Low gluten challenges the Real Presence

I have been reading much about the low-gluten host issue for people suffering from celiac disease. Much is being said about the effects gluten has on these peoples’ health and how important it is for them to avoid all gluten and stick to gluten-free diets. And it makes sense in regards to an everyday diet, i.e. food we consume during regular meals.

In context with the Catholic Faith I found many references to Holy Communion stating that celiac disease prevents people from receiving the Blessed Sacrament. I even found a website where altar breads with an extremely low gluten level can be ordered. According to the website where they can be ordered they have been approved by the Office of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops for “use in the diocese of the United States with appropriate permission”.

What is a puzzlement to is that nowhere have I found reference to ‘Faith in the Real Presence‘.

What do we Catholics believe?
We believe that the bread and wine at the words of Consecration change into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and only the appearance of bread and wine remains while the substance has changed entirely into the Body and Blood of Christ.

To cite The New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism:
“The appearances of anything are the things we can see, touch, and taste. The substance of anything is what it is. The appearances in the Holy Eucharist are what looks like bread and wine. The substance is Our Lord Himself under these appearances.”

Now, can someone please explain to me why people with celiac disease cannot receive Holy Communion?
What they receive may look and taste and feel like wheat bread, but it IS NOT! It is the Body and Blood of Christ.

And does the ‘Amen’ we respond with to the words ’The Body of Christ’ when receiving Holy Communion not indicate our total belief that it is the Body of Christ we are receiving?

The following sentence is copied directly from the order website:
“Celiacs have to maintain strict gluten free diets to protect their health. Hence, the concern among Catholic celiac sufferers was how could they continue to receive the Body of Christ at Eucharist when it is made with wheat.”

Since when is the Body of Christ made of wheat? And has anyone ever heard of Christ harming someone? He loves us. That is the reason why He is with us in the Blessed Sacrament. He comes to us when we receive Holy Communion to help us and to heal us.
He will NOT cause allergic reactions.
He will NOT make anyone sick.
He will NOT harm anyone.
It is TRULY Jesus Christ we receive, Body and Soul!

Whether regular wheat hosts or low-gluten hosts are used for Consecration, what is the difference? After the Consecration they are all the same - the True Body and Blood of Christ.

I believe that we do NOT need low-gluten altar breads but rather solid catechism. I think I heard somewhere that a survey revealed that 70% of US Catholics do not really believe in the Real Presence. That’s where the problem is.

By the way, if you want to see what the low-gluten altar breads look like go to this website:


They are the most horrible looking hosts I have ever seen and I cannot imagine these ugly and sloppy looking things to be consecrated into the Body of Christ.
I actually ordered a free sample and they really look like this if not worse…
To me it’s a disgrace and an insult to Our Lord.

What I do know is that the devil is working really hard to destroy the Faith in the Real Presence. And I know that this is one of the ways he is trying to undermine our Faith. We must not let this happen.

Why not receive receive Our Eucharistic Lord and ask for healing? He has come to heal the sick in body, mind, and soul.

Is anyone out there who does suffer from celiac disease but has a strong enough Faith to still receive Holy Communion without relying on low-gluten hosts?

That isn’t how it works. Yes, the bread becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ but the appearances of bread remain. If you looked at the Body under a microscope, you’d see the appearances of bread.

It is like the old Scholastic discussion about if the Precious Blood could get you drunk. You bet-it retains all the appearances of wine.

I agree totally. In addition, a full communion can be made by reception of either species.

Yes, we have some at our parish who get a blessing from the priest distributing Jesus in the Host, then they consume the Wine in which Jesus is really and truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity.

I would agree with ComradeAndrei. The word “appearance” does not refer only to the bread’s visually perceptable qualities.

There is a big difference between appearance and substance. You are both correct to say that the appearance of bread remains. It looks like bread (even under a microscope), it tastes like bread and it feels like bread.

But as the Catechism states, the substance has entirely changed at the Consecration. And the substance is not what it looks or tastes or feels like but the substance is what it actually IS no matter what it looks, tastes or feels like.

If you say that the wheat and water that the altar breads are made of are also part of the appearance (or so-called accidents) then what is the substance? What changes at the Consecration? If the wheat and water remain as part of the appearance this would imply that the Body and Blood of Christ is added to the altar bread. This is contrary to the Catholic belief.

Before the Consecration the substance is wheat and water.
After the Consecration the substance is the Body and Blood of Christ.
Therefore, although it still has the appearance of bread (taste, feel and look even under the microscope), it is not bread any longer, hence there is no wheat.

