QUAERITUR: I had gum soon after Mass, threw it away. Am I excommunicated?

From a reader:Twitter

After Mass I absent-mindedly had some gum. It was pretty soon after so had I any particles still in my teeth etc, it would have got in the gum. I realized this and retained the gum until I next saw a priest, who said not to worry about it and to just throw the gum away. I don’t particularly trust this priest because he’s a bit of Spirit of Vatican II times, so it’s difficult to know when he’s right and wrong.

I was reading some stuff from Redemptionis Sacramentum, which said that “one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs a latae sententiae [automatic] excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See […] ” To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species."

Please help! I’m fretting about whether I’m excommunicate or not etc.

You can stop fretting.

First, you cannot incur an excommunication if you did not commit the mortal sin associated with the act.  You clearly didn’t intend anything against the Eucharist, which you clearly revere.

Also, you don’t know if you had any particles of the Host still present. 

Furthermore, anything that would have been left would rapidly have been broken down and its accidents obliterated – if they weren’t already. 

When you threw away the gum you did not throw away the Blessed Sacrament.  You did not incur the censure.  You are not excommunicated.

That said, your situation also is a good object lesson giving us yet another reason a) to remain in church for a while after Holy Mass to make a thanksgiving, even if only a brief one, and b) why people should maintain reverent and respectful silence in our churches before and after Mass so that anyone who chooses to can pray without being disturbed.

The sheer racket in churches after Mass sometimes leads me to question whether or not any of those folks have the slightest clue of what sacred means. 

In any event, you don’t need to fret.

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    Like the Baltimore Three says and the larger penny catechism of the UK says. Do not chew the Host

  2. tygirwulf says:

    I have noticed that the hosts my parish uses are thick and take a while to soften, while the hosts at the Institute of Christ the King oratory are smaller and very thin. I’m guessing the hosts are made thicker for NO parishes to withstand being handled and picked up by communicants.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    Do not chew the Host

    I wonder whether First Communion classes are still taught this so assiduously. Or whether the contemporary version might be “Don’t chew gum with the Host.”

  4. Arieh says:

    I attend a Byzantine parish and the cube-shaped Host can at times be too large to swallow comfortably, so sometimes I have to chew the Eucharist because the bread they use doesn’t dissolve (probably because of intinction) like the typical bread used in the Latin Rite. As a precaution, I always have water in the car to wash down any particles that may still be in my mouth.

  5. Patikins says:

    Regarding the racket at some churches, yesterday I was at my mom’s church which has a brand new church building. When I previously (in the old building)asked why there were so many people talking in full voice before and after mass I was told it was because there was no where else for them to gather and that it wouldn’t be a problem in the new church since it has a large “gathering space” outside the sanctuary. Well, it was loud both before and after mass. I knew it would be.

    (I won’t go into the hideous 1970’s era architecture or the liturgical abuses…)

  6. nzcatholic says:

    The idea of a communicant making a thanksgiving is no longer in vougue it seems. A good Priest once told me that you should make at least 15 minutes thanksgiving. As thats how long the substance remains with you. Why would anyone in there right mind recive Our Lord have his actual presence with you and then walk out and chat to the person sitting next to you in the pew about the latest news or rugby result( or base for you yanks)?
    But we arnt encouraged to stay and pray now. Now we are encouraged to chat to the person next to us ” Remember to talk to one another as you leave tonight” is what the Parish Priest of the Novus Ordo church says here.

  7. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the clamor before and after Mass is non-existent. Quiet prayers before the Blessed Sacrament before Mass and reverent thanksgivings for anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes are normal. It helps that the priest celebrant comes out after Mass and kneels in thanksgiving, and that the altar servers line up and kneel at the altar rail to do the same.

  8. This is a “let’s not set off somebody’s incipient scrupulosity” question, not a “let’s talk about how long it takes to dissolve a host’s accidents” question.

  9. Re: “do not chew the host”

    First of all, the question has nothing to do with chewing. I’ve seen stuff from way before Vatican II where they worried about mouth fragments hours afterward, with those tiny thin little instant-dissolve hosts that couldn’t possibly have had any kind or sort of fragment. It’s a classic thing to get scrupulous about. I’d bet good money that the respondent didn’t chew anything but gum.

    Second, the answer is no, people aren’t taught not to chew, and it never occurs to anybody that cares that kids need to be taught that. My First Communion was in 1977, and I wasn’t taught that. It was generally assumed that one let it dissolve, but nobody came right out and said anything about chewing being wrong. Given how many times we were given those little bread cubes and weird bread bits for Communion, do you really think they would have taught us that? So people who chew are probably being just as reverent as they were taught. If it upsets you, you should have gotten upset a long time ago. But I’m sure your local religious education program will welcome your help.

