Questions Answered – October 2020

The Question of Gluten-Free Hosts

Question: Are the following valid matter for the Eucharist: grape juice or gluten-free hosts?

Answer: I am astonished at how many questions I get about what constitutes valid matter for the Eucharist. This was a problem in the 60s and 70s but this has long since been clarified. I have answered several questions on this but I will do it again.

The present General Instruction of the Roman Missal is clear and it is worth quoting at length. It can be found in the front of the Missal.

  1. Following the example of Christ, the Church has always used bread and wine with water to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
  2. The bread for celebrating the Eucharist must be made only from wheat, must be recently baked, and, according to the ancient tradition of the Latin Church, must be unleavened.
  3. The meaning of the sign demands that the material for the Eucharistic celebration truly have the appearance of food. It is therefore expedient that the Eucharistic bread, even though unleavened and baked in the traditional shape, be made in such a way that the priest at Mass with a congregation is able in practice to break it into parts for distribution to at least some of the faithful.
  4. The wine for the Eucharistic celebration must be from the fruit of the grapevine (cf. Lk 22:18), natural, and unadulterated, that is, without admixture of extraneous substances.
  5. Diligent care should be taken to ensure that the bread and wine intended for the Eucharist are kept in a perfect state of conservation: that is, that the wine does not turn to vinegar nor the bread spoil or become too hard to be broken easily.
  6. If the priest notices after the consecration or as he receives Communion that not wine but only water was poured into the chalice, he pours the water into some container, then pours wine with water into the chalice and consecrates it. He says only the part of the institution narrative related to the consecration of the chalice, without being obliged to consecrate the bread again.

As to gluten-free hosts, they are allowed with very special norms. Since the bread must be true bread and be made from wheat, gluten-free hosts would not constitute valid matter but low-gluten hosts would. This is also true of mustum (the wine which is grape juice which has begun to ferment) but this has been suspended so it has low fermentation. Both could be used for reasons of health and the mustum for an alcoholic priest.

Cardinal Ratzinger clarified the matter in 2003 in a letter from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which clearly states: “hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.” But: “low-gluten hosts (partially gluten-free) are valid matter, provided they contain a sufficient amount of gluten to obtain the confection of bread without the addition of foreign materials and without the use of procedures that would alter the nature of bread.” There are four approved providers of low-gluten hosts designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (One of these approved providers is even called These providers all distribute hosts which have low gluten content.

Homosexuality and Church Teaching

Question: Faithful Catholics everywhere a longing to hear a strong unified statement from our bishops and clergy showing they condemn outright the homosexual lifestyle — as did Jesus Christ. The hierarchy seems ready enough to attack those loyal to Church teaching. Why don’t they make a clear statement about those who are not?

Answer: This question is not reserved to the teaching of the Church on homosexual lifestyles. On the general issue of why the clergy does not make clearer statements about this, there is not much to say. That is their personal pastoral judgement. I would say that to harp constantly on the same problems seems a bit counterproductive in homilies. That being said, to never mention our important moral teachings and distinctions in a clear and concise fashion also seems pastorally insensitive to the real issues presented by the secular culture.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear on the morality of homosexuality and homosexual culture, which would include lifestyle: “Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” (2357)

It is clear from this statement that there is no ambiguity in the Church’s position on homosexual actions themselves. Both Scripture and Tradition state they are intrinsically disordered and thus one may conclude are mortal sins.

The nuance in the Catechism concerns the orientation: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (2358) Following the principle that love of the sinner should be united to hatred for the sin, the Church condemns unjust discrimination or ostracism of those with this tendency. Tolerance, however, here does not mean treating homosexuality the same as heterosexuality with regard to things like marriage. Gay marriage is against the natural law, as are homosexual acts, because procreation cannot follow. So though suppression and condemnation of people with a homosexual orientation should be condemned, yet in the present culture the pendulum has swung in the completely opposite direction. When even priests who are professors in Roman universities come out and celebrate their homosexuality and lifestyle in public, there is cause for grave concern. Coupled with this is the general fact that much of the molestation among the clergy in the Catholic Church does not occur with children but with adolescent males and so has been tied to homosexuality.

A further complication of this phenomenon is that seminaries have openly adopted gay lifestyles in the past. Those who objected in some cases were not allowed to be ordained and suffered greatly from powerful churchmen trying to extort consent for this. The sad case of Mr. (formerly Cardinal) McCarrick is a glaring example.

The question of the lifestyle is the final one and from the point of view of the questioner the most important. Just as is the case with heterosexuals, homosexuals are called to chastity. “Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.” (2359) The homosexual lifestyle is an occasion of sin. It is a blessing of a condition which is immature. Though some have thought it is a mental condition, Dr. Conrad Baars believes that homosexuality is not a mental condition in the classic way this is interpreted. It is rather a result of what he calls “Emotional Deprivation Disorder.” In other words, it is not caused by an emotional conflict. It is rather a result of a lack of the affirmation which occurs in normal family relationships and sets the person free to love himself disinterestedly. People love themselves in a disinterested way when they love themselves as God loves them. As they receive the gift of their goodness in being from God, this must be seconded by another person who stands in the place of God, usually a parent who loves them for who they are, not for what they do.

On the other hand, both heterosexuals and homosexuals can fail to receive this love at important times in their upbringing and so become convinced that they are lovable for what they do, not for who they are. Both try self-affirmation in which the feeling of pleasure replaces the joy of disinterested love. Both experience great loneliness in adulthood, whether they are married or celibate, because their relationships are constant searches for being loved and not for loving disinterestedly. Both seek pleasure in sexuality, but because sexual acts are not expressions of seeking happiness for another first, they become frustrating and addictive. There is no real joy. “Where there is no joy, there can never be enough pleasure — hence the compulsion to be promiscuously active.” (Conrad Baars, I Will Give Them a New Heart, 193)

The cornerstone of healing in this regard is first to cease to engage in all genital activity of any kind. This must first be explained to the person with the lifestyle from a psychological and then from a moral point of view. They are substituting pleasure and pleasing others for real disinterested love. This is true even in heterosexual relationships. Chastity must be pursued as putting the happiness of other persons first through self-restraining love. The experience of loving and learning to be loved properly takes a long time to develop. One cannot rush it. Patience is required. Groups of similarly inclined individuals can be like Alcoholics Anonymous if they help each other to maintain chastity and to learn the proper way to love and be loved.

Our shepherds in some cases may think that the subject of homosexuality is very difficult to tackle in a Sunday sermon which is short, usually does not involve depth in the topic, and cannot be open really to questions. The parish might benefit from a general discussion of what chastity is, including the psychological aspects of people who are unaffirmed. Whatever is the case, encouraging people to practice the gay lifestyle not only places them in the occasion of sin but prolongs an unhealthy approach to self, others, and God. Chastity in the proper sense is always to be taught and encouraged.

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP About Fr. Brian Mullady, OP

Fr. Brian T. Mullady, OP, entered the Dominican Order in 1966 and was ordained in 1972. He has been a parish priest, high school teacher, retreat master, mission preacher, and university professor. He has had seven series on EWTN and is the author of two books and numerous articles, including his regular column in HPR, “Questions Answered.”

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