Congregation for Divine Worship’s new document on valid bread and wine for the Eucharist

12_08_08_San_Leocadio_Christ_with_the_HostThe sacraments have both matter (the physical stuff) and form (the words pronounced).  In the case of the Eucharist the matter is twofold: bread and wine.  The bread must be from wheat and, in the Latin Church, unleavened.  The wine must be from grapes and there must have been fermentation.  For the Eucharist to be confected (for transsubstantiation to take place) the matter must be valid matter for the sacrament.  For Mass to take place both bread and wine must be changed to the Body and the Blood of Christ, two elements or species which both, after their change, are the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  Both species must be consumed by the priest for their to be Mass, the unbloody renewal of the bloody Sacrifice of Calvary.

Hence, the use of the proper matter is at the heart of who we are.

From time to time we hear about people playing fast and loose with the matter for the Eucharist.

NOTA BENE: This is important for those who have GLUTEN issues.

Let’s remember what Redemptionis Sacramentum says at the end about reporting abuses (see below).

This comes from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  Robert Card. Sarah is the Prefect.  My emphases and comments.


Prot. N. 320/17

Circular letter to Bishops on the bread and wine for the Eucharist

At the request of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is writing to Diocesan Bishops (and to those who are their equivalents in law) to remind them that it falls to them above all to duly provide for all that is required for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (cf. Lk 22: 8,13).  It is for the Bishop as principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, moderator, promoter and guardian of the liturgical life in the Church entrusted to his care (Cf. CIC can. 835 § 1), to watch over the quality of the bread and wine to be used at the Eucharist and also those who prepare these materials.  [When bishops are referred to as “moderator” of worship in their dioceses, this is the sort of thing that they are supposed to do: ensure that things are done according to the books and correct abuses.] In order to be of assistance we recall the existing regulations and offer some practical suggestions.

Until recently it was certain religious communities who took care of baking the bread and making the wine for the celebration of the Eucharist.  Today, however, these materials are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even [!] over the internet.  [Yes, even the internet.  I have always found it maddendingly amusing that these folks haven’t quite figured this out yet.  When I worked there my motto was, “Yesterday’s technology tomorrow!”  But I digress.] In order to remove any doubt about the validity of the matter for the Eucharist, this Dicastery suggests that Ordinaries should give guidance in this regard by, for example, guaranteeing the Eucharistic matter through special certification.

The Ordinary is bound [required, obliged] 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. It is also for the Ordinary to 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. [Why would this be “especially parish priests and rectors”?  Probably because the larger number of people attend Masses in those places (rather than convent or school chapels.  Also – and this is important – they receive many more Mass intentions with stipends.  If invalid matter is used, Mass isn’t said.  If Mass isn’t said, then they have received stipends for something they did not do.]

The norms about the Eucharistic matter are given in can. 924 of the CIC and in numbers 319 – 323 of the Institutio generalis Missalis Romani  [i.e., GIRM] and have already been explained in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum issued by this Congregation (25 March 2004):

“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.  It follows therefore that bread made from another substance, even if it is grain, or if it is mixed with another substance different from wheat to such an extent that it would not commonly be considered wheat bread, does not constitute valid matter for confecting the Sacrifice and the Eucharistic Sacrament.  It is a grave abuse to introduce other substances, such as fruit or sugar or honey, into the bread for confecting the Eucharist. Hosts should obviously be made by those who are not only distinguished by their integrity, but also skilled in making them and furnished with suitable tools” (n. 48).

“The wine that is used in the most sacred celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice must be natural, from the fruit of the grape, pure and incorrupt, not mixed with other substances.  […]  Great care should be taken so that the wine intended for the celebration of the Eucharist is well conserved and has not soured.  It is altogether forbidden to use wine of doubtful authenticity or provenance, for the Church requires certainty regarding the conditions necessary for the validity of the sacraments. Nor are other drinks of any kind to be admitted for any reason, as they do not constitute valid matter” (n. 50).  [I have written on the issue of fortified wines (such as sherry, port, marsala and vermouth) for Mass HERE.]

