Attention to detail is critical for success in the gluten-free lifestyle. It is not surprising considering lives are turned upside-down by something measured in parts per million [yes, parts per million].
Please keep an open mind about the information presented here. It can be hard to comprehend that "The Staff of Life" can make someone sick. Science proves it to be true for about 3 million with celiac disease and an estimated 17 million with gluten sensitivities; just in the USA alone.
In this guide, you'll find information on gluten, how to eliminate gluten cross-contact, several recipes for gluten-free hosts, and links to commercially available gluten-free hosts.
If you have questions or desire additional help in instituting a gluten-free communion in your house of worship, please reach out to us.
Alan & Peggy Klapperich
Gluten Intolerance Group of East Central Wisconsin
By now, you’ve probably heard the news about the Catholic Church invalidating the use of gluten-free hosts for the sacrament of Holy Communion.
This news has riled up many in the gluten-free community.
It's nothing new and it has been this way for a long time. In the Catholic Church, it is impossible to consecrate anything other than wine (or mustum) and a host made of wheat and water. No priest or bishop can change 2,000 years of tradition and faith.
According to "Celiac Disease and Eucharistic Communion" by Anne Bamberg. The Jurist, 2003, 2001 (61), pp.281-289., the debate began in the 1970s. The large celiac populations of Ireland and Great Britain began asking questions of the Church.
Note from Al: I found Anne Bamberg's article very interesting. I highly recommend it. She describes celiac disease very well and shares some interesting insights into the Catholic faith.
The use of low/no gluten hosts has been reviewed by the Vatican several times over the years.
In 1995, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, takes up the subject in his June 19th letter to the Conference of Bishops.
The Cardinal, again validates low-gluten hosts - invalidates the use of gluten-free hosts. He also states:
"Given the centrality of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of the priest, candidates for the priesthood who are affected by celiac disease or suffer from alcoholism or similar conditions may not be admitted to holy orders."
Yes, this means someone with celiac disease could not be an ordained priest. The Supreme Pontiff did not approve Cardinal Ratzinger's letter as it failed to seek out a favorable solution for sick or disabled persons.
In 2001, then five-year-old Jenny Richardson and her parents made national headlines for leaving the Catholic Church after Cardinal Bernard Law denied her a rice wafer for her First Communion.
In 2003, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (served as Pope from 2005 to 2013), once again revisits the topic…
In 2004, eight-year old Haley Waldman of New Jersey, had her First Communion declared invalid because a rice based wafer was used.
As one would imagine, low-gluten (not gluten-free) hosts would be a hot topic for the gluten-free community. The question becomes, how much gluten is in a low-gluten host?
When the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration first created their Low-Gluten Altar Breads, Dr. Alessio Fasano helped test the wafers in 2004. They tested at 100 parts per million. This is 5x more than the FDA currently allows for a gluten-free product.
Ten years later, in 2014, independent testing organization Gluten-Free Watchdog was asked by a subscribing member to test the Benedictine Sisters Low-Gluten wafers. Below are the results…
Gluten-Free Watchdog graciously granted GIG of ECW permission to share the testing results.
Thank you, GFWD for your hard work and dedication to the gluten-free community!
If you're not a subscriber, please consider becoming a member.
As GFWD points out, parts per million is a ratio. It tells us the amount of gluten per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of food. Knowing the amount of food eaten will determine how much gluten has been consumed.
Yes, they contain more than 20 ppm - 50 ppm and 63 ppm for their respective samples. Nope, not gluten-free by FDA standards, hence the name - low-gluten.
Testing reveals that a wafer weighs about 33 milligrams and contains .0019 milligrams of gluten.
Gluten-Free Watchdog provides a nice comparative:
A one-ounce slice of gluten-free bread (if it contained 19 ppm of gluten aka gluten-free according to FDA regulations) would contain roughly 0.57 milligrams of gluten.
That slice of GF bread could contain 300 times more gluten than one Low-Gluten Communion wafer.
On July 10th, 2017, two days after the Vatican issued their statement, The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri issued their own statement regarding their wafers.
You may have noticed above I bolded "A test done in 2016 indicated the gluten content was even more minimal - less than .001 percent" .
I completely missed that upon my first read through. It's a very important sentence to the gluten-free community. The Sisters use decimal percentage numbers in their communiques instead of parts per million. For those "mathematically challenged" individuals (yeah, that's me alright!), it doesn't sink in too well.
If we do the math (What?!?! I was told there'd be no math!), we find that .001% of gluten is really…drumroll please…10 parts per million. TA DA!
On July 18th, Center for Celiac Research and Treatment issued their response in a video.
As I was watching this "disturbance in the force" play out, I was becoming more and more disheartened. People were upset with the Church, people were upset with organized religion in general. I was seeing a lot of stone casting, but no one focused on "How much gluten constitutes a low-gluten wafer?"
Making choices about ones diet is a personal matter. Factor in a spiritual practice, and it complicates the matter exponentially.
If you're not the religious type, this situation may not make much sense to you. That's fine, this is not your issue to tackle. Please feel free to move on to a more suitable topic.
If you are the religious type, particularly Catholic, this situation was likely to induce some level of stress.
Sometimes, difficult decisions must be made. I share these facts neither in-favor-of nor opposition-to, but in an effort to help others make an informed decision.
We now know a low-gluten wafer contains magnitudes less gluten than a slice of gluten-free bread.
The wafers from The Benedictine Sisters might very well qualify for gluten-free certification (made in a dedicated GF facility and less than 10 parts per million of gluten).
I hope these facts make it easier for someone to reconcile this conundrum.
Alan Klapperich - Branch Manager
GiG of East Central Wisconsin