I find this disturbing

To deny someone the sacrament and say their communion is invalid because of a medical reason is not an acceptable practice.

Communion Mom Looks To VaticanBRIELLE, N.J., Aug. 19, 2004

Mom Mad At Church

Haley Waldman in her first Holy Communion dress (Photo: CBS/EARLY SHOW)Church doctrine holds that communion wafers must have at least some unleavened wheat, as did the bread served at the Last Supper.

Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman on the Early Show (Photo: CBS/EARLY SHOW)

Mother and daughter (Photo: AP)

(CBS/AP) An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot consume wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained none, violating Catholic doctrine. Now Haley Waldman’s mother, Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman, is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the Vatican to make an exception, saying the girl’s condition — celiac sprue disease — should not exclude her from participating in the sacrament, in which Roman Catholics eat consecrated wheat-based wafers to commemorate the last supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. Haley’s first communion was a magical event, other than having to wear a dress, which the tomboy hated, it went off without a hitch. Then her mother found out that church officials invalidated her daughter’s sacrament, reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin. “In my mind, I think they must not understand celiac,” said Pelly-Waldman, 30. “It’s just not a viable option. How does it corrupt the tradition of the Last Supper? It’s just rice versus wheat.” It’s more than that, according to church doctrine, which holds that communion wafers must have at least some unleavened wheat, as did the bread served at the Last Supper. The Diocese of Trenton has told Waldman’s mother that the girl can receive a low-gluten host, drink wine at communion or abstain entirely, but that any host without gluten does not qualify as Holy Communion. Pelly-Waldman rejected the offer, saying even a small amount of gluten could harm her child. Gluten is a food protein contained in wheat and other grains. “This is not an issue to be determined at the diocesan or parish level, but has already been decided for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world by Vatican authority,” said Bishop John M. Smith. “Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist,” Smith said in a prepared statement released by the diocese. Celiac sprue disease, an autoimmune disorder, occurs in people with a genetic intolerance of gluten. When consumed by celiac sufferers, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, blocking nutrient absorption and leading to vitamin deficiencies, bone-thinning and sometimes gastrointestinal cancer. Some Catholic churches allow the use of no-gluten hosts, others don’t, according to Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, a Studio City, Calif.-based support group for sufferers. “It is a dilemma,” said Monarch. “It is a major frustration that someone who wants to follow their religion is restricted from doing so because some churches will not allow it.” “It is an undue hardship on a person who wants to practice their religion and needs to compromise their health to do so,” Monarch said. Haley Waldman, a shy, brown-haired tomboy who loves surfing and hates to wear a dress, was diagnosed with the disorder at 5. “I’m on a gluten-free diet because I can’t have wheat, I could die,” she said in an interview Wednesday. Last year, in anticipation of the Brielle Elementary School third grader reaching Holy Communion age, her mother told officials at St. Denis Catholic Church in Manasquan that the girl could not have the standard host. The church’s pastor, the Rev. Stanley P. Lukaszewski, told her that a gluten-free substitute was unacceptable. But a priest at a nearby parish contacted Pelly-Waldman after learning about the dilemma, volunteering to administer the sacrament using a gluten-free host. She said she won’t identify the priest or his parish for fear of repercussions from diocese. On May 2, Waldman — wearing a white communion dress — made her first Holy Communion in a ceremony at the priest’s church. Her mother, who also suffers from celiac and had not received communion since her diagnosis four years ago, also received. But last month, the diocese told the priest that Waldman’s sacrament would not be validated by the church because of the substitute wafer. “I struggled with telling her that the sacrament did not happen,” said Pelly-Waldman. “She lives in a world of rules. She says, ‘Mommy, do we want to break a rule? Are we breaking a rule?'” Now, the mother is seeking papal intervention. She has written to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, challenging the church’s policy. “This is a church rule, not God’s will, and it can easily be adjusted to meet the needs of the people, while staying true to the traditions of our faith,” Pelly-Waldman said in the letter. For her part, Pelly-Waldman — who attends Mass every Sunday with her four children — said she is not out to bash the church, just to change the policy that affects her daughter. “I do believe that the church can grow and change to meet the needs of the people and now we need to show them that there is a need,” Pelly-Waldman said.