In its Circular Letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences regarding legitimate variations in the use of bread with a small quantity of gluten and the use of mustum as Eucharistic matter (24 July 2003, Prot. N. 89/78 – 17498), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published the norms for the celebration of the Eucharist by persons who, for varying and grave reasons, cannot consume bread made in the usual manner nor wine fermented in the normal manner:

[NB]Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist.  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” (A. 1-2). [Low-gluten does not mean no-gluten.  There must be some gluten, even if very little.]

[NB]Mustum, which is grape juice that is either fresh or preserved by methods that suspend its fermentation without altering its nature (for example, freezing), is valid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist” (A. 3). [That means that mere grape juice is invalid.  There must have been some fermentation.]

“The Ordinary is competent to give permission 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” (C. 1). [“Ordinary” can, in this case, probably also mean the Vicar General of a diocese.  Note the point about “permission”.  PERMISSION.  It may be that a diocesan bishop has issued legislation about this for his diocese.  Priests should check this.]

The same Congregation also decided that Eucharistic matter made with genetically modified organisms [GMO] can be considered valid matter (cf. Letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 9 December 2013, Prot. N. 89/78 – 44897).

Those who make bread and produce wine for use in the Mass must be aware that their work is directed towards the Eucharistic Sacrifice and that this demands their honesty, responsibility and competence.

In order to facilitate the observance of the general norms Ordinaries can usefully reach agreement at the level of the Episcopal Conference by establishing concrete regulations.  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.

It is suggested, for example, that an Episcopal Conference could mandate 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 is recommended that the bread and wine to be used in the Eucharist be treated accordingly in the places where they are sold.

From the offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 15 June 2017, Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect
Arthur Roche, Archbishop Secretary

Back to Redemptionis Sacramentum:

6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. pelerin says:

    I have noticed when in France that the Host is often pale brown (as opposed to white in Britain) and also much thicker. I have always presumed both were valid but do wonder why the difference?

  2. Imrahil says:

    On the “especially parish priests and rectors of churches”, I think it’s because even a dutiful Bishop can’t have his eyes everywhere, but parish priests and church rectors can see whether it is done in their churches correctly. Also, they usually supervise the equipment of sacristies with bread and wine for the Holy Sacrifice, and most assistant and visiting priests would just take what is there.

  3. Nicole says:

    Some of us have made numerous reports on abuse to the Holy Eucharist to the Bishop, the Nuncio and the CDW. Even when multiple people send in letters regarding frequent (i.e., weekly or more) dropping of the sacred species of bread, and the subsequent treatment of the fallen species, no public correction is issued to the foul practices which allow it to continue.

    This is a confidence killer regarding the care of the authorities when further abuses arrive, such as the distribution of what is provably unconsecrated matter to the laity as the “Body of Christ” or the nefarious action of flooding the wine content with clearly double or more water before the institution narrative.

    Would you continue writing?

  4. Worm-120 says:

    Does it have to be by a distributor? I believe our wine comes from the large and devoted Portuguese population. The local area does grow grapes quite well.

  5. Penta says:

    Just trying to see if I understand the Congregation correctly. It sounds *almost* like what they’re suggesting is kind of like, for example, Kosher certification, implemented on a national basis. (Note that this is merely an analogy as to methodology.)

    Are they suggesting conferences do something more than that, less than that?

  6. tgarcia2 says:


    It’s probably that in France, or that specific parish, they used whole wheat and not bleached.

    Cavanagh (a trusted supplier for many a parish/cathedral/sacristan who makes purchases) offers both.

  7. majuscule says:

    Our hosts are made locally by a convent of nuns who supply them to many churches. They are labeled “whole wheat” and are not quite white but not brown.

    Our wine comes from the local church supply store. At one point one priest wanted us to use a white wine but some of us said NO! Blood is red! He’s gone and we still use red wine. (He wasn’t the pastor so we weren’t being disobedient.)

  8. Stephen Matthew says:

    The low-gluten vs. no-gluten thing hits close to home with a gluten intollerant member of the family. I fear the low-gluten hosts currently being sold are so low as to be essentially free of gluten not only for dietary purposes but also sacramental. It sounds like what is being stated from the congregation is that a low-gluten host would need to be certified to contain at least some gluten, which I don’t think the current ones have been, because I think the testing was all conducted on the basis of guaranteeing that they had less than X amount of gluten rather than guaranteeing that it does contain at least some amount. (Saying something is 99% gluten free does not mean it has 1% gluten, it means it has no more than 1% and may in fact have none, most people don’t understand how these tests work or how statistical matters like this are read.)

