Dear Catholic Church Leaders,
I am dismayed that the Catholic Diocese of Columbus (Ohio) has ruled gluten-free hosts are to be banned because they do not contain wheat. I had this debate with some people in my area about a year ago and it wasn’t pretty. The Columbus Dispatch reported on this recent ban on June 1, 2012 and included this in the article:
Church law “calls for the host to be wheat and wheat only” because Jesus ate wheat bread with his apostles before his Crucifixion, said Deacon Martin Davies, director of the Office for Divine Worship at the Diocese of Columbus.
This is an antiquated law and the ban does nothing to consider the fact that the young girl in the article who was denied a gluten-free host or the millions of others living with Celiac, non-Celiac gluten intolerance, or wheat/gluten allergies who are denied the same because we have a chronic illness treated simply by avoiding gluten in everything we eat, drink, and use on our hands and face. We have no control over this disease other than the precautions we take. We certainly did not ask for it. And here we find ourselves being told, “No you can’t have something that will be safe, but you can have something that will make you sick.”
This. Is. Wrong.
God gave Moses ten commandments. I see nothing about wheat in Communion hosts in those commandments. Okay, so they were before Jesus’ time. Those laws are things over which we have control and free will to choose to follow or not. Even God saw the need for change as things change between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus gave us The Great Commandment. In my opinion, the best one out there. Love. We can choose to show love or not. Free will again.
So tell me, where is the love for those of us who have no control over this disease(s) and must live a gluten-free life, yet wish to express our faith through receiving Communion safely? Other churches (and by churches, I mean different Christian denominations) are allowing gluten-free hosts for communion, and here the Catholic Church stands, antiquated and refusing to budge. Where is the change that needs to happen when food allergies and intolerances are becoming more widely recognized and diagnosed correctly? Where is the compassion?
Refusing gluten-free hosts but allowing low gluten hosts is akin to poisoning your congregations members who cannot have gluten. Jesus meant for the bread he ate to be a symbol, not what everyone has to eat in a recreation of the Last Supper on Sunday mornings. I know through my faith and love for God that He would not want me ingesting something intentionally that makes me sick just because I was told I had no other choice if I wanted to participate in the sacrament. Why subject us to man-made laws? Anyone can discern that this is not God’s will. This is man’s will, stubbornness resisting change, and a refusal to acknowledge that we are humans with human needs that need to be attended to individually. This includes allowing gluten-free hosts and a separate wine glass for those who need to be gluten-free. Just remember God sees into your heart and knows why you make these decisions. I leave it to Him to judge you. But, if you are making decisions based on old laws and not what’s best for your people, what really is your purpose?
If you continue to refuse change and deny basic needs for food safety through Communion, you will lose church members worldwide. This is not just an American thing. There are people with these afflictions all over the world. People will seek God elsewhere in other churches and your pews will be empty.
Debi Smith, God-loving human being with Celiac
P.S. – To those of you with Celiac, non-Celiac gluten intolerance, or wheat/gluten allergies, if your church refuses to accommodate your food safety needs in order to take part in communion, find another church that will.