  1. Fric

    Guvnur!!! Long time no see, brother! Actually it was not declared invalid because of her medical condition. It was because the wafer was made from rice. I agree that the language and tone used in this situation is terrible, but I believe that according to the teaching of the Church, the child’s communion is not valid if there was no reception of the Holy Blood in addition to the rice wafer. Not sure if she received the cup or not, but the implication seems to be no. I say that because in receiving the cup we receive the full Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord.

    Further, the Church teaches that the Latin Rite wafers MUST be wheat and water only. Eastern Rites and Orthodox Rites may use leavened bread, but they still require it to be bread made from wheat.The reason being that the matter of the Sacrament has always been understood to be this and to be the same that Christ used at the Last Supper. Also, I saw a link at CWNews.com I believe that said the Vatican said wafers MUST contain wheat.

    Again, I believe they traumatized a situation that did not require it. The child should simply skip the host and receive the cup. The matter IS important and we cannot make exceptions based on our feelings and desire to be charitible. What if someone wanted to substitute chocolate chip cookies and cokes (as I read happened in the weirdness after V2)?

  2. Funky Dung

    While I have yet to find documentation that suggests wheat is dogmatic or doctrinal requirement (I’ve only found it in Canon Law), the issue remains that the girl’s mother refused to allow her daughter to receive the Precious Blood.

  3. Fric

    If she refused to allow the child to receive the Cup for other than medical reasons like a servere allergy to alchohol, then she is the one at fault here in my opinion regarding whether the Communion was invalid. The priest or other Church officials who were uncharitable are at fault for that. Where is the Love thy neighbor in their actions?

  4. Fric

    Funky Dung… Thanks for the link. Interesting thing about that article and one linked from it is that it makes it seem as if the wheat flour/water requirement is new and arbitrary. My understanding is that this has been the norm for pretty much the life of the Church. Only recently have they allowed low-gluten hosts and low-alchohol wine to be used. Also noted the use of the word “wine” when referring to the consecrated cup. Either a poorly catechized Catholic writer or a non-Catholic writer. 🙂

  5. Deacon

    The following is from Karl Keating’s email on September 1st, 2004 – I was hoping he would pick up on this one and comment. As usual he is right on the money – he explains they why and how the matter used for consecration DOES MATTER.

    I spoke with Guvner on this one when he posted this one and for once totally disagreed with him. He said that if Christ came down into Japan instead of the Middle east 2000 years ago he wuld have used Rice instead of wheat.

    I said – so? If Angels danced on pinheads?

    The point is he didn’t. He established the sacrament as he did and that is how we were given it.That’s what so many people here don’t get, and perhaps that’s the whole point of this.

    Humans did not “make up” this stuff, nor did the Church “opress” us by arbitrarily decreeing it the way they want and thereby obstinately refuse to “bend” because they wish to be “authoritative” or “remind us who’s making the rules”.

    Christ established the rules – we simply follow them.

    In other words, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is so precious and so sacred that any tampering with it at all is absolute anathema. The Church is simply defending the Sacrament – as Christ would wish us to do.

    It seems that the parents here, and any priests that “enable” them in this matter, have failed to have the faith of even the size of a mustard seed.

    The people involved here have only one wish – to simply challenge the authority of the church – pure and simple(something many in our society have vowed it seems.) This is evident in that the simple alternative of recieveing from the chalice only was never brought up.

    Anyone with a minimum of theological instruction in the eucharist knows that recieving either species is recieving the whole Christ – one drop to the tongue would be sufficient – and anyone no matter their medical condition would be able to tolerate that.


    It was the second such case to make the national headlines. A girl’s parents complained that their parish wouldn’t use a rice-flour wafer in Holy Communion. The girl has celiac disease, which prevents her from eating anything made of wheat because wheat has gluten in it. Rice doesn’t. The girl wants to go to Communion, so why not accommodate her by using some flour, such as rice, that doesn’t contain gluten?

    Can’t be done, said the diocese. That’s insensitive and discriminatory, said the parents.

    This is a replay of an earlier case. The result that time was that the parents left the Catholic Church and joined a Protestant church where their daughter could receive that church’s analogue of Communion in the form of a rice wafer. I don’t know what the result of the recent case will be–maybe the family will stay in the Church, maybe not–but reality needs to be respected and accepted.

