This story, via Atrios, is maddening:
An 8-year-old girl who has a rare digestive disorder and cannot consume wheat has had her first Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained none.
Now, Haley Waldman’s mother is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the Vatican to make an exception, saying the sacrament should be changed to accommodate the girl’s condition.
Roman Catholic doctrine holds that communion wafers must have at least some unleavened wheat, as did the bread served at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion.
In May, the girl received her her first Holy Communion from a priest who offered her a wheat-free host. But last month, the diocese told the priest that Waldman’s sacrament would not be validated by the church because of the substitute wafer.
Along with the story is a poll, asking whether or not an exception should be made. So far89% say yes, but what is disturbing is that 7% say no,and 4% can’t even make up their damn minds.
At any rate, this is the definitive response to the Bishop in question. Personally, I know where the Bishop can stick his wafers.
*** Update ***
The man formerly known as Mean Mr. Mustard disagrees:
My response: oh, relax, Cole. You’re gonna strain something.
You may think the Bishop is just being a mean old Catholic prick because he thinks little girls with digestive disorders ought to go to hell, but allow me to suggest that this is more of a matter of following procedure and the Church’s rules of authority than simply being mean to sick kids.
I admit to not being up on all the nuances of transubstantiation, but it still seems clear to me that this is fairly cut and dry as far as what the bishop can do. According to bedrock doctrine of the church, communion requires unleavened wheat. Under that rule, a person can no more recieve communion with a substitute than someone could, say, go faster than the speed of light. You might just as easily say Einstein is a heartless bastard because he doesn’t “allow” any poor child that wants to and that has a real good reason to violate a law of the universe. From what I can tell, the bishop isn’t making a choice based on what he wants. He’s making a determination based on what is.
1.) The Einstein bit with the laws of the universe stuff is just stupid- so let’s dismiss that right away. We are talking about a man-made rule in a man-made institution, not the law of gravity. A snarky line, but utterly pointless.
2.) I have never heard anything about God commanding that communion wafers be made of a certain material. Other than a church rule, a man-made decision to emulate the ingredients of the bread of the last supper, the communion wafer might as well have been a ‘Nilla wafer. My church serves grape juice instead of wine. Guess I am bound to hell and I didn’t even know it.
3.) I know what they are teaching with the whole transubstantiation bit, what with the elements of the Eucharist becoming the actual body and blood of Christ. It makes a nice story and everything, but I am going to go out on a limb here- other than for matters of symbolism and as a re-affirmation of faith, the communion wafer does not really change physical properties and become the actual flesh of Christ. I know what they teach you, I know what they have you believing, and I know what they have stated was doctrinal, but I am just not buying it.
You can flame away, call me an apostate, but I am with Russ and his laws of the universe bit here. At least the laws of biology. And if you insist onflaming me anyway about something I refuse to believe and something on which the burden of proof is up to you, you can come on over to my house when you are done and turn water into wine.
4.) Could a less pedantic Priest taken it upon himself to not make a damned stink over this and to just use a substitute wafer without anyone else knowing. And don’t feed me the “God would know” crap. My God would approve of that- after all, God has also seen Catholic priests spend the better part of the last century breaking the rules of man and God to bugger young children, run over homeless people, knock up married women, etc.
But God be damned if you use a rice wafer instead of a wheat-based wafer. Then, no pun intended, all hell if going to break loose.
*** Update #2 ***
You have to love the science involved in this whole Transubstantiation thing the church has going:
Catholic Church doctrine requires that the thin wafer, or host, consumed during the administration of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, contain some unleavened wheat, just like the bread consecrated by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, when Catholics believe he transformed bread and wine into his own body and blood.
“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist,” Trenton Bishop John M. Smith wrote in a statement issued in response to the dispute with Haley and her mother. “This issue is not 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.”
You see, wheat based wafers- those turn into the body of Christ.
Rice- nope. Makes for a tasty rice cake, though.
I am not sure what is bolder- the story, or those who continue to push it with a straight face in the year 2004.
*** Update ***
Russel responds, and the response is- It is because it is immutable.
Russel still doesn’t understand that the laws of the universe analogy is stupid:
The seemingly silly rules of this man-made instituion are invested (so Catholics believe) with the authority of God himself, making them immutable and not able to be changed (especially by a mid-level official like a bishop) because they may be inconvenient in a single case. You may find that sort of rigid belief stupid, and think everyone should just throw up their hands and admit it’s all just symbolic, but that’s a separate argument.
Fine, Russ. I give you permission to change the law of gravity. What? You can’t? But you can change the rules of the church? I guess they aren’t the same thing after all, are they? Simply pretending that something is a universal law does not make it so- even for really GOOD catholics who eat wheat-based wafers all the time.
