MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A recent letter from the Vatican reminded Catholic Bishops that the unleavened bread used in communion cannot be gluten-free.
That sent Catholics with gluten allergies and Celiac disease searching for answers on social media, fearing they would be left out of receiving the sacrament.
“People started to get confused thinking that this was new information the Pope had released that the gluten-free host was no longer allowed,” says Natalie Castro, president of the Gluten Free South Florida support group.
The directive is simply a reaffirmation of a policy first created in 2003.
Catholics believe Jesus used bread and wine at the last supper. Following tradition, communion must use real bread, which contains wheat, and therefore gluten.
So why re-affirm the directive?
Monsignor Kenneth Schwanger explained that in old times, religious communities would make the bread and wine for communion, but now private companies are getting into the business. If they were to make a truly gluten-free host, it would be invalid.
“They just want to make sure that a secular provider who might not have any direct connection with the structural church is following the rules,” explained Msgr. Schwanger.
Msgr. Schwanger’s parish, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in West Kendall, offers a host labeled ‘gluten free, but he says it’s really low-gluten, containing a trace amount of wheat so it complies with the Vatican’s requirements.
Castro, who suffers from Celiac disease, says she’s been receiving low-gluten communion at Our Lady of Lourdes without any problems for more than ten years and doesn’t think the church needs to make any additional accommodations.
“I think it’s enough. I think that if that is what our religion is and believes, I fully believe it,” says Castro.
Msgr. Schwanger explains he’s never had a parishioner who can’t stomach even a trace amount of wheat.
If that were the case, there’s another option sanctioned by the Catholic Church.
“They could receive communion from the cup,” says Msgr. Schwanger, meaning that having the communion wine only is a valid way of participating in the sacrament.
Msgr. Schwanger says parishioners should have a conversation with their pastor about any dietary needs that they think may affect their ability to participate in communion.