  9. Adaquano says:

    This reminds me of the time when visiting a friend and I attended the local parish and was quite distressed by the Mass. Afterwards I flipped through the bulletin, and saw a blurb about signing up your family to make the Communion bread.

  10. It was not always so. For instance, Aquinas was used to using white wine for mass (he finds using red so odd that in his commentary on Isaiah he points out a particular region specifically for being different and using red wine).

  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Why would this be “especially parish priests and rectors”?

    Probably, Father, because priests in religious Orders tend to bake the Hosts themselves.

  12. uptoncp says:

    I used to think white wine inappropriate, until someone pointed out to me that since it *is* the Blood of Christ, it doesn’t matter whether or not it looks like blood. (I’m still inclined to think “The Plasma of Christ,” though.)

  13. hwriggles4 says:

    I was in my late 20s when I began to understand the teaching of the Eucharist. I still recall a homily 20 years ago by a Catholic priest (who entered under the Pastoral Provision) that explained the teaching, and how the Real Presence was instrumental in his crossing the Tiber circa 1994.

    That said, I have had to politely and charitably explain the teaching of the Eucharist to lifelong Catholics. Even had a family member (and a few others who attend Sunday Mass regularly) ask if communion is offered at a parish under both species, do I have to receive both the bread and the wine? The answer is no, because during the consecration, the transubstantiation takes place, and Jesus is present in el Cuerpo de Cristo y el Sangre de Cristo.

    I need to return to reading Pope Benedict XVI letter titled Sacramentum Caritatas. It has guidelines for both laypersons and clergy on reception of the Eucharist. My opinion is that this letter has largely been ignored over the past several years, but I do remember that it’s release was widely publicized.

  14. PTK_70 says:

    Sometime around the year 2000, I had the opportunity to address Bishop Angelo Scola (then rector of Lateran Univ and president of the JPII Institute) on the subject using bread made from genetically modified wheat in the Mass. His answer was “no”; however, given that English was not his first language, I couldn’t be entirely certain that I was able to convey that which I understood regarding genetic modification (the use of fish genes to produce a tomato with certain properties – that kind of thing). Frankly, I was relieved by the answer but I also got the sense that this topic had not been thoroughly discussed, wherever these things get discussed. Evidently, the thinkers-that-be came of late to a different conclusion regarding GMOs.

  15. Stephen Matthew says:

    On the GMO issue, I think if merely selecting from the option of genes that are natural to wheat, it should be no problem because it remains unquestionably wheat. However, once non-wheat genes are introduced, it brings the danger of losing the essence of wheat at some point, but I couldn’t begin to say where the line may be or how to even measure that.

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  17. ChesterFrank says:

    I wonder if anyone has looked at the timeline for the recipe to gluten free fad. It became a fad when products that contain absolutely no wheat or grain products were boldly labeled “gluten free” I know of the medical condition, and of the real problems gluten can cause: but I have to wonder if the current trend doesn’t have the alternative motive of labeling groups tolerant versus intolerant. Gluten Free can be a politically charged buzzword as Climate Change, Diversity, and Bullying ,

  18. ChesterFrank says:

    “recent gluten free fad” spell check and auto correct creates problems sometimes

  19. “Today, however, these materials are also sold in supermarkets and other stores and even [!] over the internet. [Yes, even the internet. I have always found it maddendingly amusing that these folks haven’t quite figured this out yet. When I worked there my motto was, “Yesterday’s technology tomorrow!” But I digress.] ” That’s very funny! Luvit! My version, poor in comparison, was about ecclesiastical administration bringing us “the very latest in 1960s management techniques.”

  20. Red_Shirt_Hero says:

    A coeliac friend (United Reformed) has just asked me about this on Facebook, having read the deliberately misleading headlines about the nasty Vatican restricting Communion for coeliacs. Thankfully, she did ask me for comment, and was pleased with my response about the provisions we do make for coeliacs, and that this document is, in part, about not deceiving Catholic coeliacs by pretending to consecrate invalid matter contrary to divine law.

