Thursday, October 21, 2004

Celiac Sprue Disease - FAQ

The following are excerpts from the United States Bishops A Short Introduction to Holy Communion and Celiac Sprue Disease.

What is Celiac Sprue disease?
In recent years, many have worked to foster an increasing awareness of the significant effects of Celiac Sprue disease on people’s lives. The digestive system of those with this condition is considerably compromised by the consumption of gluten, one of the major ingredients in wheat flour. It is estimated that as many as fifteen percent of all persons of northern European origin are affected by this disease to some degree.

How does this affect those who go to Holy Communion?
This is a particular challenge to Catholics, who believe that the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the reception of Holy Communion are the very source and summit of the Christian life. Priests should show great pastoral sensitivity and compassion to anyone afflicted with this disease, but especially to the parents of children with a gluten intolerance at the time of their first Holy Communion.

Can low gluten hosts be used at Mass?
The Secretariat for the Liturgy of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference has devoted considerable resources to this question for the last seven years. Within the past year, the Secretariat has successfully assisted the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde Missouri in the production of a very low-gluten host which has been favorably reviewed by the publication Gluten-Free Living as “perfectly safe” for sufferers of Celiac Sprue disease. (See Ann Whelan’s “Make Your Own Decision” in Gluten-Free Living [vol. 9, no. 1], p. 4. In this same issue, see also Sr. Jeanne Crowe’s extensive review article on the low gluten host, “Catholic Celiacs Can Now Receive Communion”, pp. 3ff.)

Where can I buy these low gluten hosts?
Low gluten altar hosts are available from: the Congregation of Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Altar Breads Department, 31970 State Highway P, Clyde, Missouri 64432 (Phone:1-800-223-2772, online order form, or e-mail:

What if a person cannot consume low gluten hosts?
Such communicants may still receive the Precious Blood. Catholics believe that whoever receives Holy Communion only under the form of bread or only under the form of wine still receives the whole Christ, in his Body and Blood, soul and divinity.

Committee on the Liturgy. 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington DC 20017-1194. (202) 541-3000. © USCCB. All rights reserved.