    I will say that there were apparently, in the old days, some weird scrupulosity things that went on with people who accidentally moved their jaws and thought they were going to Hell, and with kids who thought that they were causing Jesus pain by receiving Communion at all. So not teaching anything about it to my generation is probably an overreaction to the crazy stuff in the opposite direction. Nowadays, it’s probably a case of the untaught teaching the untaught.

  10. I think silence is definitely a problem.

    I often pray after Mass at the Statue of OL of Fatima. There is no kneeler …and is in fact the only statue in our Church.

    People will walk by and talk, and even STOP right behind me and discuss all sorts of things. It doesn’t bother me… only because I don’t let it. But it does bother me that they have lost the sense of the Sacred.

  11. Seraphic Spouse says:

    I love that the writer cared so much that he/she carried the gum around and asked a priest. My guess is that this person belongs to the JP2/B16 generation, and I am reminded of how much I love earnest young Catholics who really want to “get it right.”

  12. dcs says:

    It was generally assumed that one let it dissolve

    Actually, one should not let the Host dissolve on one’s tongue, but should let It soften on one’s tongue and then swallow It.

    As for whether the initial question has to do with chewing, it is possible that it does. I think one would not have particles of the Host stuck in one’s teeth if one does not chew the Host.

  13. DisturbedMary says:

    I understand that the word used in Scripture for “eat” regarding the Eucharist is a rarely used word meaning “gnaw”.

  14. New Sister says:

    Although I instinctively do not chew the Sacred Host if I can avoid it (sometimes I cannot, if, at a private Mass the priest gives me a huge fragment), I have heard theologians on EWTN discuss the original Greek in John 6:53 – Dr. Scott Hahn and others, in defending the literal interpretation of John Chapter 6:53, that the original text used a work in Greek that cannot be symbolized away. Apparently Our Lord used a verb that means to *gnaw* upon (such as a dog gnaws a bone) — I’ve heard Father Benedict Groeschel interpret this verb as *to crunch, or to munch* — definitely implies that one must masticate the body and blood of Jesus. If He had used language “let Me reverently dissolve slowly within you” the Protestants would have a hay-day defending their heresy of symbolic meaning.

    It may well be the most common form of breaking the Eucharistic fast and I wonder how many priests (such as my parish priest, I’m proud to report, had done) denied a parishioner Holy Communion because of seeing them eat gum prior to Holy Mass?

    Two women were smacking gum in the pew in front of me prior to Holy Mass and I almost said something… then had to give them the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps it was medication. (such as POTUS should be trying out – to wean themselves off nicotine.)

    My opinion: Gum chewing is an unattractive practice and we would all do well to avoid it anyway.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    gnaw, crunch, munch, whatever …

    But now the Holy Spirit has had 2000 years to teach us how to show more reverence than did the Apostles (who plainly had little idea what was going on, however plainly Jesus tried to tell them).

    Seriously, I once heard a priest who said that various forms of insistence on “going back” to ancient times — like to when the first Christians reclined around a table (if they did) just as at the Last Supper — are sins against the Holy Spirit, since they constitute denial of His guidance of the Church in the development of doctrine and the flowering of understanding of the Gospel.

  16. Leonius says:

    This is what happens when you switch of as soon as mass is over and go back to acting as if nothing miraculous has just happened.

    After Mass go home and drink some water, my dad always insisted on that and this is the reason why.

  17. New Sister says:

    Mister Edwards,

    to clarify: the theologians I heard discussing the meaning of John 6 were not interpreting it to mean we ought to masticate at Holy Mass today — that link I made on my own…and I’m nothing more than an unlearned lay-woman.

    I would like to know what the Catechism teaches & will obey. I just made a quick search and could not find a reference to it — can someone tell me if Holy Mother Church teaches us (today) *not* to “gnaw, crunch, munch, whatever…”? I’d like to know & obey. I only found this,

    *1387* To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

  18. helgothjb says:

    Ok, it seems that many are saying it is immoral to chew the Host. I had never heard this before. I thought that those who did not chew were just being extremely scrupulous, almost to the point of thinking Our Lord despised the bodily part of our humanity. Does the Chruch teach that the Host should not be chewed? And, if so, why? My son just recieved his 1st Holy Communion and I taught him to receive on the tongue to avoid getting particles on his hands. When he practiced at the parish all of the kids were taught to receive in the hand. I made sure my son practiced receiving on the tongue and there were no problems. Please advise.

