Catholic church prohibits gluten-free wafers as Jesus’s body must have gluten

A communique from the Vatican, as reported by The Washington Post, lays out the guidelines for what must be in Communion wafers, and that means that there MUST BE SOME GLUTEN.  (Gluten is a complex of proteins in grains that allow bready stuff to rise and hold its shape.) This dictum apparently isn’t new, but has been reconfirmed in light of people’s recent tendency to avoid gluten. As the Post reports:

The letter drew attention from media outlets around the globe, but it actually reaffirmed earlier guidelines saying that bread and wafers must have at least some gluten in them. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops already has guidelines allowing churches to use low-gluten wafers and nothing will change in American Catholic churches, said Andrew Menke, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship.

“Absolutely nothing has changed,” Menke said in a statement. “The ‘new guidance’ from the Vatican is simply a reminder to bishops that they need to be attentive to the bread and wine that is used for Mass, making sure that it’s consistent with the Church’s requirements.”

Guidelines are also given by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

The most recent Church teaching on the use of mustum and low-gluten hosts at Mass remains the letter from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. . . on July 24, 2003 (Prot. n. 89/78-17498), which was addressed to the Presidents of Conferences of Bishops. In that letter, pastors and the faithful are reminded that for bread to be valid matter for the Eucharist, it must be made solely of wheat, contain enough gluten to effect the confection of bread, be free of foreign materials, and unaffected by any preparation or baking methods which would alter its nature. The amount of gluten necessary for validity in such bread is not determined by minimum percentage or weight, though hosts which have no gluten are considered invalid matter for Mass. (In the Roman Rite, the bread prepared for the Eucharist must also be unleavened.)

This is of course a problem for people with celiac disease, for if they can’t tolerate even a small amount of gluten in a wafer, they’re plumb out of luck. After all, theologians, who get paid to figure out this kind of stuff, have studied the scriptures assiduously and decided, “YES, there must be gluten” (my emphasis):

The Catholic Church teaches that the practice of the Eucharist should be in continuity with Jesus, who ate wheat bread and drank grape wine, describing them as his body and blood.

“Christ did not institute the Eucharist as rice and sake, or sweet potatoes and stout,” said Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University.

Some theologians have argued the bread and wine are simply symbolic, but the Catholic Church does not consider the elements to be symbols. It teaches that Jesus himself instituted the bread and the wine during the Passover meal, and churches should follow his lead.

“It may seem a small thing to people,” Pecknold said. “But the Catholic Church has spent 2,000 years working out how to be faithful to Christ even in the smallest things. To be vitally and vigorously faithful … is something which is simply integral to what it means to be Catholic.”

Bread and wafers “must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so that there is no danger of decomposition,” the letter from the Vatican states. “Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.” However, low-gluten wafers and bread may be used, it says.

But apparently most sufferers from celiac disease are okay, as there’s not much gluten in a wafer after all. You’d have to eat handfuls (or is it “handsful”?) of them to get sick:

In 2004, Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland, said that one of the Benedictine Sisters’ low-gluten wafers contained such low gluten that someone with celiac disease would have to consume 270 wafers daily to reach a danger point.

“You’d have to be very devout or really excited about going to church to eat that much at communion,” said Claire Baker, spokeswoman for Beyond Celiac, an advocacy organization for people with celiac disease. “You don’t eat communion wafers like you eat crackers.”

A regular wafer contains approximately 22 milligrams of gluten, according to registered dietitian Nancy Patin Falini. Wafers that contain under 10 milligrams of gluten are considered low-gluten.

This all reminds me of rabbis deciding that Passover matzos must be made from scratch and baked within 18 minutes after the process starts—lest yeast get in there and the matzos be “leavened.” That wouldn’t be kosher! The bakery is also cleaned out between batches. The 18 minutes was determined by oodles of rabbis intensely pondering scripture—and I suppose biology, though I’m dubious).

It’s all nuts.

h/t: Diane G.


  1. Martin
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Well when I’m changing wafer’s into the body of Jesus at my home I just use what I have on hand. That goes for turning wine into water (urine) as well, though I try to stick to the dryer wines, just a matter preference.

  2. Roger
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    They don’t have better things to worry about?

    • Roger
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      They must be really freakin bored over there or something lol.

    • steve oberski
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Think of this as a diversion from the usual raping of children, demonization of gays and murdering of pregnant women that occupies most of their time.

    • Posted July 13, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      I think this is well worth worrying about because it shows the faithful the unending awarteness of the Church for important details. 2.000 years and counting!

    • phil
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      They certainly do, but they just try to sweep them under the rug, or bully victims until they give up.

  3. alexandra Moffat
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    This is true? hard to believe that grown- ups spend time worrying about christ and gluten. Silliest thing I ever heard. Don’t they ever look at each other and say ‘What the H are we dong?’. With all the problems in the world….the elders of the catholic church obviously don’t have enough to do….