    I explained low-gluten hosts, and also that receiving from the chalice alone is no less of a Communion. This raises a question in my mind: is the latter option available in the Extraordinary form as a provision for those who cannot tolerate even low-gluten hosts? Obviously a second chalice would need consecrating, into which a particle of the priest’s host is not added, but someone I spoke to seemed think since the rubrics of 1962 don’t foresee this, then the severely gluten intolerant cannot ever receive in the Extraodinary Form, which seems to me overly legalisatic.

  21. Mary Jane says:

    At our FSSP parish there are several people who receive the Precious Blood only.

  22. Imrahil says:

    someone I spoke to seemed think since the rubrics of 1962 don’t foresee this, then the severely gluten intolerant cannot ever receive in the Extraodinary Form, which seems to me overly legalisatic.

    That would seem to be a true assessment. We can debate of course whether the correct formulation would not be “not legalistic enough”, but that’s semantics.

    Your acquaintance spoke rightly, perhaps without knowing about the nuance, that the rubrics don’t foresee this. A situation unforeseen by the rubrics, if it really is such, is a gap that must be filled by good sense and the usual tools of the legal interpreter – not by taking the theory that needs fewer words to state, without considering how burdensome it is.

    A person who cannot receive the appearance of bread is not thereby to be barred from the Holy Eucharist. There are any number of reasons why the Chalice is not given to the general faithful in the Extraordinary Form, which have mostly to do with drilling into the populace the doctrine of the concomitance of the species, a bit with the fact there’s normally only one priest and no deacon, a bit with the fact that we chances to be irreverent are consequently fewer, a bit with the fact that the general populace considers or used to consider this a Protestant thing to do. None of these reasons include barring a soul from Holy Communion who cannot otherwise receive It and whose salvation is the supreme law.

    Consequently, the law must be read in such a way to allow this, with the gaps filled by good liturgical sense, or even, why not, an appeal to the OF rubrics (in the same way that the CCEO is read in the light of the CIC and vice versa). We would not have an EMHC to distribute the Chalice, though, but a priest, or a deacon (distributing the Chalice, not the Hosts, was among the traditional functions of a deacon, way before 1570). I think it is open to debate whether this would mean to consecrate a separate Chalice, or to fill the Precious Blood from one Chalice into the other before immersion (with a patena below and extraordinary caution) to keep up the symbol of the One Chalice. When there is no danger from immersed (possibly very small) Particle unless Itself consumed, it would probably be preferable if the coeliac just Communicates from the priest’s chalice. If the celebrant distributes the Chalice to the coeliac communicant himself, the proper order to do this would be after, not before, nor during, the distribution of Hosts, because the species of bread is generally distributed before the species of wine.

  23. carl b says:

    In STh III.74.3 ad 3, St Thomas says that bread made from wheat mixed with another grain, as long as the other grain isn’t nearly half the quantity, is valid matter for the sacrament, giving the reason that moderate mixing doesn’t alter the species. This and similar recent documents say the matter is bread purely of wheat, or only wheat. Was St Thomas’ reasoning wrong?

  24. ChesterFrank says:

    I wonder how many public schools across the nation offer gluten free breads for people that think they might have celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity , or wheat allergies. I wonder if they guarantee that every food item they serve is listed as being gluten free, or marked as processed in the same facility as wheat products. In regards to the fragment of the host that is added to the chalice, I only observe that fragment being added to the priests chalice, and not to those given to the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Finally to eliminate all gluten from a wheat product is statistically impossible. At best enough gluten could be eliminated so that it cannot be detected by current analytical techniques. Not detected and not present are two different things. According those that market gluten free foods 1/3 of all people have some degree of gluten intolerance. Therefore 1/3 of humanity cannot receive the Eucharist. Liberalism at its best !

  25. JabbaPapa says:

    carl b :

    In STh III.74.3 ad 3, St Thomas says that bread made from wheat mixed with another grain, as long as the other grain isn’t nearly half the quantity, is valid matter for the sacrament, giving the reason that moderate mixing doesn’t alter the species. This and similar recent documents say the matter is bread purely of wheat, or only wheat. Was St Thomas’ reasoning wrong?

    He is not always right — but in this particular, it is clearly a matter for the Church to determine, and certainly not to be arrogated by individual Christians.

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