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    New Sister: I wouldn’t expect to find any reference to munching or crunching — or, for that matter, chewing gum — in any general catechism, past or present. Means of exhibiting feelings such as reverence vary from one time and culture to another; for instance; kneeling has traditionally shown reference in the West, but standing in the East. However, I’d be surprised if anyone seriously contended that crunching or slurping audibly with open mouth showed reverence now in our society. Nor should anyone really need to look it up in an etiquette book to find out. Maybe some things are more a matter of sense and sensibility.

  20. New Sister says:

    Dear helgothjb – I am glad I have company seeking instruction on this. I found this link on fisheaters that I intend to follow from now on.


    In the parishes where both species are offered, such as at Military chapels, the religious ed teachers (who, I’ll admit, can be frightening in their heterodoxy) instruct our children to 1) bow (not kneel), 2) receive the Sacred Host in their hands, then 3) ensure they’ve chewed It up and swallowed before receiving the Chalice of Precious Blood.

    The poor kids… I saw a little girl chewing like mad to make sure she could receive the Chalice properly at her first Holy Communion!

    Has the Holy Father not launched some kind of study to re-look the indult on receiving in the hand? Maybe it will further clarify how to “convey respect, solemnity, and joy…” I certainly welcome it!

  21. doanli says:

    I cannot wait until I can start receiving Holy Communion again. You really start hungering for it.

    Y’all pray it will be soon!

  22. New Sister says:

    Amen Mister Edwards — I am a solider (literally, in the US Army) and find my sensibilities vexed by a lot of what goes on in the Novus Ordo Mass! Proper military bearing forbids: unkempt appearance; not filling in the pews dress-right-dress from front to back; showing up late; walking and eating; talking at a ceremony; going to “at-ease” before the general has left the room (i.e., the celebrant – not to mention the King of Kings Who remains in the Tabernacle!) … even leaving the room before the senior officer (i.e., the Priest in his chasuble), etc., etc..

    When I assist at an N.O. Mass in uniform, I’m forced to break uniform regulations and good military bearing by walking with Sacred Food in my mouth!

    Someone help us…

  23. Scarlett says:

    I never chew the Host, not out of any particular theology, but because when I did (I was never taught not to; made my First Communion as Catholic School kid circa 1992), I found myself walking back to my pew having not-very-reverent thoughts along the lines of “Great! Now I have Jesus stuck in my teeth!” 5 or 6 years ago I realized that these irreverent thoughts could be avoided if I avoided GETTING Jesus stuck in my teeth in the first place, and I stopped chewing the Host.

  24. Without sounding like Fee-fi-fo-fum… the Greek word for “gnaw” is probably being used in the Gospel to mean “really really eating meat and marrow and all, no kidding”.

    So as long as you know that’s what you’re doing, it’s not as if you’re supposed to bake the Hosts in the shape of hard bones, like dog biscuits, and sit there and go gnawgnawgnawgnaw for ten minutes. I mean, there’s the fullness of a sign and then there’s just plain silly.

    When you do sacred stuff, you don’t do it the same way you do normal stuff. The older and weirder it is, the more sacred it’s likely to be. Don’t be too literalist, or you’ll miss all the good stuff.

    If a baby hawk gets meat and bone, it gets it in tiny parentally-pre-digested gobbets that it just swallows. That’s as much gnawing as it does; but it’s really truly eating meat. Baby food meat doesn’t come with a little baby food steak knife, either, and yet Baby is a carnivore, all the same. Don’t get hung up on unintended applications of the gnaw word.

  25. ilpapabuono says:

    I was taught, in relation to this question about Holy Communion, that Jesus said “Take and eat” NOT “Take and let it dissolve.” This was given as justification for chewing the host as one does normally with food. Is this really wrong?

  26. Oh, and I meant to add that, when I first received Communion, my parish was still using the thin little white Hosts, and those practically dissolved as soon as they hit your tongue. So I don’t think I chew, but it’s not something I was ever told until my third decade of life.

    I _was_ told not to stare at people coming back from Communion, though. Some of you folks obviously never got the constant maternal elbow to make you learn this point. :)

  27. New Sister says:

    Suburban… good point. I don’t think anyone is “hung up” on the word. (I’m not) A lot of us are just ignorant and just trying to do our best in a dearth of formal instruction on this and many other things.

    Unfortunately, there is no explicit teaching in the Catechism or Canon Law that I can find recommending against chewing; there are catechists telling people (explicitly) to chew…priests telling us we’re “too hung up on sin”… so recently confirmed Catholics like me have to go it alone and figure this stuff out as best we can.

