When the letter killeth

Flirt with “modernity” however it may, Catholicism is still guided by Scripture and by two thousand years of accumulated wisdom, not necessarily in that order. Now which of these traditions, do you think, prohibits a gluten-free Eucharist? Both of them, apparently:

A great theologian of the Church during the 1200s, St. Thomas Aquinas, was one of the first Church theologians to describe clearly what valid matter is for the Eucharist: “Now among other breads, wheaten bread is more commonly used by men; since other breads seem to be employed when this fails. And, consequently, Christ is believed to have instituted this sacrament under this species of bread. Moreover, this bread strengthens man, and so it denotes more suitably the effect of this sacrament. Consequently, the proper matter for this sacrament is wheaten bread.” Accordingly, Canon Law specifies the use of wheat bread, stating that the Eucharistic species must include unleavened wheat.

It is possible, however, to meet the specifications of Canon Law — if not necessarily the requirements of the most severe celiac sufferers — with low-gluten breads for the sacrament.

(From Improbable Research via this Jennifer Ouellette tweet.)


  1. Roger Green »

    29 June 2013 · 6:39 pm

    I thought that the shroom-derived dream Paul had suggesting whatever God made was kosher would apply here too.

  2. Brett »

    29 June 2013 · 11:34 pm

    I believe you’re robbing Peter of his vision to pay it to Paul.

  3. McGehee »

    30 June 2013 · 11:57 am

    Since the “this is my body” speech was at a Passover supper, unleavened wheat bread is almost certainly what was used. I’m not qualified to judge whether He would require celiac sufferers to suffer for Him, but depending on the severity and the portion size, it’s possible some would endure it as a form of counter-sacrifice.

    Disclosure: my wife has a stepsister with celiac. Being the daughter of a Methodist minister may have complicated matters, but since they’re not as strict on the unleavened part it’s possible they can make other allowances.

  4. Brett »

    30 June 2013 · 2:45 pm

    Speaking as a Methodist I can say that indeed we do. In my own congregation, they switched several years ago to a rice-flour cake because of the severity of one man’s celiac disease.

    But then, you would expect this from the denomination which was home to a gentleman who believed so strongly against the consumption of alcoholic beverages that he developed a process to pasteurize grape juice in order to keep it from spoiling and from fermenting, one Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch.

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