    • jeffery
      Posted July 13, 2017 at 12:25 am | Permalink

      I would think that the wafer would have to be from whole-wheat flour, then, as they didn’t have white flour in Jesus’s time…..

      • phil
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:21 am | Permalink

        I think they should be asking “What in Jesus’ name are we dong?”

        I read a suggestion that one reason the RCC is reticent to be open and honest about child abuse is that they fear that it would reflect poorly on them (what a surprise) and that many souls could be lost if people leave the church.

        But you’re right, this is bizarre.

        • phil
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:22 am | Permalink

          Oops. That was a reply to Alexandra Moffat.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:20 am | Permalink

          “… that they fear that it would reflect poorly on them…”

          Like that ship hasn’t sailed…

  4. Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It shouldn’t matter to the person receiving it, right? When it literally turns into Jesus, the gluten will disappear. So why do they care?

    • Doug
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      There was a controversy over this point a few years ago. A teenager who couldn’t eat gluten asked if she could have a gluten-free Host. There was a letter in the newspaper from someone saying that the Host is the body of Christ and couldn’t possibly hurt her. I’m sure that if the girl got sick, she would have been told that it was her fault for not having faith.

  5. Simon Hayward
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Is this a universal christian thing, or just a catholic doctrine? I wondered if the belief in transubstantiation plays into this, it would seem less important were these things are recognized as representative of, rather than actually, the blood and body. As an aside, how do teetotal sects deal with the wine issue? I’m not sure how being teetotal is compatible with following someone who supposedly turned water into wine….but that’s just me 🙂

    • Doug
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Jesus turned the water into “non-alcoholic wine” a/k/a grape juice. That’s what the Methodists say, at least.

      • Posted July 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Which has to be the craziest biblical mistranslation ever – if there’s Greek we understand, I’d be willing to bet it involves drink! 😉

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      My understanding is that this is only an issue for those churches, like the Roman Catholics, that believe in transubstantiation. Most (? all) Protestants see the host as merely symbolic.

      It used to be (I don’t know if it’s still true) that one Catholic nunnery made the host for all churches in NZ, both Catholic and Protestant. But, of course, only Catholic spells are capable of turning it into the body of Christ.

      I’ve yet to hear anyone claim the taste of raw pork and blood during communion though. 2000 years and they haven’t got the spells to work, but for centuries wars were fought over whether transubstantiation was real or the ceremony was symbolic.

      Not much different to Sunni versus Shi’a.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 12, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        You’d think any supposedly omnipotent creator of the universe would be able to settle the matter. He could use pencil and paper or skywriters, or another burning bush. It couldn’t be too hard for the almighty.

        • Doug
          Posted July 12, 2017 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

          He uses the Pope.

          • rickflick
            Posted July 12, 2017 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

            The Pope is as useless as wet toilet tissue.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          Or just wipe out all those who are doin’ it rong. That would save a lot of time and might even convince some nonbelievers..

  6. Randy schenck
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I prefer a nice Chenin blanc some sourdough. Probably not on the menu?

  7. Outlier
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Who’ll be the first to produce the gluten-free version of SonChips?

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      “SonChips,” lol!

      • Posted July 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        I guess this is the counterpart to “Red Hot Wolf Nipple Chips” from the computer game Might and Magic II.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:02 am | Permalink

          SMH… 😀

  8. Teresa Carson
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    In the 1960s when young Catholics in the U.S. started having folk masses and rock masses, Newman Centers (where university students went to mass) began celebrating masses with bread that someone in the congregation had made. It wasn’t gluten-free, but it certainly wasn’t anything like a traditional wafer. Who knows what foreign matter was present? BTW, I’m pretty sure Jesus wasn’t handing out tiny, thin wafers at the Last Supper.

    • phil
      Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      Nor was he handing out jerky made from himself, or open his veins to fill the cups. He was probably being symbolic at the original communion.

  9. sensorrhea
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    And I JUST started production-scale baking of gluten-free communion wafers ready to ship after a hard-fought but ultimately highly successful Kickstarter campaign!

  10. Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Holy Gluten and Kale Mary, that is dumb.

    GMO wafers okay?

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Funny you should ask. I had thought I’d read this in the WaPo article itself, but apparently I’d actually clicked on the first link in it (can’t believe I had that much time on my hands…):

      The same Congregation also decided that Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified organisms can be considered valid matter (cf. Letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 9 December 2013, Prot. N. 89/78 – 44897).

  11. Veroxitatis
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Christ didn’t eat gluten free bread. Yeah, and I don’t expect that the bread he ate was laden with present natives as is most supermarket bread. But that doesn’t seem to be an issue for our head of a pin dancing friends!

