PEI

Gluten hosts concern parishioners

The Roman Catholic Church needs to do more to accommodate people with celiac disease who can't eat gluten hosts offered during mass, says a Canadian Celiac Association official.

The Roman Catholic Church needs to do more to accommodate people with celiac disease who can't eat gluten hosts offered during mass, says a Canadian Celiac Association official.

The health of people with the digestive disorder can be hindered from eating gluten, but the church says a host without gluten isn't considered bread for the purposes of communion.

Brian Marcipont, president of the P.E.I. branch of the association and a celiac sufferer, misses getting the thin, round host at his church in Summerside, P.E.I.

"As a Catholic, it's part of the mass," said Marcipont.

"You're brought up on that, and you have your first communion and it's part of the ceremony." 

According to the association, celiac disease is a condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by gluten, a mixture of proteins found in cereal grains. People with the disease can't properly absorb nutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that are necessary for good health. 

It is estimated one in 133 people in Canada is affected by celiac disease.

Marcipont and his daughter, who also has the disease, can only drink wine from the chalice during communion.

He has heard from other Islanders who don't feel comfortable getting the low-gluten wafer being offered in some parishes.

Low-gluten host available

Marcipont said many doctors think no level of gluten is safe, and that even low levels of the substance can cause serious complications, such as osteoporosis or lymphoma, for those with the disease.

Marcipont's group has asked the diocese of Charlottetown to offer a no-gluten host.

Rev. Eric Dunn, chancellor of the diocese, said that under canon law, the host has to have some gluten in it. The low-gluten wafer is made with only 0.01 per cent wheat, so could be consecrated.

He added it is acceptable for people with the disease to only drink from the chalice.

Marcipont believes the church needs to have another look at its position.

"As time goes on and more people are diagnosed with celiac, I think they're going to have to have a look at this issue and possibly change the law," he said.

Dunn said that kind of change would have to come from the Vatican.

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