An Open Letter to the Catholic Church Leaders

The altar at St. Damien’s in Kaunakai, island of Moloka`i. St. Damien’s is the rebuilt church of the former St. Sohpia’s, where I spent many Sunday mornings with my grandparents and witnessed many family members married there.

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.  



  1. Please consider pushing for reception of the Precious Blood (under the form of wine only), which suffices for a true Communion, even if you have to receive that after the Mass. I suspect that accomodation in that form will eventually be made as perception of this problem grows. For my own perceived needs at this point, I just motion and request a fragment of the Host when receiving. A weekday Mass I occasionally attend at one church provides separate and optional reception of the Precious Blood from the chalice… in that instance, I skip the Host reception and proceed to receive the Precious Blood.

  2. And here’s the thing–there is no precedent in the bible for communion rules–other than a sharing of a meal, as Jesus did with his disciples. In Paul’s day, “communion” was a large meal shared by the members of the congregation he was visiting.

    it is ridiculous and antiquated to hold fast to some ancient rule set up by some ancient dude, when the “other” rules (like wearing blended fibers or women speaking in church) are no longer in play. The Catholic church is losing touch with reality, and then wonders why it’s numbers are falling.


    (says the monotheistic pagan)

  3. It seems to me that it would be the role of the church to provide safety for the body and soul. We are told to take care of our Earthly form to honor Him, yet some leaders of the church would see some of its followers intentionally made ill? That seems like a bit of a paradox to me. Good for you for taking a stand. I think it is very well written.

    • No, I am not. I am a Christian and spent Sundays in the Summer at Mass in my grandparents’ church as a child and have received Communion in Catholic churches as an adult.

      • One point you made is that the body and blood of Christ is a symbol, when in fact, in the Catholic faith, it is considered the body and blood of Christ. That is one of the differences that exist between the Catholics and other Christian religions. After our diagnosis, we have had to make many adjustments and changes that also included the ability to participate in communion at church. We have also learned that one step at a time and continue the dialogue within our parish to help deal with this. If we leave the parish because of this, there will never be change. And also if we don’t handle it with understanding, than they will not listen. Just one persons perspective.

        • I commend you for being able to work with your parish and your parish being able to work with you. As an advocate, yes, it is important to deal with it. However, if after repeated attempts to work together, things aren’t moving forward, sometimes you need to make other changes. I have posted numerous times on advocating for yourself. I know I didn’t make it clear in the post, but there was a lot I left out of the post intentionally. What I said about the body and blood of Christ was MEANT to be a symbol. I know that many Catholics believe it is the body and blood. Again, I left that out intentionally. I wanted this to be about a gluten-free issue not a “you believe this, I believe that, therefore…” issue.

          • Undoubtedly, many priests and bishops need to grow in understanding of this problem, with a greater willingness to find charitable workable accomodations. Don’t hold your breath waiting for a ‘rice cracker’ option, however, to change the “man-made laws of the Catholic Church”– as you put it. The Church’s belief in the Real Presence is based SPECIFICALLY on Jesus’ words at His Last Supper, when He took BREAD, and said “Take and eat…this is My Body”, and with wine “take and drink…this is My Blood.” Many walked away in those early days as they knew that He meant those words literally, but it was too much for them to accept. The Church does believe that the consecrated bread (Body) and/OR wine (Blood) constitute a full and valid reception of Communion, so reception of Christ’s blood under the form of wine, as I mentioned earlier, is one option that might be worked out within smaller parishes especially.

  4. If an omnipotent God can change a wheat cracker into the body of Christ, He can also do it with a rice cracker. Or is the omnipotence of God being questioned?

  5. I have celiac and am vry sensitive to any gluten but I order my communion host for the Benedictian sister who make a host that is 2ppm which is acceptiable in europ I was a litttle hesitant but tried them and whas tested no problem I put mine in a special pic which the priest hands to me at communion so it is tuched only by me and not comtaminated this has worked out very well for me

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