Get Your Gluten Free Jesus Here

Get Your Gluten Free Jesus Here December 30, 2014

The Catholic Church insists that when a piece of bread is consecrated, it magically — and literally — becomes the “body of Christ.” Yet for some reason, that bread still retains its gluten while also simultaneously being meat. But now the church is going to offer gluten-free Jesus to the faithful.

In recent years, people inconvenienced by celiac disease have increasingly turned to gluten-free food alternatives as part of an effort to lead a normal life while avoiding the protein composite that triggers symptoms of the disorder.

But just when many thought they have seen the height of the diet’s popularity, it has reached a new frontier: the Catholic Church. Observers of the Catholic faith can now adhere to doctor’s orders without worry when they take low-gluten wafers with their wine during the Holy Communion.

“Our consciousness of this is definitely being raised,” said Father Michael Flynn, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently told Reuters. “The question that’s always kind of a balancing act is how much can you tweak bread and still have it be bread.”…

Part of the issue lies in reconciling health concerns and the Code of Canon Law which requires the taking of the Holy Communion using wheat bread.

In 1995, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, penned a letter to the Episcopal Conferences in which he expanded the Code of Canon Law, so that Catholics with celiac disease wouldn’t feel marginalized. From that point on, low-gluten bread would be considered “valid matter” as long as no additional substances “alter[ed] the nature of the substance of the bread.”

This seems really silly to me. If a wheat cracker can magically transform into a tiny speck of Jesus, surely a rice cracker can too. I find it funny that they think magic has to comply with strict rules — rules they made up themselves, of course. Now they just need to come up with a GMO-free, cruelty-free, locally sourced free range Jesus.

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  • Alverant

    Is rice even mentioned in the bible?

  • Well this is the paradox of ritual, which is rooted in obsessive-compulsive defense. You need to obey rules to achieve effects that defy rules.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    This seems really silly to me.

    I think ‘stark raving mad’ is a more apt description.

    Ed writes:

    If a wheat cracker can magically transform into a tiny speck of Jesus, surely a rice cracker can too.

    If someone can’t handle gluten, they’re under zero risk of side effects if the communion wafer has gluten. When they’re eating the wafer, they’re cannibalizing Jesus’ body, and he’s not bread, gluten-free or otherwise. So gluten-sensitive Catholics need to quit their whining, get down on their knees, and pray for more faith. [Heath here, “Help! I think Bill Donohue took possession of me!”]

  • ‘“valid matter” as long as no additional substances “alter[ed] the nature of the substance of the bread’

    Damned ὁμοούσιος: they are accursed in the sight of the Lord… or is that the ὁμοιούσιος…??

  • Still, I won’t go until they stop kicking me out for putting cheese on it. Granted, me not being Catholic probably doesn’t help. Also, my nudity. And the jumping jacks.

  • In any event, yes the Substance of “unleavened bread” is swapped out for the Substance of “Jesus Christ”. Ironically, it turns out that He’s almost pure dough. With yeast, too.


    I assume that’s why He’s risen.

  • blf

    Is rice even mentioned in the bible?

    No idea. But a quick search turned up an intriguingly-titled paper, Rice in the Bible (J Semitic Studies, 1966), apparently by Chaim Rabin, which unfortunately is behind a paywall. Frustratingly, I’ve not been able to find an abstract.

  • Modus

    It also explains why people are always seeing Jesus in toast!!!

  • dingojack

    MO – Jumping Jacks?!? What are you trying to kill people?

    😉 Dingo

  • Don F

    Just one cheese, Modus? I would think with those crackers you would have cheeses on (or in?) them.

    (Sometimes I cracker myself up.)

  • raven

    If the cracker turns into jesus, can you be a vegetarian and be a…Catholic.

  • John Pieret

    I can’t imagine how anyone could be so sensitive to gluten that one wafer a week could cause any problems (but I ain’t a doctor). For the non-ex-Catholics out there, the wafer is pressed paper thin, weighs a fraction of an ounce and literally melts on contact with saliva. It would probably take a hundred of them to add up to the equivalent of one slice of bread.

  • Loqi

    “Alter the substance of the bread?” I thought that was the magic behind transubstantiation. The physical bread doesn’t change, so we can’t detect it, but the vague, undefined “substance” of the bread becomes the body, so the church doesn’t have to admit the obvious bullshittery. If the “substance” can be altered physically, then it should be able to be measured.

    I expect the rationalization to be more meaningless wordplay.

  • dingojack
  • Kevin Kehres

    @6 Modus

    No yeast. Wheat and water only. That’s why they’re so tasty.

  • Kevin Kehres

    Of course, if we want to get all theological about it, you’ve got it backwards — the wheat isn’t the “substance” that is transmuted into bits-o-Jesus.

