Saturday, August 21, 2004

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine
and an appalling hubris.

BRIELLE, New Jersey (AP) -- An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.

As if we need another reason to hate the Catholic church.

Church doctrine holds that Communion wafers, like the bread served at the Last Supper, must have at least some unleavened wheat. Church leaders are reluctant to change anything about the sacrament.

"This is not an issue to be determined at the diocesan or parish level, but has already been decided for the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world by Vatican authority," Trenton Bishop John M. Smith said in a statement last week.

What is more pathetic: a mythology more interested in preserving its pointless traditions than in protecting the well-being of its followers or the mindless, co-dependent followers who see this blatant disregard for their health as some validation that keeps bringing them back for more abuse and neglect?

Haley was diagnosed with celiac sprue disease when she was 5. The disorder occurs in people with a genetic intolerance of gluten, a food protein contained in wheat and other grains.

When consumed by celiac sufferers, gluten damages the lining of the small intestine, blocking nutrient absorption and leading to vitamin deficiencies, bone-thinning and sometimes gastrointestinal cancer.

Celiac sprue disease isn't as rare as this story implies. My sister has it. Two of my friends have it. One of my co-workers has it. It's so common in Scandinavian countries that there are entire bakeries devoted to preparing gluten-free breads. It's become common enough in America that the ingredients listings on many of our prepared foods now specifically state whether or not the foods contain wheat or wheat byproducts. It's a ubiquitous, well-understood and easy-to-work-around disorder. So why is the Catholic church so hell-bent on denying spiritual validation for -- and compromising the health of -- its gluten-intolerant followers?

The church has similar rules for Communion wine. For alcoholics, the church allows a substitute for wine under some circumstances, however the drink must still be fermented from grapes and contain some alcohol. Grape juice is not a valid substitute.

Need I remind you how alcoholism is far more common than gluten intolerance? And Jesus said, "Fuck you."

Haley, a shy, brown-haired tomboy who loves surfing and hates wearing dresses, realizes the consequences of taking a wheat wafer.

"I'm on a gluten-free diet because I can't have wheat. I could die," she said last week.

The church has a long, arrogant history of willful confusion between science and make-believe, so I guess we shouldn't be so surprised by all of this. But even when the cause-and-effect consequences of celiac disease are spelled out by a child in terms that even a child can understand, the church remains resolutely steadfast in its refusal to acknowledge and work around the proven biological threats to that child's health.

Last month, the diocese told the priest that the church would not validate Haley's sacrament because of the substitute wafer.

"I struggled with telling her that the sacrament did not happen," said her mother. "She lives in a world of rules. She says 'Mommy, do we want to break a rule? Are we breaking a rule?'"

"Validate the sacrament"? Who gives a shit if a light snack at the communion rail has been "validated"?

Pelly-Waldman -- who is still attending Mass every Sunday with her four children -- said she is not out to bash the church, just to change the policy that affects her daughter.

"I'm hopeful. Do I think it will be a long road to change? Yes. But I'm raising an awareness and I'm taking it one step at a time," she said.

Of course she doesn't want to bash the church. She's co-dependent. She's ineffectively "raising an awareness" in an institution that is shamelessly hostile to the general awareness that the real world -- including many of its parishoners -- enjoys.

This is the same organization that won't ordain female priests even when its churches are closing and its parishes are dissolving specifically for lack of available male priests. This is the same organization that works so hard to ban gay men from the priesthood and then blames the gay men in the priesthood for the atrocities committed by the pedophiles it so obviously doesn't ban. This is the same organization that works so hard to legislate its belief that gay marriage is a threat to the so-called "sacred institution" of marriage but does nothing to legislate a ban on the real threats to marriage: divorce, annulment (a convoluted subset of divorce that only the Catholic church could invent), spouse abuse and adultery (which, by the way, is specifically banned in the Ten Commandments -- which, also by the way, have nothing to say about homosexuality on any level).

This is the same organization that gives me so much joy as I watch it collapse under the weight of its own arrogance ... though I hate seeing all its casualties -- all people it works so hard to hurt -- as it crumbles to the ground.


David said...

I read about this. What do you expect from a pig, but a grunt? What I don't understand is this whole 'Gay Catholics' thing...,

Homer said...

Oh gosh, it seems strange that people are still interested in participating in archaic institutions that do more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Catholic Church is more interested in blind adherence to "doctrine" than common sense or compassion ...

Anonymous said...

The June 2004 issue of "The Journal of Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics" reported that trace amounts of gluten can be safely consumed.    link to article at Celiac dot ComThe Benedictine Sisters in Missouri manufacture communion wafers containing very low amounts of gluten. The most current issue of the quarterly magazine "Gluten-Free Living" reported that people with celiac disease may safely consume these.     link to Georgia BulletinHorton