The question of using gluten-free Communion hosts has been raised recently
in the United States and Australia by those suffering from a gluten
intolerance known as celiac sprue disease.
In the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, and in Sydney, two families with
members who have celiac say they will appeal to the Vatican in order to
receive Communion hosts made of something other than wheat.
Officials at the Vatican said this week that the case of Communion for
those with gluten-intolerance has already been addressed in several
instructions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and that
those suffering from celiac disease can partake of a valid Communion by
receiving only the Precious Blood.
The relevant canons on the question fall under the section "The Rites and
Ceremonies of the Eucharistic Celebration," particularly:
— The bread must be only wheat and recently made so that there is
no danger of spoiling.
Canon 925 —
Holy communion is to be given under the form of bread alone, or under both
species according to the norm of liturgical laws, or even under the form
of wine alone in a case of necessity.
Canon 926 —
According to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church the priest is to
use unleavened bread in the eucharistic celebration whenever he offers it.
The doctrinal congregation has further issued several instructions on the
question including a June 4, 1979, letter to the U.S. bishops' conference
on the nature and matter of the Eucharistic bread; an Oct. 29, 1982,
response on Communion of the faithful under only the species of wine; and
a June 19, 1995, letter to presidents of episcopal conferences on the use
of bread with small quantities of gluten.
The above instructions say that:
a) The "matter" of the Eucharistic host must be bread since this is what
Christ instituted at the Last Supper. Bread, by definition, must contain
b) Jesus is the same under both species. In the case where one cannot eat
the Communion host, receiving the Precious Blood alone can be considered a
It will seem intransigent to some that only bread can be used for the
Communion host. But Vatican officials stress that this is not an
administrative question but a doctrinal one.
Further, it is a doctrinal question that concerns the sacraments, and the
Church, officials note, does not have the authority to change the
substance of the sacraments. ZE04082622