Communion". MSNBC. Microsoft. Retrieved 2006-05-30.
  3. Ratzinger, Joseph (July 24, 2003). Prot. 89/78-174 98. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Full text at: "The Use of Mustum and Low-Gluten Hosts at Mass". BCL Newsletter. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 2003. Retrieved 2007-03-07. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  4. McNamara, Father Edward (2004-09-15). "Liturgy: Gluten-free Hosts". Catholic Online. Retrieved 2007-06-17. Check date values in: |date= (help)

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