    In my former diocese (Portland OR), Bishop Vlazney gave explicit instruction to NOT kneel before receiving Holy Communion – on his website he instructed pastors to pull those of us who kneel aside and explain why a bow is the norm, why we ought to stand … he never mentions chewing.

  28. Joe Magarac says:

    Second, the answer is no, people aren’t taught not to chew, and it never occurs to anybody that cares that kids need to be taught that. My First Communion was in 1977, and I wasn’t taught that.

    My first communion was in May 1980, in the very very N.O. St. Michael’s Parish in Livonia, Michigan, and I was taught never to chew the host. The CCD teacher went further: she said that if the host stuck to the roof of my mouth (as it sometimes does), I must never seek to adjust its position, but rather let it slowly dissolve. This might be unpleasant – the slow wait can seem agonizing – but it would win me graces to shorten my time in purgatory.

    Also, in the movie Donnie Brasco, the protagonist is a parent who attends the N.O. Mass, and when his kids are preparing for their first communion, he yells at his wife to remind them not to chew the host.

    The fact that suburbanbanshee wasn’t taught not to chew does not mean than Novus Ordo parishioners are not taught that.

  29. o.h. says:

    My oldest daughter’s First Communion catechist pulled out the old “the word in Greek means ‘gnaw'” claim and taught the children that therefore, if they didn’t chew the Host, then they didn’t really receive Jesus. I tried to sit in on the class to debrief her after each week’s bad teaching, but somehow I missed that one until, years later when she got braces, she burst into tears about how she could chew the Host, and I learned all. It’s very hard to un-teach bad catechesis when the teacher ostensibly has the weight of church authority and New Testament Greek. Grrrrr.

    The gradual, hard-won swing from heterodox to orthodox in our parish’s catechesis over the last 10 years has been refreshing. Brick by brick!

  30. Thomas S says:

    The point about silence before and after Mass is so vitally important. I think the constant chatter and casual conversation is TOXIC to faith. When a church is treated no differently than a ballpark or shopping center, reverence for what the Church contains is eroded. And when reverence is gone, faith in the True Presence will soon follow it out the door. Case in point from Saturday vigil Mass, a woman sitting in the front row on the side aisle received Communion and then spent the next five minutes looking at everyone who came up the aisle, greeting those she knew. One of these friends first reciprocated the greeting while next in line for Communion, received the Host in hand, turned to make further comment to her friend in the front row, and only then put the Host in her mouth.

    A couple months before a woman sitting in front of me before Mass was reading a trashy paperback novel. And this woman was one of the EMHC!

    These are just two examples of the astounding things you can see at Mass. It doesn’t help that the Church is wreckovated and the tabernacle is placed on a side altar. We’ve lost the concept that THINGS MATTER – smells and bells. Gestures matter, architecture matters, silence matters, genuflecting matters, etc., etc., etc. When everything has been discarded for a me-centered liturgy and a casual “welcoming environment” over formality and reverence, THE FAITH DIES. And when the faith dies, the soul dies.

  31. Thomas S says:

    On another note, concerning chewing the Host:

    The Boston Globe had an article a year or so ago about a manufacturer of Communion Hosts. It was a decades-old family business. The man said that in the decades after the Council they made a deliberate move towards heartier, more “bread-like”, Hosts. The whole “Eucharist as meal” to the EXCLUSION of “sacrificial offering” was obviously in play with this.

  32. Henry Edwards says:

    Thomas: The whole “Eucharist as meal” to the EXCLUSION of “sacrificial offering” was obviously in play with this.

    Whether to stand or to kneel, to receive on the hand or on the tongue, whether to chew the host or not, whether to bow or to genuflect to the tabernacle, whether or not to kneel on both knees before the exposed Host. The kingdom surely will not fall or stand on matters such as these.

    But we all know, in each such instance, which choice is advocated (often stridently) to the exclusion of the other by those who insist on the heresy of Mass as meal to the exclusion of Mass as sacrifice, and who deny by attitude and behavior (if not by forthright admission) the Real Presence.

    Of course, there is nothing new about such heresy — witness the Protestant revolution. What is new today is that modern “protestants” have stayed inside the Church to fight it from within, and at certain times and places have seemingly gained control of certain levels of Church bureaucracy.

  33. Geoffrey says:

    “Attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the clamor before and after Mass is non-existent.”

    I used to think that too, until I began attending the old Mass semi-regularly. There is more whispered chatter going on than I had expected.

  34. Oh, I’m sure there are plenty of people in ordinary form parishes who are taught everything. Heck, there are plenty of things I was taught admirably in RE. It just isn’t all taught consistently.

