MORAGA (KPIX 5) — The Vatican is refusing to go gluten-free.
According to the church, the bread used for communion must include gluten and cannot be a gluten-free alter bread as part of a new Vatican directive.
The directive has officially been in place since June, but has started to stir the pot after it was reported on the Vatican Radio over the weekend.
The Catholic Church is known for sticking to time-honored traditions no matter how quickly the world changes and that is particularly true with those that involve Jesus Christ himself.
Father John Morris at St. Mary’s College in Moraga says that is why, in June, the Pope issued a directive to all bishops prohibiting the use of gluten-free communion host.
“That’s totally off limits…nobody’s going to change that,” Fr. Morris said.
Fr. John Morris, an adjunct professor of religious studies, said, “The host has to have some wheat in it…so it fits the definition of real bread.”
To Catholics, bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ and it is offered during masses as a remembrance of Jesus at the Last Supper.
But lately people began asking Rome if they could offer gluten-free hosts made of, say, rice or potato, for parishioners who may be allergic to wheat.
Now, they’ve got their answer.
“It must be bread…and in this instance it must be wheaten bread because the tradition goes back as far as we can remember,” said Fr. Morris.
The debate isn’t a new one.
At the Vatican II conference in the 1960s there was argument over what even constituted bread and wine, could Saki be served in Japan or tacos in Mexico?
Fr. Morris says they had to draw a line somewhere.
“The people just simply said, you know, we have to stick with the symbol that Jesus himself used,” Morris said.
In fairness, the Vatican does allow extremely low-gluten hosts with only 20 parts per million of wheat.
And people with strict non-gluten diets can take only wine for communion if they choose. But as of now, the Church will be sticking with wheat, a recipe that they believe comes from the highest authority.
“It goes back to Jesus himself…They don’t mess with that tradition, no,” Morris said.
The policy was actually created in 2003, but bishops were reminded of it in the June letter. It was made public by Vatican Radio last Saturday.