Q. More and more people are being diagnosed with celiac or wheat allergies. Because of the particle of the host that is dipped into the chalice right before Communion, someone who is gluten-intolerant cannot receive the precious blood from the chalice. What is your suggestion? (Missouri)
A. It is true that celiac disease is now more prevalent than had earlier been realized. (This disease is an autoimmune reaction to eating gluten and can damage the lining of the small intestine.) A Mayo Clinic study in 2012 estimated that some 1.8 million Americans suffer from this disease.
For most of those so afflicted, low-gluten Communion hosts provide a solution. The parish from which I recently retired purchased these hosts from the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Missouri.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, then the director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland, had estimated in 2004 that the percentage of gluten in these hosts was so remote that someone who suffered from celiac disease would have to consume 270 of them daily before reaching the danger point.
To accommodate victims of celiac disease who wish to receive the precious blood, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recommended in their 2016 newsletter on divine worship that a separate small cup of wine be consecrated that would not be a part of the commingling rite. (At the commingling rite in the Mass, just before the Lamb of God prayer, the priest drops a small particle of the host into his chalice as a sign of the mingling of Christ’s body and blood.)
Q. Why was my annulment denied when my spouse broke a commandment by committing adultery during our marriage (resulting in a divorce)? Though many people are leaving the church, I want to stay and get married in the church. Why am I being denied that right? (Dallas, Georgia)
A. In the Catholic Church’s view, adultery itself is not a valid reason for annulling a marriage. For an annulment, one must be able to go back to the start of the marriage and be able to show either that the couple was prohibited from marrying by the laws of the church or that the consent of one or both of the spouses was invalid.
Some common grounds for that lack of consent (from the website of the Diocese of Rochester, New York) are: “inability to assume the essential obligations of marriage for psychological reasons” or “willful exclusion of essential elements or properties of marriage, such as children, fidelity or permanence.”
So, while the fact of adultery itself does not render a marriage invalid, it is possible that infidelity could offer evidence that one or both of the spouses had not entered the marriage with the proper commitment required for a valid marriage to come into existence. (Practically speaking, I would think that the sooner into the marriage the adultery took place, the easier it might be to show a lack of proper commitment at the outset.)
One of the church’s canonical grounds for annulment is “error concerning the unity … of marriage” (Canon 1099). As the Archdiocese of Atlanta explains on its website, some questions to be raised are these: “At the time of marriage, did either you or your former spouse believe that it was acceptable to have other sexual partners after marriage? Was there anything in the family background to explain the belief that marriage was not an exclusive (totally faithful) relationship?”
And so, I would say to the writer of our question: If you simply offered the fact of your spouse’s adultery in petitioning for an annulment, I understand why it was denied. But if you can go back to the very time of the marriage and show that your spouse lacked the requisite consent to exclusivity, you might want to re-submit the case to your diocesan tribunal.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.
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