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Gerard Cumore wrote:

Hi, guys —

I'm sending the following paraphrased article from the Associated Press.

In this specific case, do they have a good reason to petition the Vatican for an exception?


  { Do they have a good reason to petition the Vatican for an exception due to Celiac Disease? }

Girl with digestive disease denied Communion: 8-year-old cannot consume wheat wafers

August 20, 2004 BRIELLE, N.J. - An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a serious digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.

Now, Haley Waldman's mother is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the Vatican to make an exception, saying the girl's condition should not exclude her from the sacrament, which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. The mother believes a rice Communion wafer would suffice.

Church doctrine holds that Communion wafers, like the bread served at the Last Supper, must have unleavened wheat. Church leaders are reluctant to change anything about the sacrament.

“This is not an issue to be determined at the diocesan or parish level, but has already been decided for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world by Vatican authority,”

Trenton Bishop John M. Smith said in a statement last week.

Genetic intolerance:

Haley was diagnosed with celiac sprue disease when she was 5. The disorder occurs in people with a genetic intolerance of gluten, a food protein contained in wheat and other grains. When consumed by celiac sufferers, gluten (pronounced GLOO'-ten) damages the lining of the small intestine, blocking nutrient absorption and leading to vitamin deficiencies, bone-thinning and sometimes gastrointestinal cancer.

The diocese has told Haley's mother that the girl can receive a low-gluten wafer, or just drink wine at Communion, but that anything without gluten does not qualify. Waldman's mother rejected the offer, saying her child could be harmed by even a small amount of the substance.

Fr. Nick replied:

Dear Gerard:

This is an area of grave concern for those individuals suffering from this disease. We do have special hosts available, and they are being used. Thus far, each parishioner afflicted has consulted their physician, and they have given the 'OK' to these special hosts, which are approved by the Church.

  • Was there was no statement from this child's physician addressing this?
  • Is her condition so severe that even the most limited amount in these hosts are prohibited?

Fr. Nick

Eric replied:

Gerard —

I would say they do not have a good reason to petition the Vatican for an exception — this matter has already been settled, and no one is going to change the Holy See's judgment on the matter.

Let's examine the facts. Any celiac is free to receive Holy Communion under the form of wine alone. If they are among the small minority of celiacs who are hyper-sensitive, they might need their own separately-consecrated cup, but that's feasible.

So the Church offers her Communion in a form she can consume and, hence, is not preventing her from coming to Jesus. The problem is, for personal reasons, her mother doesn't want her to drink alcohol.

What we have here is 2,000 years of Sacred Tradition from the Apostles, versus one mother,
who for reasons that are unclear, stubbornly denies her daughter the Cup.

One more comment: Celiac sprue disease is a continuum. While a tiny number will get violently ill with the least gluten, many celiacs can tolerate low-gluten hosts made especially for them, perhaps with minor discomfort. I don't know anything about this little girl, but before I draw any conclusions about the situation, I'd like to know whether it is clear that she cannot tolerate even low-gluten hosts.

If this is an issue with any individual or family member, they may contact:

The Catholic Celiac Society.

Information from their web site:

The Catholic Celiac Society is being organized by a group of dedicated Catholics with celiac disease who are interested in working from within the Church to educate other Catholics with celiac disease about their options for Holy Communion, to inform the Church about the special challenges faced by people with celiac disease, and to reconcile those people with celiac disease who have left the Church because of the issues surrounding communion.

The Mass for Catholics with celiac disease is an opportunity for them to gather as ONE community to witness to the Church that we are here and that we love the Church and need her understanding. Holy Communion will be provided under the forms of BOTH bread and wine. The celebration of the Mass REQUIRES the use of the sign of bread, so we will be using low-gluten altar bread which is approved by the Church. Catholics may receive Holy Communion from the cup, or receive the low-gluten host, or both. Our intent is to offer the low-gluten hosts to those who CHOOSE to receive them.

Please consider joining us. You can contact:


Fr. Francis replied:

Hi, Gerard —

I just wanted to make the point:

The Eucharist is not a right in the sense of Civil rights.

Fr. Francis

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