    • Veroxitatis
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Preservatives, that is.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Looks like your spellchecker has a sense of humor. That could be bad.

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted July 12, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          Predictive texting has some peculiar ideas when confronted with more than two syllables!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

        Canon law requires wafers unladen by present natives. Not sure about natives past and future. 🙂

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      One of the all-time best spell-checker goofs!

      Also, a coinkydink–the subject line of my email to Jerry was, “talk about head-of-a-pin stuff…”

      Well, I’d rather see them spending time on this sort of thing than on all the other shenanigans they’re known to devise/commit.

      • phil
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:37 am | Permalink

        I’d rather see them handing the criminals they are shielding over to justice, like the kiddie fiddlers, and those that promoted genocide in Rwanda.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:21 am | Permalink

          Well, there’s that, too…


  12. Mark Joseph
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    What is the alcohol content of Jesus’ blood?

    • chris english
      Posted July 13, 2017 at 2:23 am | Permalink

      It doesn’t matter. While his body can’t be made without gluten, his blood can be made with or without alcohol.

  13. loren russell
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    BTW, did they grow tetraploid or hexaploid wheat in Galilee? Or haploid, just for Jesus?

  14. Mark R.
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I sometimes have to remind myself it’s 2017. It seems I’m doing it more as time moves forward or backward? Hard to tell.

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Ener-G foods since 1962 has been selling gluten free foods ranging from croutons to corn muffins to apple-cinnamon biscuits.

    They also make gluten-free communion wafers, and I assume most of their customers are Episcopalian or Lutheran (not sure about Greek Orthodox).

    Of course, Teresa Carlson above is correct in pointing out that Jesus wasn’t handing out tiny, thin wafers at the Last Supper.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      No, he passed out Streit’s Passover Matzos. And speaking of passings, I can’t pass on saying this is one of the most delightfully nutty things I’ve seen in a while.

  16. Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Correction: in the title, “wafers” is “waters”.

    • Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Oh sorry, it is “wafers” as it should be.

  17. busterggi
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Fact – the human body has zero % gluten in its make-up.

    Clearly Jesus’ gluten came from his father’s sperm.

  18. Ken Phelps
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    “… handfuls (or is it “handsful”?) ”

    A question far more worthy of debate than most of the issues raised in theology.

  19. ploubere
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    A ritual that is basically symbolizing an act of cannibalism, and gluten is a problem?

    • Steve
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      It’s perfectly okay because the hosts are consecrated on Thursday! So I guess it’s alright to eat day-old meat.

      • ploubere
        Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        But the blood is fresh, I assume.

    • Posted July 14, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      According to the catholics, it isn’t symbolic at all! But it isn’t cannibalism because although Jesus was a human he was also god. Or something – theophagy coupled with the trinity is just wacky stuff.

      It was this, in part, that made my friend Raven terrified of Christians. As a Cree / Inuit she had always been told that cannibalism was a last resort. *The* last resort, after clothing made of leather and your dogs, and to be done with great (as we would say) moral reservation and concern. And here this guy proposes to do it in a group where we’ve all had enough to eat? What sort of evil (read: dangerous) barbarian is this?

  20. Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Well, this is just plain silly. As any good catholic would know the wafer miraculously becomes the flesh (meat) of Jesus Christ. Cereal grains (wheat, rye, barley but not corn, rice and oats) have the protein gluten, not mammalian flesh. So no worry about gluten but beware of a red meat allergy particularly if you have been sucked on by a Lone Star Tick. Bad theology and Bad biochemistry.

  21. claudia baker
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:13 pm | Permalink


  22. Joseph Stans
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink


  23. Yoly
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Interesting post 😉

  24. steve oberski
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m still waiting for them to get back to me about my idea for a line of kosher and halal communion wafers.

  25. Taz
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m actually glad they’re strict about this. I’d hate for them to try luring children by using Hostess Cupcakes.

  26. DrBrydon
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    So, for the magic to work, certain ingredients must be present? I would have thought that the miracle of transubstantiation would be a little less side-showy.

    And, boy, “Prot. n. 89/78-17498” that just makes one all goose-pimply. I expect to see that replacing John 3:16 tattoos.

    • busterggi
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      “So, for the magic to work, certain ingredients must be present?”

      Duh! They’re called material components, don’t you do D & D?

  27. karaktur
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    How about Roundup? Can they have trace amounts of Roundup?

  28. rickflick
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Gluten aside, I’ve tasted Jesus, and I’ve never found him properly seasoned. 😎

  29. Phil Garnock-Jones
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    You raised the question of handfuls vs handsful, much more important in the real world than whether a host may contain gluten.
    I’d go for handfuls, rather than handsful. I think a handful is a (loose) measure of quantity. We’re not talking of every handful literally being held by a hand. If a recipe called for three handsful of (gluten-free) flour, you’d need a friend to help you, because on your own you could only have two handsful.
    Also, my spell-checker agrees with me FWIW.