We as Catholics are obliged to believe exactly that and nothing else.
We are really and truly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.
It is so sad that the Faith in the Real Presence is so weak nowadays.

And I must emphasize again: Our Eucharistic Lord will NEVER hurt anyone. If we have the Faith He can heal. Nothing is impossible for God.

Jesus blasted the fig tree, drove money changers out of the Temple and will damn anyone who eats the Body and Blood unworthily. He certainly can and will hurt people!

What changes in the Consecration is the substance - which is not necessarily a perceptible physical quality or property of the bread and wine.

Imagine, if you will, that I could make a highly sophisticated robot-like creature - engineered in all respects to simulate a cat. It looks, sounds, smells, behaves and in perhaps 99% of all visible and perceptible respects is exactly like a cat. I’ll call it cat-bot.

Cat-bot can in fact be so well engineered and so catlike that people and other cats react to it in exactly the same way that they would a real cat. Those who are allergic to it may end up getting allergic to the smell or fur of cat-bot. Other cats may attempt to mate with cat-bot. That’s how catlike cat-bot can be.

No matter how sophisticated and lifelike the engineering got, however, cat-bot would still nonetheless never BE a cat, but a cat-bot. It is lacking some ‘substance’ or ‘essence’ or property that makes it a real, natural, live, cat.

This is what happens with transubstantiation. It’s possible that we’ll never know exactly what perceptible or imperceptible property of the bread and wine changes. We do know that just about every physical property that bread and wine possesses still exist in the Body and Blood as well.

It has nothing really to do with our faith or lack thereof. If you want proof of the Real Presence it’s in the Eucharistic Miracles such as Lanciano - where the Body and Blood turned into REAL flesh and blood in order to demonstrate the Real Presence to the unbelieving.

Not in the fact that people can’t get drunk or react to the gluten. They can and do.

Well for the same reason that you can get sick from drinking from the common cup, you can probably have an allergic reaction to the bread. I don’t drink from the cup since I don’t feel comfortable drinking from a common cup and it is not necessary anyways. Likewise, a person allergic to the bread can drink from the cup and it would be the same thing.

I can attest to the fact that if you drink too much of the precious blood you will get drunk. Sorry, but that is just a fact. I know that because I have. I was much younger, so I can use that as an excuse I guess. :thumbsup: While I truly appreciate and applaud the belief of the OP that nothing can or will happen if someone so imbides or is allergic to the wheat used in the Host, if sincere and he actually believes that, and the more I think of it the less I think he actually does, he is seriously misinformed.

Those type of statements were the same ones we used to try to trip up the Priests and Sisters in catechism classes. Didn’t really work then and they don’t work now.

you are expressing a natural confusion that arises when we use the words Real Presence to describe the reality of the sacrament, rather than the “technical” theological word, transubstantiation. To understand the meaning of that word it is necessary to understand St. Thomas’ philosophical explanation of the difference between substance and accidents (appearance detectably by the senses). There are many excellent threads on this already, search on transubstantiation or Real Presence.

shorthand, the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar in the Eucharist under the forms (appearance) of bread and wine is substantially, sacramentally His Flesh and His Blood, but as this is the unbloody sacrifice of Calvary made present and real, and his glorified Body in substance, the accidents (chemical makeup, appearance, taste, effects) of the matter used (ordinary bread and wine) remain the same. That means the effects, such as gluten reaction, inebriation if too much is drunk etc. remain the same.

Christ is sacramentally present in the Sacred Species.

You will find the same questions you raise discussed in threads that rebut Protestant accusations that we are cannibals for claiming to ingest the Body and Blood of the Lord.

I have a friend whose husband and daughter both have celiac and yes the host most certainly does cause an adverse reaction. It has nothing to do with lack of faith. Yes it absolutely is the body of Christ but our body still thinks it’s bread and reacts to it that way.

This is from the AAA forum:

The purpose of theology is not to replace faith with sure knowledge, but to show that it is not unreasonable to believe. The accidents, those aspects of the Eucharist that are not essential to it (the appearances, the weight, taste, natural effects), do not change. Only the very essence of the bread and wine changes. The change that takes place cannot be physically measured or seen. The Eucharist requires the same faith from us that it required of the disciples.

click here for link

It is my understanding that the “gluten” in the host is a natural effect therefore that does not change. The “gluten” in the food after the consecration is the “accidents” and the “accidents” remind even though the very essence has changed.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1994 made a statement describing the norms for the use of a low-gluten host and mustum.

In case you were wondering By is understood fresh juice from grapes or juice preserved by suspending its fermentation (by means of freezing or other methods which do not alter its nature).

