Okay, looks like it's time for a crash course in Catholic sacraments for the uninitiated...
According to Catholic belief, in order for a sacrament to be valid, two things are necessary:
1. Proper matter
2. Proper form
Matter refers, in the case of the Eucharist, to things like the bread and wine that are consecrated and become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of
Jesus Christ. In some cases, it can refer to less tangible things, such as repentance in the case of Reconciliation, but that doesn't apply so much
in the case of the Eucharist (although partakers must be properly disposed and not in a state of mortal sin to receive actual graces from the
Form refers to the words and actions involved in the sacrament (in the case of the Eucharist, one of the Eucharistic prayers and certain other
If the matter and/or form of the sacrament is not proper, then the sacrament is invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Now how does this apply to this case? Simple: The matter for the sacrament of the Eucharist consists of unleavened bread made of wheat and pure,
acceptable quality wine made of grapes and containing at least some minimum amount of alcohol that I don't recall off the top of my head. This
matter has been used by the Catholic Church in this way for approx. 2000 years, based on a combination of Scripture and the established traditions of
the Church (which are the two sources of Catholic doctrine). The idea is this: Scripture and tradition tell us that at the Last Supper (which is
where Catholics believe Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist), He said "This is my body," referring to bread that was undoubtedly
made of wheat and "This is my blood," referring to wine that was pretty much undoubtedly made of grapes and contained alcohol, and that is how the
Church has done it for 2000 or so years now. It's not that the Catholic Church is just tyring to be cruel or "drive away more followers," but it
does not feel that it has any right or even ability to change anything other than wheat bread into the Body of Christ, because the Church has never
been given any divine authority or ability to do so. In other words, the Catholic Church knows that wheat bread can be changed into the Body, Blood,
Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, but it has no particular reason to believe that other things would be changed in the same way; it would
be seen as rather presumptuous to just make up new ingredients and say, "Alright, God, we're gonna change this little detail, alright? Surely He
won't mind, huh. Nah." And I mean after that, how far might it go? Jello as the Eucharist if there isn't any bread around? It could get a bit
ridiculous. Basically, it's not that the Church wouldn't like to be able to make an exception - it's that it believes itself to be powerless to
do so. You can agree with that belief or not, but regardless, this is a matter of inability, not heartlessness.
That being said, it needs to be understood that although receiving the Eucharist is very important to Catholics, the Catholic Church does not teach
that God is somehow limited by the sacraments He has instituted. After all, He created them, and He can bypass them if necessary. The Eucharist is
an ORDINARY means by which the Church teaches that God imparts grace, but it is not the ONLY way possible. God is just, and He doesn't just say,
"Oh, well, I allowed you to be born with an allergy to wheat gluten, so I guess you're just out of luck. Burn in hell, sucker!" He has other ways
that the Catholic Church does not claim to know or understand by which He can impart all the same graces that this girl would have normally received
through the Eucharist, and I htink He will make use of them here. She's just sort of a special case, if you will...
By the way, this is not the only case in which people can be (and sometimes are) denied access to certain sacraments in the Catholic Church for
reasons that aren't necessarily "their fault," so to speak. For example, people with certain forms of paralysis cannot get their marriages
recognized by the Catholic Church if it is not possible for them to consummate their marriage. Again, it's not like the Church is punishing people
for their medical conditions, it's just that in this case, sexual intercourse is a necessary part of the Catholic sacrament of marriage (those with
this wrongheaded and misinformed belief that the Catholic Church sees sexual relations as inherently "dirty" or even a taboo topic of discussion may
find this hard to believe, but it's true), and if that's not possible, neither is a sacramental marriage within the Catholic Church. It's not
cruelty or heartlessness, just an unavoidable result of a certain part of the faith.
Now for my comments on a few specific posts:
When I was a child, brought up Catholic, I was told that during the mass, the wafer actually became the flesh of Jesus Christ. This, I was told, is
not symbolic but actual (Transubstatiation).
So - if Transubstantiation is true, it shouldn't make any difference if the wafer contained wheat or not, since according to Catholic doctrine, the
wafer becomes Christ's body. (ie no longer its original substance).
Either they allow this child's Communion to stand or they just dump the whole doctrine - they can't have it both ways.
Not exactly, Pisky. As I said, this is purely a matter of having the proper matter (no pun intended) for the sacrament. It has nothing to do with
what the substance of the ingredients is after consecration - the problem is that if the proper matter is not present, the Church does not believe
that the "consecration" (rendered invalid by the improper matter) takes place at all. The flaw in your logic is the assumption you are making that
the Doctrine of Transubstantiation states that anything, be it a brick, a blob of slime, an ice cube, the air in a room, or whatever (since the
ingredient used "shouldn't make any difference"), as long as it is consecrated, will become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
That is just not what the doctrine states - it applies only to wheat bread and grape wine. In reality, nobody is trying to "have it both ways"
I have read and re-read and read this article again, trying to make sense of it. So now Jesus is a gluten-based entity? This is the most ridiculous
thing I've ever heard in my life, denying a child the sacraments because of the church's dogmatic dietary rules. It's not like we're talking
kosher vs. non-kosher here. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in the bible or anywhere else that says Jesus = wheat gluten.