    • ploubere
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Merriam Webster says both are ok.

    • Susan D.
      Posted July 13, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      It’s “handsfull”. The word is a concatenation of two words, “hands” and “full”, and is the same as saying “his two hands were full of stuff”. “Hands” is a noun, “full” is an adjective. Adjectives do not have plurals, so the noun is plural and the adjective describes the condition of the noun. Same thing as “governors general”, “attorneys general”, “courts martial”, “heirs apparent”. There are two “l”s on the end because the word is “full” not “ful”. Some people say that “handfulls” is ok because most people use that form, but that’s like saying “I done it” is ok because lots of people say it. Saying it doesn’t make it correct. Language changes over time, but rools are rools!

      • rickflick
        Posted July 13, 2017 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        Thanks for the ‘splainin’. I love learning good reasons. I hope I retain it. Quite a mouthsfull. 😉

      • phil
        Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:56 am | Permalink

        No it’s not, not it’s not, NO IT’S NOT!!!

        Oh wait, that should have been all caps.

        Anyway, I disagree. It isn’t like governor’s general, etc, because the governors are indivisible people (well you get what I mean). Handfuls is a measure, like cups or quarts. Hands full are hands that that are full. Coincidentally two hands full contain two handfuls.

        Merriam?!?? Pfft.

        Anyway, the way usage works anything is acceptable these days, so it seems.

        And don’t get me started on “there’s (plural) (something something)…”

        There are reasons we have grammar rules, it is to communicate clearly. And so what if the rules were introduced recently or by a bunch of elitists know alls (or is that knowalls?). The rules which mandate which side of the road you drive on or what to do when changing lanes or driving around a corner are pretty recent too but that isn’t grounds for dismissing them. And if legislators aren’t a bunch of elitist knowalls, or know alls, nobody is.

        Arrrgh!! Just fell of my horse. It’s too high.

        • Diane G.
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 2:39 am | Permalink


          Yeah, my first reaction was rebellion as well. Then I tried it with another item and suddenly it sounded right to me; would you say “add two teaspoonfuls of sugar” or “add two teaspoons full of sugar?”

          Love the xkcd rollover text!

          • phil
            Posted July 14, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

            The former. I’d use only one teaspoon.

            • Diane G.
              Posted July 16, 2017 at 12:38 am | Permalink


        • Diane G.
          Posted July 14, 2017 at 3:03 am | Permalink

          Coincidentally, the xkcd that follows the one you posted is relevant to another discussion we’ve been having around here lately:


  30. Hempenstein
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    This augurs poorly for market share.

  31. Posted July 12, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Andrew Menke, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship.

    “Absolutely nothing has changed,” Menke said in a statement.
    Bet your darn boots nothing has changed, for 2000 years did i read.

    Anyhow, they where actually discussing GLUTTONY but some fool in the above office decided that was way to personal about the waistlines of cardinals.
    Obesity being a major global health problem and all that.
    Instead lets mess with the faithful and since our gory… eh…glory days of torture are over we can knock off a few by stealth.
    It’s good for business you know.

    We are gathered here today… anyone for a wafer?

  32. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Just as well Jesus didn’t eat nuts.


  33. Frank Quinton
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Fake news about fake JC body diverts attention from drug fuelled orgy in Vatican apartment.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      Why bother. Gay sex is legal in Vatican City. Oh, wait. Drugs…

  34. Robert Nola
    Posted July 12, 2017 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    The Catholic Church’s view on gluten free wafers in the Eucharist is hilarious. One does not have to satirize the CC when it can do it so well itself. The ban goes back at least to a papal bull on the matter by Ratzinger. Such a serious theological matter!
    I note that one web site talks of Eucharist abuse. Go to:
    Now in the order of sins, is Eucharist abuse more of a sin than child abuse, or less? I hope the CC will wheel out the theology too decide the matter – and let us know.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 12, 2017 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      You can’t make this stuff up!

  35. Posted July 12, 2017 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    This seems a bit bizarre, but so are most religious rituals.

  36. Tom
    Posted July 13, 2017 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    In the original version of the eucharist story (Pauls divine revelation )Jesus did not DO anything he merely told PAUL that those of the church should remember him when eating and drinking.

  37. Posted July 13, 2017 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    I looked at this on the Catholic Herald website – what a load of garbage it is!

  38. Mattapult
    Posted July 13, 2017 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    This is why our government must avoid becoming a theocracy.

  39. phil
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    “But the Catholic Church has spent 2,000 years working out how to be faithful to Christ even in the smallest things.”

    Like buggering kiddies?

  40. phil
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    “It’s all nuts.”

    No, that’s a completely different set of allergies.

  41. phil
    Posted July 14, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    And there’s this…

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