Again, you’re speaking from ignorance. It doesn’t matter whether or not God explicitly commanded (like, say, in the Bible) that the wheat be unleavened. That’s not how Catholicism works. All kinds of immutable rules that are just as central and important as scripture have come from two thousand years of official church theology.
Disagreeing in what your church has decided is an important tenet is not speaking from ignorance. Neither is my open mockery of your church’s foolishness on this issue. Really, your how argument boils down to:
“It is, therefore it is immutable.”
God gave the vested authority to the Catholic church to make things up and make stupid rules for its members, so therefore these sorts of things are divine.
At any rate, the Catholic church finally saw the light about a heliocentric solar system; perhaps they will once again ‘modernize’ and see their folly.
*** Update ***
Mustard is bored, I am bored, and I am beginning to sound like some anti-Catholic bigot, which isn’t the case (although I did take some cheap shots at the pederasts).
I just think this is a man-made rule which is not divine in any sense. A lower gluten substitute wafer is no help for someone who can eat no gluten, and it seems that the hierarchy of the Catholic church should at least strive to achieve the same standards of modern physicians:
“Help, or at least to do no harm.”
My Hear goes out to your little girl and to those ill informed old fashioned religious types who don’t realise that the love of Jesus Christ is not restricted to those who can eat wheat. His love is much deaper than that.
I hope this works out. You have my vote.
Here’s a couple of points that it seems almost everyone has missed.
1.) The mother has known about the disease since the girl was 5. Why wasn’t she asking about this before hand. The mother suffers from celiac sprue herself. So surely she knew well beforehand that this would be an issue. Why didn’t she take up her case well before her daughter’s first communion.
2.) The church did offer alternatives (either a low-gluten wafer, or just wine) to her beforehand.
Knowing all of this, she went ahead and did her own thing anyway.
Seems to me that there were plenty of opportunities to get things straightened out ahead of time, but the mother was the one who forced the issue.
“According to bedrock doctrine of the church, communion requires unleavened wheat.”
This is all horseshit. The Bible doesn’t particularly say what KIND of bread, nor does it say that only wheat bread will do. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Catholic doctrine says; the Church has been and will again be horribly wrong in matters of faith. In fact, the Catholic church is widely derided for flat making things up, and making them part of the faith. Not bashing Catholics here (I grew up Catholic, FYI), but pointing out that the Vatican has a penchant for fabrication, and might want to consider that it’s full of shit from time to time. It’s the human thing to do.
One example of outright fabrication: purgatory. Another: dispensations. Feel free to discuss, if interested.
Several million years of hominid evolution and this is what we’ve come up with? Serious doctrinal debates about which sort of foodstuff best magically transforms into the body of Christ?
I personally happen to think that Blue Bell Cookies n’ Cream ice cream is the magic foodstuff thinking people use to munch on their Lord and Savior. And everyone else can go to hell.
Works for me. The Reverend J. R. “Bob” Dobbs has reincarnated himself as various creatures that many cultures across the planet consume as food, including shrimp, lab rats, and mayflies. Despite repeated, valiant efforts, Bob has been unsuccessful in reincarnating himself as anything much higher in the food chain.
I’ll merely point out that your thoughts about whether the church is being pointlessly stuffy (or actually applying “God’s law”) are all dreadfully irrelevant and completely miss the point, and direct you here for an explanation of why:
While it’s clear that a big part of the problem, John, is your insistence that this is a “man-made rule” in a “man-made institution.” The Catholic Church doesn’t see itself that way. It sees itself as a God-made institution.
So your issue isn’t so much the wheat question as your dislike of Roman Catholicism and its doctrine of transubstantiation. And if your disagreement is with the Church itself, what’s this all about wheat and communion?
Your logic fails in this case on its own internal contradictions. You have to judge the institution in this case by its internal rules, not by applying your values to it.
That all said, I’m not exactly sure Bishop Smith is correct on this. But if he checked with the Vatican and they said absolutely no gluten-free communion wafers, then that’s the ruling.
” God commanding that communion wafers be made of a certain material”
if it wasn’t His supper then there is no reason to take communion.
Quite. Catholic doctrine is exactly as ridiculous as the Bible and the concept of God: if you believe it, not at all, and if you don’t then very.
I’m guessing you don’t think that Protestant churches should conduct gay marriages, given that they go against the teachings of the Church?
I’m guessing you don’t think that Protestant churches should conduct gay marriages, given that they go against the teachings of the Church?
If by “Church” you mean the Roman Catholic Church, well, no. The Protestant reformation ended the bishop of Rome’s authority over those churches.