No, nobody said that, "Jesus is a gluten-based entity." This is a classic example of somebody taking a Catholic doctrine that he/she does not
understand and using it to make fun of the Church. The whole idea of transubstantiation is that the substance of the bread changes into the substance
of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. There is a change in substance from gluten to Jesus. Once the substance becomes Jesus, the
substance is no longer gluten. If Jesus were a "gluten-based entity" to begin with, there would be no need for the substance to change from gluten
to Jesus. Thus, there is no need (or even possibility) for the substance of the ingredients at the beginning of the sacrament to be the same as the
substance of the ingredients at the end of the sacrament. Does that not make sense? You are exactly right to say that there is nothing in the Bible
that says "Jesus=wheat gluten," but it does say in the Bible that Jesus used bread (which consists of wheat gluten) at the Last Supper, and that is
in part the reason why only wheat bread can be used according to Catholic belief. As I have stated previously, the problem is with invalid matter,
not "dogmatic dietary rules."
Are they just looking for new ways to alienate more followers? As if they didn't have anough problems already!
No. They are holding fast to a tradition that has been around for millenia and that Catholics believe has been handed down from Christ Himself. The
teaching that the matter for the sacrament of the Eucharist is wheat bread has been around for an extremely long time. It's not a "new way to
alienate more followers." Yeah, we have plenty of problems, but throwing our sacred traditions out the window is not the answer to them. I'm truly
sorry you feel such contempt for the Catholic Church, but if the Church got rid of everything that makes some misinformed people feel contempt toward
her, I dare say there probably wouldn't be that much left.
I mean, it must be something to condemn a five-year-old over it.
If this is a five-year-old, she should not be receiving First Communion yet anyway, because the age of reason has been set by the Catholic Church as
seven years of age. That said, regardless of age, she isn't being condemned. I would think whatever priest presided over the sacrament might be
disciplined, because this is stuff Catholics learn in high school, and he should know better. However, the girl could not be reasonably expected to
understand the details of all this, and I'm sure she is not the one being "condemned." It's just that the sacrament has been (correctly) declared
Surely God could make an exception?
As I said before, the Catholic Church is not saying He won't, and I think He will. The Church is just sticking to what it knows it has been given
authority to do and leaving the rest to God, nothing more, nothing less. God may very well make an exception (and I don't doubt that He will), but
that is for God to decide, not the Church. As I have said before, the sacraments are the ordinary way God set up to impart grace, but He has others
that do not necessarily involve Him working directly through the Church in the way that He does in the Eucharist. Again, she is a special case.
There are many examples of this. Just one: Let's say somebody tries hard to form a sound conscience and does the best job he/she can to live a good
life according to the dictates of that conscience, but he/she is not baptised because he/she never had any opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ, or
maybe had Jesus and His Church presented in a way that made Him seem evil or something (note that this does not mean that we think laziness in forming
the conscience or seeing Jesus and His Church as good and necessary for salvation and still willingly rejecting them are acceptable). That person had
what we Catholics call an "invincible obstacle" in his/her way that prevented him/her from receiving the sacrament of baptism. However, God can
still impart the graces of baptism to this person, and this person can still be saved and can still go to heaven through a "baptism by desire." In
much the same way, if this girl has an invincible obstacle that prevents her from receiving the Eucharist, God has other options open to Him, being
omnipotent and all. Oh, and by the way, this girl is not "allergic to Jesus" either. The allergic reaction is a reaction to chemical attributes,
which do NOT change as a result of the consecration! Thus, I would argue that she would still just have an allergic reaction to the chemical
attributes of wheat gluten, not actually Jesus, who is substantially but not chemically present following consecration. However, this gets into some
really deep philosophical stuff about substance and accidents and could turn into a very long, complicated discussion on the finer points of Catholic
doctrine on transubstantiation in the Eucharist... Anyway, I guess she's not the Antichrist after all! ;-)
Oh, and one more general thing. This is kind of going out on a limb and would not really be the usual way of doing things per se. I could be wrong -
I'd have to ask some more knowledgeable person - but I don't see anywhere that this girl is allergic to wine. It is generally said, even by
Catholics, that the bread turns into the Body and the wine turns into the Blood, but this is not strictly true. The actual doctrine is that BOTH
become the full Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Thus, it MIGHT be possible that this girl could actually receive
the fullness of the sacrament without any wheat gluten involved. Like I said, I might be missing something, but I wonder... Maybe this is all just
much ado about nothing! Nevertheless, I hope this has to some degree enhanced everyone's understanding of the Catholic Doctrine of
Transubstantiation and the sacrament of the Eucharist according to Catholic belief. Sorry this was quite long, but it can be a complex subject, and I
felt that it needed to be said. If anyone else has any other questions, or if other more knowledgeable people around here have comments, feel free to
throw them out, of course!