    The reality is that a valid consecration requires a host made of wheat flour and water. In the West, the host is unleavened; in the East, it is leavened. But otherwise the host is nothing but wheat by the time it is brought to the altar (the water already having evaporated, of course).

    No other flour may be used: not rice, not barley, not corn, not rye, not anything else. The use of any flour other than wheat flour makes the bread invalid matter. If a priest said the words of consecration over such bread, nothing would happen. There would be no consecration, just as there would be no consecration if the wine were replaced with plain grape juice or with any other liquid.

    Why did Jesus choose wheat bread and wine as the elements of the Eucharist? Why didn’t he choose, say, rye bread and water or cheese and beer? Theologians offer us several reasons, but the bottom line is that our Lord could have chosen whatever he wished as the elements. Wheat bread and wine may have been the most suitable, for many reasons, but he could have chosen anything.

    We need to keep in mind that he did choose wheat bread and wine, and that’s that. Only those elements can be consecrated. Only those can be transubstantiated into his body and blood. Nothing else will work. This has been the constant teaching of the Church, from the earliest centuries, and it is an unchangeable teaching. Take it or leave it.

    The family in the first case decided to leave. Instead of accepting the reality of the sacrament, they chose to redefine it according to their own desires. I hope the second family comes to understand the teaching of the Church–I hope someone at the family’s parish is adept at conveying that teaching–and not just understand but accept.

    Those who suffer from celiac disease can be accommodated through the use of low-gluten hosts or, for those who can’t have even the slightest amount of gluten, through recourse to the chalice alone, even a separate mini-chalice into which no particle of the consecrated host is dropped by the priest.

  6. Deacon

    Thanks to the people at Catholic Answers for keeping the discussion on this item going until all of us now know the solution. The excerpt below from Karl Keating’s weekly e-letter contains a link to an article concerning the alternative for celiac sufferers that has been approved by the Church.

    With this alternative available to most sufferers, and the chalice available to all, this should be a issue put to rest once and for all.(even those with a “cross allergy” to wine can take one drop to the toungue.)

    Anyone who puts up an argument to this issue now is either ignorant to the turth (which we can gently instruct them on) or has some other agenda which will be made clear by their own mouths.


    I can understand how celiacs–people who can’t eat wheat and certain other grains because they have gluten in them–might feel left out at Communion time. Not that they can’t receive Communion. They can receive from the cup if not from the ciborium. Still, they no doubt wish they were able to receive hosts as do other communicants.

    Now there is a solution for almost all of them.

    Celiac disease is like other diseases in that it affects people variously. Some who have the disease, which is a digestive disorder, can eat bread and suffer only lightheadedness. Others can’t have even microscopic particles of bread without getting very ill. Most celiacs are somewhere in between. How might they be helped at Communion time?

    For them the solution lies in wheat hosts that have a very low gluten content. But there has been a problem with that. Until recently it didn’t seem possible to fashion hosts with almost no gluten and yet with the consistency of bread. Each attempt resulted in something inedible.

    But then some nuns who specialize in making hosts stumbled on the solution. Their story is told in this article: http://catholickey.org/index.php3?gif=news.gif&mode=view&issue=20040409&article_id=2858

    Greg Gaulin’s teenage daughter may find comfort in this. She was diagnosed with celiac disease when she was about four. When it was time for her First Holy Communion, she seemed to be out of luck.

    Gaulin said that, “as her father, I was incensed. I felt responsible for her spiritual well being, and I intended to fight for her to receive our Lord, just as I would fight for her to have adequate food, perhaps more so. But then I came to appreciate a few essential points.”

    He realized that he should “trust Christ,” who “loves my daughter more than I do. Don’t you think he might have considered this problem? Any drop of the Precious Blood is totally and completely the whole Lord. It’s simply not a question or proportion or quantity.

    “My daughter walks up to Communion with us at Mass but diverts to the Eucharistic minister who provides the Precious Blood. What a blessing that is! When I was younger, this was not an option. Of course, no one knew about celiac disease either.”

    Now Gaulin has another option, if the parish will go along with it: using, at least for parishioners such as his daughter, the hosts baked by the nuns mentioned in the article. If that happens, Gaulin’s daughter will be able to remain in the same Communion line as her parents.

