Contact our office if your parish should be added.
Celiac Disease, Alcohol Intolerance, and the Church's Pastoral Response
From the Committee on Divine Worship Newsletter, October 2012
(updated April 20, 2016)© 2012-2016, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. For those with the disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in the small intestine. Over time, this immune reaction damages the small intestine's lining and hinders absorption of some nutrients. The intestinal damage often causes stomach pain, diarrhea, and weight loss, and can lead to serious complications. A Mayo Clinic-led analysis published in 2012 estimates that roughly 1.8 million Americans have the disease, but around 1.4 million of them are unaware that they have it.Given the serious health risk for those suffering gluten intolerance, it is important for pastors and other Church leaders not only to be aware of the reality, but prepared to address the situation of Catholics with celiac disease who come to parishes and seek to receive Holy Communion in a safe, sensitive, and compassionate manner.
For those members of the faithful with gluten intolerance, even trace amounts of gluten can be damaging. It is important, therefore, to be mindful of "cross-contamination" when using either low-gluten hosts or when offering Holy Communion to someone only under the species of wine. It might be best, for example, for the communicant to prepare a pyx with the low-gluten host before Mass, in order to avoid the situation of a sacristan who has handled the other hosts also to handle the low-gluten ones. At Communion time, then, they could approach the sanctuary together with any Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and receive the pyx from the celebrant with the words "The Body of Christ" (or, if possible, they could be given the pyx within the normal Communion line, provided "contamination" from handling of the pyx is avoided). Similarly, it might be necessary for someone who has permission to receive Holy Communion under the species of wine alone to prepare before Mass a chalice, which will not be part of the commingling rite and from which either they alone will receive or from which they will be the first to receive. Such precautions are not only medically necessary, but they demonstrate compassion to avoid singling out those who want to receive Communion, but are unable to receive one or the other species.