Vatican asks bishops to ensure validity of matter for Eucharist

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Bishops should look at ways to help
verify and guarantee the validity and worthiness of the bread and wine used for
the celebration of the Eucharist, the Vatican said in a recent document.

Because bread and wine for the Eucharist are no longer
supplied just by religious communities, but “are also sold in supermarkets
and other stores and even over the internet,” bishops should set up
guidelines, an oversight body and/or even a form of certification to help
“remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the
Eucharist,” the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the
Sacraments said.

The recommendations came in a circular letter, “On
the bread and wine for the Eucharist,” sent to diocesan bishops “at
the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis.” Dated June 15 — the feast
of the Body and Blood of Christ — the letter was made public by the Vatican
July 8. The letter was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, congregation prefect,
and Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary.

Because the church requires certainty regarding the
conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments, the congregation
offered some suggestions so that bishops can continue to “watch over the
quality of the bread and wine” as well as “those who prepare these

The congregation underlined that every bishop “is
bound to remind priests, especially parish priests and rectors of churches, of
their responsibility to verify those who provide the bread and wine for the
celebration and the worthiness of the material.”

Bishops must also provide information to the producers of
the bread and wine for the Eucharist and to remind them of the absolute respect
that is due to the norms,” it said. Producers “must be aware that
their work is directed toward the eucharistic sacrifice and that this demands
their honesty, responsibility and competence,” it added.

The congregation suggested ordinaries offer guidance, for
example, by “guaranteeing the eucharistic matter through special

Bishops may want to agree on and establish “concrete
regulations” on the national level through their bishops’ conferences, it

“Given the complexity of situations and
circumstances, such as a decrease in respect for the sacred, it may be useful
to mandate a competent authority to have oversight in actually guaranteeing the
genuineness of the eucharistic matter by producers as well as those responsible
for its distribution and sale,” the Vatican congregation wrote.

A competent authority, for example, could be “one or
more religious congregations or another body capable of carrying out the
necessary checks on production, conservation and sale of the eucharistic bread
and wine in a given country and for other countries to which they are
exported,” it wrote.

The letter also reiterated norms already in place regarding
eucharistic matter:

— “The bread used in the celebration of the most holy
eucharistic sacrifice must be unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made so
that there is no danger of decomposition.”

— Bread made from another substance, even grain or mixed
with another substance so different from wheat that it would not commonly be
considered wheat bread, “does not constitute valid matter.”

— The introduction of any other substances, “such
as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist,”
it said, “is a grave abuse.”

— Low-gluten hosts are valid matter for people who,
“for varying and grave reasons, cannot consume bread made in the usual
manner,” provided the hosts “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.”

— Completely gluten-free hosts continue to be
“invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.”

— Wine used in the celebration of the eucharistic
“must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not
mixed with other substances,” well conserved and have not soured.

— “It is altogether forbidden to use wine of
doubtful authenticity or provenance.”

— No other drinks of any kind may not be admitted
“for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter.”

— For people who, “for varying and grave
reasons,” cannot consume wine fermented in the normal manner,
“mustum” is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist. Mustum
is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its
fermentation without altering its nature, for example, by freezing.

— Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified
organisms can be considered valid matter.

— Permission must be given by the ordinary for an
individual priest or layperson to use low-gluten hosts or mustum for the
celebration of the Eucharist. “Permission can be granted habitually, for
as long as the situation continues which occasioned the granting of permission.”

People who live with celiac disease are unable to digest
gluten, a type of protein commonly found in grains such as rye, barley and
wheat. There also are people who live with nonceliac gluten intolerance or
gluten sensitivity whose health can be adversely affected by gluten.

The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship has said Catholics
who cannot receive Communion wafers at all, even under the species of low-gluten
hosts, “may receive Holy Communion under the species of wine only.” The
church teaches that “under either species of bread or wine, the whole
Christ is received,” it said.

Medical certification of a condition justifying the use
of mustum or low-gluten hosts for Communion is not required, the committee


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