Sunday, April 20, 2008


With Pope Benedict XVI visiting New York City, you might wonder what he has to do with gluten. Well, back when the Pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he issued statements in response to questions related to gluten and alcohol in the celebration of Mass.

As you (and I) may know, traditional Mass involves eating consecrated wheat hosts (i.e. wafers) and drinking consecrated wine. Questions seem to arise regularly with regard to whether non-wheat hosts or non-alcoholic liquids can be substituted for medical reasons. A recent example occurred in Spain. Here's a case that's closer to home.

Cardinal Ratzinger's position regarding the host—also the current church position—is that communion wafers, or altar bread, must be made of wheat and contain at least some gluten. (The position is spelled out in Q&A form here.) People wishing to take communion but concerned about wheat or gluten may choose to drink the wine only or use a special low-gluten wafer. (Makers of low-gluten altar bread include the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.) People who do not wish to ingest the bread and drink wine with at least a little bit of alcohol in it are advised to make a "spiritual communion."

Among the Catholics who have been concerned with this issue is Chris Spreitzer of the Catholic Celiac Society. Chris and her husband Mike also lead the Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group.

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