    Wheat is the “accident”. The “substance” is either common wheat or Jesus, depending on whether the priest has waved his hands. The wafer is “transubstantiated” during the ceremony.

    The “accidents” don’t change during communion; the “substance” (really, the magical invisible bullshit) is what is transformed.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  • cedrus

    @12 – that’s enough to trigger most celiacs. Heck, it would trigger me, and I’m just intolerant (have the celiac genes but haven’t quite crossed over). I know people who couldn’t touch a cracker without risking days of pain. (Yes, we’re lots of fun to go to restaurants with.)

    As I understand it, the communion wafers need to have wheat, because when Jesus was going on about “bread of life” etc he meant wheat, and if it’s good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for you. But nowadays they have wafers where a homeopathic dose of wheat is mixed in with the rice flour, and that makes it OK. Given that if you had to list the absurdities of a gluten-free communion, the homeopathic wheat wafer probably wouldn’t make the first page…I’ll give them some credit for at least trying to use their mighty powers of rationalization for good.

  • dingojack

    But, but, but – if a Muslim cleric makes a lamb carcass Halal — oooh that’s really, really terrible!!!

    @@ Dingo


    “I’ll take religious hypocrisy for a $1000. thanks Alex…”

  • otrame

    Modus @ 5

    Did you know it is dangerous to start laughing crazily while eating reheated chicken parmesan that your daughter-in-law made last night? I mean seriously.

    Plus, you owe me some industrial strength brain bleach because getting that image out of my brain will not be easy.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Alverant @ # 1: Is rice even mentioned in the bible?

    Not even once, according to a search of the KJV text downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

  • otrame “Plus, you owe me some industrial strength brain bleach because getting that image out of my brain will not be easy.”

    That’s what The Saint Brendan Catholic Church Newsletter said after my last Midnight Mass there, too.

  • Funny Diva

    Don F @ 10

    Honk if you love cheeses!


    Michael Heath [B. Donohue?!] @3

    iirc, that rationalization has in fact, pretty much verbatim, been used by Teh Church when the mom of a celiac kid petitioned for [whatever the exemption would be called]. “It’s gotta be wheat, so tough luck, celiacs! Those painful cramps are a Gift from Gawd!”

  • anubisprime

    So it turns out that consecrated wafers are NOT the body of Christ, cos the body of Christ would not contain gluten…fuck me!…who knew?

    Bring in the clowns…errr!… the theologians… they ‘have a problem Vatican’

  • dhall

    A couple of years ago, a student referred to the wafers as “Jeezits” while I was explaining transubstantiation in the Renaissance/Reformation class. It was impossible to remain professional. Fortunately, the rest of the class laughed too.

  • dingojack

    If I’m gluten intolerant – can I get my own personal (non-gluten) Jesus?!?


  • blf

    Is rice even mentioned in the bible?

    Not even once, according to a search of the KJV text

    Whilst rice was certainly known in Europe at the time the KJV was created (having been cultivated in parts of Southern Europe since at least the time of Alexander the Great (c.350 BCE)), and very probably known in England (the word rice dates from the 13thC), I have to wonder how familiar the people working on the KJV were with rice, or would/could even do a correct translation. Rice could not have been grown in England at that time (southern-ish France is about the northern limit of its growing range).

    I haven’t found any reliable dates for when rice started to be cultivated in the Middle East (or even to what extent it was), but also have to wonder just how much that precedes or overlaps with the time when (much of) the text was composed. In other words, to what extent would any of the verbal storytellers and later scribes and editors be familiar with rice?

  • grumpyoldfart

    How the mighty have fallen. Back in the good old days the church tackled really serious subjects – like how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Not this gluten-free wafer nonsense.

  • Larry

    I’m sorry, but having a gluten-free option still just doesn’t do it for me. I’m holding out until the church offers up a Double Stuf version.

  • CJO, egregious by any standard

    It’s extremely unlikely that any such even as the Last Supper actually took place, of course. But, if it had, it’s more likely that the bread would have been made from barley than wheat. (Syrian wheat was considered a high grade product, and in that era surplus would have been grown nearly exclusively for transport to the Roman cities of Asia Minor and the Near East, there to be consumed by the legions and Roman elites and their clients.)

  • twincats

    Why should the gluten-intolerant have to suffer? After all, even the Jesus-intolerant can go to Protestant communion!

  • gardengnome

    Kevin Kehres @ 15

    “@6 Modus

    No yeast. Wheat and water only. That’s why they’re so tasty.”

    Basically glue. I do recall the way they stuck instantly to the roof of your mouth. Probably great for repairing wallpaper too. Like trying to eat blotting paper.