Protestant churches shouldn’t conduct gay “marriages” in those cases where the approval of marriages turn the beliefs structures into incoherent nonsense. But if they don’t, hey, it’s a free country, you can start your own religion if you want.
Sorry, terrible capitalisation error there (indeed, I imagine certain Protestant churches would consider allowing gay marriages just to be sure of *annoying* the Pope…)
My point was merely that the basis for banning gay marriages is just as solid as the basis for banning gluten-free wafers – because and only because God says so via his chosen spokesprophets.
That’s why Lutherans are inherently superior to Catholics…no spokesprophets.
And no Purgatory, either! Less complicated, those Lutherans.
Those seven percent who are against changing the rule would certainly not wear fabrics made from two different types of cloth. Yet all of them wearing cotton/poly blend shirts are all going to hell, according to the Old Testament. Seriously, that rule is actually in there. But as for wheat-based unleavened bread it just comes from following the example of the Israelites who were quickly leaving Egypt. Ah, says I, it’s great to have gone to religious school and then become an atheist when you realize how stupid it all is.
If the little girl had an opportunity to take communion in a manner that would not impact her health, she, her parents, and the parish priest had an obligation of obedience to do communion in the prescribed manner.
The Catholic Church is a hierarchical church. The bishops have wide latitude in setting up the minor bits of the faith and part of the discipline of the Church is following the bishop where he reasonably leads.
The sacrament was declared invalid because of disobedience, not because of the wheat, or lack thereof. Bishops can give dispensations and apparently did in this case to take care of the digestive disorder concerns. If, after receiving a dispensation, a parishioner and a priest stick their thumbs in the diocese’s eye you’re going to get some push back.
As for whether grape juice is legitimate communion ‘wine’, that’s a non-starter since you’re probably not in a church with what Catholics believe are valid sacraments anyway. I’ll leave the “going to hell” part up to God.
TM- From the stories I have read, there was no special consideration made other than offering a low-gluten wafer, which still did not help the girl.
Who is dying and made you Pope?
The blatant anti-Catholicism in the original posting(s) and many of the comments is disappointing. Transubstantiation is a fundamental belief of all practicing Catholics. In other words, it is an article of Faith. One could say that all religious belief is an article of Faith. One either believes, or not. Why mock it – Faith – in such a condescending fashion. I dare say that centuries of far abler minds than anyone on this blog (Augustine, Acquinas, Luther and Calvin come to mind) have grasped the mystery of Faith in dissimilar yet strangely convergent ways. Guess I stumbled onto the wrong blog. I thought this was a place for thoughtful respectful adults to debate non-controversial things like politics… and sex… Attacking my religious Faith in such an ill-informed and caustic manner (and don’t tell me you are Catholic — lapsed or not. It just ain’t so if transubstantiation is a joke to you) is uncalled for, insulting, and beneath the dignity of a serious blog for serious adults. What next? Jew baiting? Burning crosses? Filmed beheadings? This is not a serious place for thinking people. It’s a rant-site for smallish bigots and ignorant boors. I’m outta here… Jeff Cole, Marine Rifleman (In Repose); Practicing Catholic; Seeker of Truth
“…oh, relax, Cole. You’re gonna strain something.”
Yes, don’t you love responses that start with the condenscending “I have a sense of humor, and your problem is that you don’t”? It’s right up there with such thoughtful introductory tropes as “get a life,” “grow a spine,” “stop being hysterical,” “calm down,” “grow up,” “don’t have a cow,” and “don’t be so serious.”
Useful advice, eh?
I agree with you. It isan act of faith, but that doesn;t make me have to believe that there is a physical change in a wheat wafer into the flesh of another being.
I always looked at accepting communion as an affirmation, or-reaffirmation if you will, of faith.
At any rate, the point of all this is this is a man-made rule, this wafer usiness, and as many man-made rules turn out to be, it is flawed.
One final aside to the folks that think a “low gluten” wafer is enough. It ain’t.
My Brother in Law has that nasty allergy, and in a bad way. He can’t drink whiskey, and it’s been distilled 2 or three times. Nor “distilled vinegar”. “Low-gluten” wafers don’t even come close. His onset was age 33 or so, and he really misses the beer and booze. Not to mention bread.
Now, I suppose you could make a “low gluten” alternative by taking one grain of wheat, adding it to your industrial batch of rice-flour, and making the crackers -excuse me, wafers–that way. But that’s not what the article describes.
Now, it’s not a fatal disease. But it is progressive; every time you eat wheat, your intestines build a little more permaenent scar tissue. (Which ironically, makes you a little less susceptible, but a little less healthy at the same time.)
