Bravo to Johnathan Turley for neatly summarizing what’s wrong with the Catholic Church’s recent affirmation of its long-standing requirement that the bread and wafers used during communion in Catholic churches around the world must have at least some gluten in them, or the Church will collapse and Satan will reign, or something. Meanwhile devout Catholics who must avoid eating gluten, including people who have Celiac disease, just have to plug along, get half a communion, or get sick. God wants it that way.
What a throbbing example of arrogant and compassion-free bureaucratic thinking. The Professor’s headline captured the idiocy and rigidity of it perfectly.
The Catholic News Agency shrugged the story off with a couple of rationalizations: “It’s always been this way” and “This is nothing new.” Neither are satisfactory excuses when making the communion dangerous to the increasing number of Catholics with Celiac disease. The issue is mirrored by the dilemma faced by alcoholics, who fear drinking wine; the Catholics, unlike the Methodists and other Protestant churches, insist on at least minimally fermented wine. Grape juice just won’t do. Why?
“Christ did not institute the Eucharist as rice and sake, or sweet potatoes and stout,” Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University, told the Washington Post. “It may seem a small thing to people. But the Catholic Church has spent 2,000 years working out how to be faithful to Christ even in the smallest things. To be vitally and vigorously faithful … is something which is simply integral to what it means to be Catholic.”
[A long bitter section about how bureaucracies are habitually doctrinaire about small matters while ignoring pervasive corruption and destructive hypocrisy has been deleted here, in part because it is ugly, and also because anyone who can’t write their own version hasn’t been paying attention to the Catholic Church for the last 500 years…or even the last 17.]
From the Post story: “Some theologians have argued the bread and wine are simply symbolic, but the Catholic Church does not consider the elements to be symbols. It teaches that Jesus himself instituted the bread and the wine during the Passover meal, and churches should follow his lead.”
Of course they are symbols. Who’s kidding who? They were symbols to Jesus, too.
Let’s play “What would Jesus do?” If one of the disciples said, while they were all posing for Da Vinci, “Uh, master? Remember that I have that wheat allergy and start projectile vomiting if I even nibble bread?”, does anyone think Jesus would say, “I don’t care, damn you! Eat it—just wait until I put on a smock!” Somehow I think he’d let that guy substitute a taco or something. Well, maybe not Judas.
If the Catholic Church can’t survive gluten-free wafers, it can’t be worth much. On the other hand, a Church that won’t make a compassionate adjustment in a ritual for the well-being of thousands of members just to maintain its authoritarian posture while it has shown itself to be impotent regarding far more universal problems—abortion, the decline of marriage, adultery, and you know, may not be worth very much.
It may be, as Turley’s headline suggest, ridiculous.
Sidebar: While researching this, I encountered a forum discussing what alcoholic priests should do about the wine in communion. The ignorance regarding alcoholism is staggering, and given the near epideic nature of the illness, inexplicable. Two comments I found especially ridiculous:
- “Why would a priest be an alcoholic in the first place?”
- “There may be no intoxicating quality in an alcohol-reduced wine, but it is the taste of the alcohol itself to which alcoholics are susceptible, invoking a Pavlovian response in their association with the memory of it.”