Why would the use of mustum be needed? It’s the norms set out for those priest that suffer from alcoholism or any other condition where they can not consume even the smallest amount of alcohol. click here the 1994 document

I believe I read somewhere that now a man that is known to suffer from alcoholism cannot enter into the priesthood. However, I can’t find that now. I don’t know if it is something I read in a book or on the web. That’s why I’m having a hard time find it.

Any back to the low-gluten host. I do know of a group of Nuns that have been able to make a host that has .01% gluten in it. Which means that it is 99.9% gluten-free. 99.9% gluten-free is safe for several people that suffer from Celiac disease but not all. Also, some with Celiac disease cannot have the wine. Some with Celiac disease are also allergic to the wine or can’t have the wine because of the few crumbs that fall into the chalice from when the priest broke the host over the chalice.

Here is the links about the host that the nuns make:

Also here is a link to the USCCB web-page regarding low-gluten host:

I’d also like to mention that for those who cannot receive --and this not only encompasses those with diseases like celiac sprue but also those who are comatose, cannot swallow, etc., --and also those who may not receive due to not being in a state of grace–that making a Spiritual Communion is an excellent option.

God knows what is in our hearts. He, who sacrificed His Son for us, knows what a sacrifice those who wish to receive–but cannot or may not–are making.

It can and HAS happened. A few years back my diocese had a very large multiparish mass with about 1500 in attendance. Unfortunately someone made ther very very very very bad decision to offer both species. THERE WAS GALLONS of the precious blood left over and I mean GALLONS. There wasd about 30 Knights of columbus there that were forced to consume the remaining precious blood. Keep in mind that this celebration was in a convention center so there was no piscina (sacrararium) nearby. some of the Kights drank 2-3 full glasses of the precious blood. Some of them got quite snockered from the whole ordeal. The Big mistake was in offering under the cup. the congregation of worship has insisted that only the host should be offered at large Masses.

There is nothing wrong with what is stated above.

However: The next question that needs be asked, wrt to OP, is: What causes a bad reaction for the sufferer of celiac-sprue disease? Ingesting something containing the substance of gluten? Or ingesting something bearing the accidents of gluten?


I read that and I wanted to cry! Thank God, looks are not everything!

If Catholics make statements like that, then what is to stop Non-Catholics from looking at the host can saying, “I can’t believe you think God is in that thing” or “I can’t believe you think that is God”

What did the bread that Jesus shared with His disciples look like? What did the host look like in 100 AD? or 500 AD? or 1000 AD? or 1200 AD? If Christ is truly present does it matter what it “looks” like?

You are right the devil is working really hard to destroy the Faith in the Real Presence. One way the devil does this is by having us worry about how the host looks. (In my opinion)

a wonderful priest told me after I had made a similar comment…“remember that we are both Body and Spirit, just as our Souls are fed by light of God’s Graces, so to must our Bodies be fed. God does not use food as a starting point for no reason.”

Someone remind me, the adding of a piece of the Host to the Chalice only needs to be done to the main Chalice correct?

Yes the main Chalice…and at times that is the only Chalice offered…

At our parish, only the main Chalice is offered during daily Mass.

But on Sundays we have more than one. And our Priest makes sure that the main one goes to his left and I always sit to his right. :thumbsup:

Yes, I have Celiac Disease. If I ingest the protein found in wheat, rye or barley, my body will have an autoimmune reaction and attack itself.

It has nothing to do with believing in the Real Presence. I believe in the Real Presence. It has everything to do with not putting our God to the test. I would no more receive the Host as I would throw myself off a bridge and expect God to let me live.

And although the “low gluten” hosts are approved by the American Bishops. They are not approved by many American doctors. They are made with wheat starch. If Wheat Starch were listed on a package, I couldn’t eat it, so I can’t use the hosts made with wheat starch.

I have a relative that has Celiac Disease, and it is my understand that the disease effect people in different ways. Some people can tolerate really small, small amounts of gluten. Others have to be totally, 100% gluten free. It’s like the reaction level is different to different people.

Similar to people that have allergies to animals. Some can be around the animals but only for short periods of times, others have to stay totally 100% away… Or at least that is what has been explained to me.

So for some having a host that is 99.9% Gluten Free is just fine, but for others it’s not! (That’s why my post said it’s safe for several people with Celiac Disease)

The only why to have a host that is 100% safe for ALL people that suffer from Celiac Disease would to have a host that is made with rice. However that will never happen:

Canon 924:2 — The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is no danger of spoiling.

It is my understanding that that is something that cannot change, because at the last supper Christ used a wheat bread. So we must use a wheat bread to have a “valid” communion.

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