    So in today’s US Catholic population, among post V-II agemates:

    Group A will know Fact/Practice/Doctrine 1.
    Group B won’t ever have heard of Fact 1.
    Group C will sorta know something about it, but never heard anything definitive.
    Group D thinks it’s optional, although they usually go along with it.
    Group E thinks it’s evil and heretical, because that’s what they were taught.
    Group F thinks it was abolished as oppressive and anti-Something.
    Group G not only knows Fact 1, but also was taught an elaborate group of surrounding facts.
    Group H knows the elaborate surrounding facts, as well as 6 heresies outlawed in 1831.
    Group I interprets Fact 1 in an occult way, thanks to reading the wrong book in high school.

    Most of the people in each group thinks that everybody in the whole Church throughout all of time has been, or should have been, taught the same thing they were.

  35. dcs says:

    I must never seek to adjust its position, but rather let it slowly dissolve.

    I don’t think that is correct. One should not let the Host dissolve in one’s mouth as then one hasn’t actually eaten It – when the accidents of bread cease, so does Our Lord’s Presence.

    One should let It soften somewhat and then swallow It.

  36. Dave N. says:

    “Attend a Mass in the Extraordinary Form and the clamor before and after Mass is non-existent.”

    “I used to think that too, until I began attending the old Mass semi-regularly. There is more whispered chatter going on than I had expected.”

    This is sadly my experience at Mass in the EF as well–way too much inappropriate chit-chat and running Mass color commentary from the pews–“Oooh, aren’t Fr.’s vestments beautiful!” etc. I mean, what is SOOO urgent that you must tell the person sitting next to you immediately?? We can all see Fr.’s vestments.

    But then again it’s certainly not any worse than at an NO mass, though NO people are more likely to be chatting about where they will go for Sunday brunch or who won yesterday’s hockey game.

    Personally, I just chalk this up to a culture which seems to countenance and even encourage a lot more talking than it did in the past–c.f. the exact same phenomenon at the movie theater or symphony. People absolutely LOVE the sound of their own voice.

    But, ironically sometimes ya just wanna scream “shut up!!!”

  37. The Digital MC says:

    I am of the opinion that one should let the Host dissolve without chewing if possible. Also, I try to follow my pastor’s example and drink water before putting anything else in my mouth.

  38. helgothjb says:

    So far, all I am reading is opinion. Does anyone know the actual teaching of the Church on the matter of chewing the host?

  39. To my knowledge, there is no “actual teaching”, as you put it, on this matter. Opinion is divided.

  40. Henry Edwards says:

    There is more whispered chatter going on [at an EF Mass] than I had expected.

    An example of mutual enrichment between the two forms?

    Seriously, habits of reverence and prayerful participation are learned, and their acquisition may take a bit of time for first timers at a traditional Mass, and one may well hear them whispering remarks about the newness and questions about what’s happening.

    However, it’s my observation that those who come back regularly get “into” the Mass pretty rapidly — without being admonished to act like they’re at Mass (which is a bad idea, as often remarked here).

  41. robtbrown says:

    The Boston Globe had an article a year or so ago about a manufacturer of Communion Hosts. It was a decades-old family business. The man said that in the decades after the Council they made a deliberate move towards heartier, more “bread-like”, Hosts. The whole “Eucharist as meal” to the EXCLUSION of “sacrificial offering” was obviously in play with this.
    Comment by Thomas S

    I don’t think it has anything to do with the Mass as Meal concept. Christ said to take and eat, not to take and let it dissolve on your tongue like a throat lozenge.

    I much prefer the heartier hosts. Fontgombault uses quarter-sized hosts that are fairly thick.

  42. lux_perpetua says:

    i don’t know quite where i learned not to “chew the Host.” it certainly wasn’t from Catechism classes, but i always felt, and still do feel, shudders go through me when i hear someone break the Host between his teeth. It really has such a violent sound to me and makes me think of Jesus on the Cross.

    i have learned a lot from this thread and will begin practicing some of these ideas [like water after Communion] in hopes of better appreciating the mystery of the Eucharist.

  43. evener says:

    In my former diocese (Portland OR), Bishop Vlazney gave explicit instruction to NOT kneel before receiving Holy Communion – on his website he instructed pastors to pull those of us who kneel aside and explain why a bow is the norm, why we ought to stand … he never mentions chewing.

    Comment by New Sister — 10 May 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    At 8 years old I received !st Holy Communion in 1954. We were taught to soften the Blessed Sacrament then swallow HIM. Also, I tried to remain standing before & after Holy Communion as told to, and didn’t. We were taught that the angels & saints that fill the church at the ” sanctus ” are all on their knees adoring. To stay standing I would feel too much shame. So gladly I’ll spend time in purgatory for my disobedience.

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