The celiac wars

The celiac wars

I didn’t get a chance to blog this before the Triduum, but here’s another story that seems to crop up every year: a First Communicant with celiac sprue disease whose parents cause a stink because they aren’t allowed to use a rice wafer. As usual, the media and others feel free to dictate to the Church what her theology and beliefs should be: “How could you be so cruel as to deny this little girl her rite of passage. It’s only a little wafer.”

No, it’s not.

On the other hand, I think blame must be equally spread among the pastor and DRE, the parents, and the media. The pastor and DRE should never have let it get to this point. If they were properly educating both parents and children they might understand the church’s teaching. I do recognize that you can’t make someone believe or understand, which is where I blame the parents. They’re treating the sacrament as a cultural custom and not as the most Holy Sacrament it is and at some point they decided to go to the media with this. Why? What do they hope to gain by this? And I blame the media for blowing this story out of proportion. Once again, we have what is really a non-story being fitted into the same old media template: Big, bad Catholic Church hurts little children.

What we end up with is more confusion about the Real Presence in the Eucharist and a little girl caught in the middle.

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  • These people would prefer, I suppose, that their daughter receive the rice product all her life, thinking she was receiving the Body & Blood of the Lord when she’s really doing no such thing.

    This is exactly the situation of a Catholic woman in Alberta who was told by her bishop that rice was OK. For nearly 10 years, she has been faithfully baking rice wafers and bringing them to Mass each Sunday for a priest to “consecrate” in her personal pix.

    But rice is invalid matter.  She’s deluding herself.

    Yet the bishop approved . . . and I have no authority, so why would she listen to me? Never mind that I had a copy of the instruction from the Vatican on the subject. . . the bishop approved.

  • If you read the linked story, you will see that they’re afraid even a drop of wine will also cause her problems (yeast in the wine, etc.).

    Of course, they also don’t want her to “stand out” from the other kids by having to do something different.

  • I know, but she has mutliple health problems. They’re investigating whether the low-alcohol version of wine approved for alcoholic priests can be used. Like I’ve said on countless occasions, people should read the linked article before making their comments and looking silly because they didn’t.

  • In a situation like this, if the offer of a tiny drop of the Precious Blood were rejected, I’d be tempted to say—in response to the insistence on a rice wafer, its invalidity notwithstanding . . .

    “OK, since the transubstantiation and Real Presence aren’t important to you, but only mere symbolism—have your rice wafer.

    “Only since there’s no need for wheat and wine, why is there need for the rice wafer to be on the altar? Why is there need for the priest to be involved—at all? Feel free to pop the rice wafer in your mouth at any time, calling it whatever you want to call it . . . since what Church teaching isn’t terribly important . . .”

    I mean, really—exactly who says wheat and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus? The Church says!

  • In a relevation, I thought:

    Would I be brave enough to have my child receive Holy Communion if he/she had these diseases?  It certainly would be a great leap of faith:  Risk death to receive Our Lord.

    I praise God that I am not confronted personally with that question.

    How many of us truly believe, in our very souls,  that the Eucharist is indeed, the Risen Christ?  There are many saints in Heaven, who lost their lives over the Holy Eucharist.

    The validity of the Eucharist is essential.  Would the bloggers here have their child “risk their earthly life” to receive Our Lord?

    It is a very, very deep question…

  • If I had a child who was unable to receive Communion for any reason, I would tell the child to make a spiritual Communion. I have a daughter who is developmentally delayed and I have told her that this probably means she may not be able to marry and have children. Sometimes God’s Will is hard to understand, but we must always accept it and trust Him.

  • Hey Rick.
    I don’t know that my answer will be substantially any better than Liam’s, but I’ll give it a shot. If I just seem to repeat what he said, then I apologize.

    We stick to wheat because, for reasons that Liam explained, it is what can be considered bread, and that is important in order to fulfill the words of Christ when we repeat those words at the sacrifice of the Mass, namely that he took “bread” and gave thanks, and so forth. The Church has stood in unbroken tradition about this, such that it has long been dogmatically defined according to that which Christ himself used.

    Wine must be used for a similar reason. Christ used wine made of grapes in accordance with what Jewish custom demanded, and then later this is doubly reinforced when he says “Truly I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25) So according to that scripture, we say that it cannot be any other kind of fermented fruit, but it must be the fermented juice of the grape. Which grape doesn’t really matter.

    There are of course more technical definitions that the Church has to define what constitutes each of these, such as saying that the bread must have a certain amount of gluten in order to be proper, but I do not know what all of that entails. If you want me to, I know a couple people who might know more, and I can ask them for more information, if you ask me to do so.

  • Though to add to that, churches in the Latin Rite are allowed to use leavened bread only if they have received special permission: this is very rare in the Latin Rite, but it does happen. Eastern Rite Catholics usually use leavened bread.