Please, Jeff. Transubstantiation isn’t the issue. Transubstantiation effectively converts the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus, or at least that’s what they taught me in Catechism class. What they didn’t teach is that unleavened wheat bread was the only thing transubstantiation worked on. Not surprisingly, this requirement for unleavened wheat bread (along with the whole transubstantiation thing) is not, as far as I can tell, required in scripture. Which means that it’s one of those made-up things I mentioned earlier.
There are statements in scripture counter to embroidering the word of God, though. Curious that those don’t get nearly as much attention in the Mother Church as what some bishop happens to believe this week.
John, really. I think the Church is being ridiculous in this (as I think most things about the Church are ridiculous, but that is a different discussion). However, coming in from the outside and saying that this rule is stupid is applying the wrong standard to the Church. For whatever reason, they have rules about their rites, and if the rules aren’t followed then you can’t join.
I don’t see what is so hard about this.
According to bedrock doctrine of the church, communion requires unleavened wheat.
So are people who are deadly allergic to wheat doomed to burn? What a bum rap. First they’re forced miss out on all that great food, and then they’re condemned to an eternity in flames.
If God’s going to require you to eat certain foods, he really ought to be required to cure your allergies as part of the bargain.
Just to be a bit more clear, I don’t think the Catholics have a monopoly on illogic WRT theological matters. And no, I don’t hate Catholics, or even harbor any mild dislike for Catholics. Which is probably a good thing, as a substantial portion of my family is still Catholic.
I think you’re missing the point, John.
First, I am a recovering Catholic who went to 13 years of Catholic school (1-12 and 1 year at Siena College). I don’t particularly like the Church, but I do understand it.
Church doctrine, according to the Catholic Church, is divinely inspired. Where in the Bible does it say that priests can’t marry? Where does it say the Pope is infallible? It doesn’t, that’s Church doctrine. I’m pretty sure papal infallibility started sometime in the 18th century, I could be wrong. They don’t really push that teaching. Sort of like, “We’ve always been at war with Oceania”.
Using wheat is akin to non-marrying priests, it’s Church Doctrine and therefore Divinely Inspired.
The pope can change it, some random bishop can’t. Just like some random bishop can’t decide to support abortion.
I know that those cases are wildly dissimilar, but, as far as the Catholic heirarchy is concerned, they’re all the same. They have no sense of proportion.
I don’t know about keeping his mouth shut, what would happen in the next church when she asks for special wafers?
The church should address this issue. This is just an example of a huge bureaucracy. Most clergy at the level of monsignor and up are bureaucrats first and foremost.
There appears to me to be a weeding out process above the rank of “Father” or “Brother”. The ones with the strongest ‘calling’ don’t really want to go higher up.
Sure this example is idiotic, hidebound and inconsiderate of the real world, but would you expect anything else?
Just to let you know, I censored myself at least 3 times from taking cheap shots at the church. I hope that, if I’m wrong and there is a God, he will remember that.
Otherwise, I’ll see all you protestants in hell.
Let me get this straight. If a devout priest prays for a morsel of food to become the Body of Christ, if it’s wheat God says “sure” and if it’s rice, God says “Sorry. No can do.”
The things I learn reading blogs.
Somehow I just have to believe it all would be a little bit more about the priest and the soul seeking Communion, and less about the morsel of food.
If someone made a goof at the factory and something else got in the box of wafers, would God be sitting up there saying to all those unknowing but devout souls, “Nope, nope, sorry, no wheat, no go?”
This would seem to indicate that anyone living in any ecosystem where wheat can’t be grown…if something happened to their source of shipped-in wheat source…no Communion? You shouldn’t even TRY? If Communion is based on faith, is it more or less faithful to throw Communion out the window just because you don’t have wheat? “No Communion until the wheat arrives…if it arrives.”
Is genetically altered wheat still wheat in the eyes of God? What if all wheat sources are altered from their native gene pattern?
Far be it from me to defend the Catholic Church, but that’s pretty mild. Other religions have far more stringent dietary rules.
All they ask for is vino and wheat. They used to ban meat on Friday but they modernized.
George Carlin had a great question, was the rule change retroactive? Or are there people in hell for having a burger on the Friday before they changed the rule?
Clearly, GOD wants this little girl in heaven post-haste!
Why dost thou deny HIS wish?
“I refuse to believe that on Judgment Day, my diet’s gonna come into question, okay? What you eat don’t got shit to do with who you are as a person, okay?
‘Hey God, I killed a bunch of kids, but I ate right!’
No! That ain’t gonna happen man, no!”
-Chris Rock, HBO Special
“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”