  7. guvnur

    Very good info. I myself had not heard of this problem before now but I am very glad to see that there is possible solutions out there and it may have only been ingnorance of these possibilities that caused this to inflame so much.

    To many times of course people dont do the research and this can do much harm. Usually even if you have an unusual problem someone else has already had to address though on rare occasion one may be the first it would not be the norm I imagine.

  8. Do you think Christ would care if some little girl, seeking to make her first communion with her class, requested a host made of rice in lieu of a one made of wheat because she had celiac sprue disorder with its serious adverse health consequences involving an allergy to wheat with the inability to digest gluten contained in wheat?… problems which can include osteoporosis, tooth-enamel defects, nerve damage, internal hemorrhaging, organ disorders, and a greater likelihood of gastrointestinal cancer.

    The request by Haley Waldman’s mother to the ignorant male archbishop John Smith of Trenton New Jersey was denied in 2004 because rice is not wheat and only wheat could serve as the appropriate intermediary, the Bishop maintaining only unleavened wheat was use at the ‘Last Supper’. Can you believe it? What a jerk!

    Maybe the bread was rye, barley, or some other ancient ‘pulse’ like spelt that He used, who knows? It wouldn’t be the first time Scripture says that He used barley loaves….“There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves , and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9)…”Therefore they gathered together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.” (John 6:13)

    Were any of the Church’s current eminent thinkers and scholars there….the all important ‘Last Supper’? More importantly, who cares what He used? Christ wouldn’t! Only a male idiot like archbishop John Smith of Trenton New Jersey would!

    The doctrine of “Transubstantiation” ie: consecrated bread becoming the Body of Christ, was not declared until the year 1215 by Pope Innocent III after the Fourth Lateran Council and until then the bread and the words were considered only to be symbolic of the request of Christ to do this in his memory. So much for the importance of what type of bread is the intermediary.

    1. Fric

      A late response, but I want to do it anyway.

      If we beleive that the Church was instituted by Christ to lead mankind into the fullness of salvation, then I think it follows that the Church can declare the intent of the Christ on certain things. I could go into all kinds of reasons that the bread for the hosts must be wheat based. Not the least of which is that this is what would have been used at the Last Supper.

      Next if we believe in the Real Presence, we know that Jesus Christ is fully present, “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity”, in both consecrated species of bread and wine. In other words you receive Jesus fully and totally whether you receive the Body OR the Blood. Many receive only the Body for whatever reasons, including those who may be alcoholics and don’t want to risk the consecrated Blood which still retains the accidents of wine. No one is complaining much that these people are being screwed, but it is substantially the same situation. They are prevented from receiving Jesus in one of the species.

      The archbishop is not a jerk nor a jerk, and I find your comment that he is male is ether unintentionally redundant or you are trying to make a point for women’s ordination, which will not happen either. John Paul II pretty much set that aside officially almost 20 years ago, no matter what dissenters say.

      The sacraments are not things that can be changed, no matter what people desire or “feel”. The Last Supper was part of the Passover meal and it requires unleavened wheat bread. That is one of the things that we kept from the Jewish faith. What Christ did in other cases like the feeding of the 5000 has no bearing here. None of those were in the context of the sacrificial meal that was part of Passover.

      Transubstantiation as a term and formal definition was not defined until the 1200s because for 1200 years no one seriously disputed it. Most of the councils were called in response to heresies. That is why the term was formally defined then. It’s not like no one believed it or had heard that the bread and wine used in the Mass was turned into the true Body and Blood of Christ. Your notion that the Eucharist was considered totally symbolic until then is unfounded in history. If your assertion were true, the Eastern Orthodox who had split with Rome over 150 years prior to this would bot believe in a literal presence of Christ in their Divine Liturgy. Numerous writings of the Early Church Fathers attest to the Real Presence. Christians were accused of being cannibals by Romans. Why if they believed in a symbolic Eucharist?

      It seems to me that the problem here is not that the mean old male bishop (who probably ought to retire and be replaced by a woman) has no feelings and can’t let celiacs do things that make them feel better. It is rather that too many want to make the Church into what makes them feel better about themselves. The Church is what it is and the Deposit of Faith is what it is. If we don’t assent to what the Church teaches, we run the danger of heresy and damnation.

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