  • Cuttlefish

    Got to be a chocolate Jesus,

    Keep me satisfied.

  • Cuttlefish

    Dammit. Sorry, did not think that would embed.

  • Kevin Kehres

    @31…oh yes. Can’t tell you how many times I had to stick my finger in my mouth to pry the darn thing off the roof. Nasty.

  • frog

    Wait, wait, maybe our entire understanding of transubstantiation is backwards. The wafer doesn’t turn into Jesus-meat; Jesus turns into wheat! I mean, he’s god, right? So why can’t he be part vegetable? And that’s why the wafer has to have at least some wheat in it, or else the transubstantiation doesn’t work.

    It’s not any sillier than any other story.

  • magistramarla

    Cedrus @ 17

    Yup, you beat me to it.

    My daughter has celiac, and obviously so does my granddaughter. My daughter went back to work and left some pumped milk with her stay-at-home hubby. When she came home, she asked him about the red marks on the little one’s cheek, but he had no idea. The same thing happened the next day. They figured out that he was eating his lunch – a sandwich – when he was feeding the baby, and leaned down to kiss her on the cheek. The crumbs on his lips were enough to cause a reaction.

  • Kilian Hekhuis

    #36: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine. If someone has red marks after a kiss from someone eating gluten, that’s not celiac disease, but a different form of gluten intolerance, most likely an allergy. That’s not to say someone with a gluten allergy could not also have celiac disease, of course. Also, though celiac disease is genetic, it is not “obviously” the case that when a mother (or father) has it, their children also have the disease – the gene could just not be passed (50% chance) or not cause celiac disease.

    As for the rice discussion, the wafer needn’t be rice, as e.g. buckwheat (not to be confused with buckweed), corn (maize) and oat also do not contain gluten (thought may be contaminated when treated in a factory also treating gluten produce). If wheat is to be used, one could use wheat starch that has been made gluten free.

  • lochaber

    I was raised catholic (it didn’t stick…), and usually we had communion in the form of these thin, white, rigid wafers that resembled slightly soluble styrofoam… I think they had a cross stamped/molded in them.

    Once in a while (I never bothered to figure out the pattern), we would have communion in the form of something more similar to a ripped up pita or naan… and it actually tasted good, like, I’d seriously like the recipe for that stuff. Now, in my cynical adulthood, I can’t help but wonder if that was something deliberately targeting youngsters, especially those about to undergo sacraments like confirmation (and at the time, I thought I was too young/too uncertain/too to be making that decision… (maybe I wasn’t a complete idiot as a teen, and just ~99% idiot?))

    I also remember reading some books talking about “witches”, and one of the things them being accused of was accepting communion, taking it out of the church, and feeding it to toads and newts. Being the curious and open-minded youth that I was, I doubted I could easily find a toad outside the church, but figured maybe I could sneak out the wafer one day, and hold it in reserve until I found a toad?

    Accepting and sneaking out one of those mock-styrofoam wafers is likely an act of sorcery and witchcraft inofitself… I tried pushing it to the top of my mouth, keeping it off my tongue, and breathing through my mouth to try and keep things as dry as possible, but it just stuck to the top of my mouth like glue… I vaguely remember my parents noticing me acting in an unusual manner, and questioning me on it, but I can’t for the life of me remember what I might have told them…

  • abb3w

    As the article notes, these have been around for a while. One of my sisters is a devout Catholic who has both celiac disease and a wheat allergy; my other sister found out about these when they first came out, and made arrangements to donate a supply to the local parish for use by those who have such need.

  • Erp

    @29 CJO Well barley wafers wouldn’t help since they still contain gluten. However, if the last supper took place it obviously was a special event and they may well have splurged on wheat bread (unleavened if, as according to three of the gospels, it was passover). Rome btw imported almost all its wheat from Egypt not the Levant (the latter exported stuff like olive oil).

    What is done during communion can lead to some huge disputes. Leaven or unleaven bread? Wine (red or white) or grape juice (there are some Christians out there that are convinced that the Jesus didn’t drink wine)? How often (at least once a week, once a year) and when should children be allowed (as soon as baptized, 6 or 7, 12 or 13)? Do the laity get given both wine and bread or just bread (Catholic custom has often been just bread).

  • Phillip Hallam-Baker

    Rather odd that they would insist on wheat since the ‘bread’ served at the last supper would have been barley.

    The passover ritual is a mash-up of two pre-existing festivals that the Macabean kings imposed in an attempt to unify the country under the new religion they had brought back with them from Babylon.

    Passover is a celebration of first fruits of the harvest. The first grains to be ready for harvest were barley. And barley bread does not rise.

    Though I guess the Vatican claims Moses was a real dude and such so this argument wouldn’t exactly work for them.