Invalid Communion?

I’ve been exchanging e-mails with a friend’s dad who is Catholic, but has some bitterness toward the Church. I’m not sure how to respond to a recent comment of his and I’m wondering if you could help. This is what he wrote:
“Don’t know if you read about the Catholic church “official” in the Diocese of Trenton (Monmouth County, NJ) who invalidated an 8 year old girl’s First Communion because she received a wheat-free wafer which is “contrary to church tradition”. The girl has a rare digestive disorder and can’t consume gluten (wheat), so her priest served her one that was gluten-free. The mother is outraged (to say the least). Any comments??”

I’d appreciate any insight you could give. Thanks!

In the April 2001 issue of This Rock, Rosalind Moss (who also suffers from celiac disease) wrote a response to this incident. The following are excerpts from the article:

“A recent account of a family in Massachusetts stirred memories for me of Esau’s loss. It’s the story of Doug and Janice Richardson, who were offended—and who ultimately left the Church—because they could not substitute rice for wheat as valid matter for their daughter’s First Communion.”

“That the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has approved low-gluten altar breads (see Vatican Protocol No. 89/78) is of little help in many cases of celiac—including this one—since even the smallest trace of gluten can have adverse effects.” So, her parish priest “offered to consecrate a measure of wine separately for young Jennifer, who was preparing for her First Communion next fall. This seems like a fine solution. But not to the Richardson’s, who would be satisfied with nothing less than a rice wafer.”

Then Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, wrote a personal letter to the Richardson’s explaining why the bread must be made of wheat alone…."Mrs. Richardson said, “Ever see those bracelets: What would Jesus do? I think Jesus would give her the bread she needs and not make her feel different from all the other children….(”Unbending church forces family to rethink its faith” by Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald, page A-2, January 26, 2001).”

“How little Mrs. Richardson thinks of our Savior’s love. Would Jesus truly “love Jennifer enough” to rob her of the Blessed Sacrament in the form of his precious blood, which she could receive freely from the cup set aside and consecrated for her, and give her instead a rice cracker that is nothing more than that?”

“The Richardson’s faith—or lack of it—was revealed in a statement Janice Richardson, Jennifer’s mom, made in the Boston Herald article: “I grew up in the Church, and before I married Doug, who is a Methodist, we attended pre-Cana classes, promising to raise our kids Catholic. That was the deal and we kept it, but now the deal’s off.”

“Christianity is not a deal. It is the free, unmerited grace of God who gave himself for us on Calvary and who condescends to be our food. It appears this dear family never got it. I don’t blame them; I still cannot get used to the fact that I do. Faith is a gift.”

Click here for extensive information on the use of low-gluten Hosts at Mass, including information on the Church approved low gluten Host host (total gluten content of this product is 0.01%–available January 1, 2004)

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