I was reading about the Eucharist the other day and read that sometimes in Catholic mass, there is low-gluten bread available for those who are gluten free. The same text said that the bread, once consecrated, ceases to be bread and becomes the body of Christ.

If the bread is no longer bread and indeed the body of Christ, wouldn't it no longer be dangerous to gluten-free people, and if it's no longer dangerous/bread, why cater to the faithful gluten-free? Shouldn't they understand it is no longer bread and instead the body of Christ?

Do I have some sort of misunderstanding of what Catholicism teaches of the Eucharist? I brought this up to my girlfriend who is Catholic, and she said (my interpretation of what she said) that the bread still has its materialistic properties although it has turned into the body of Christ. This didn't really make sense to me at all and I didn't press the issue any further as I felt kind of silly for bringing it up and my lack of knowledge on the subject. Do I have some sort of misunderstanding here or am I looking too deeply into something so "minor"?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


Your girlfriend sounds correct. It may sound silly at first, but the doctrine of Transubstantiation is a well developed, detailed explanation of what happens during the consecration of the bread and wine. It is not a minor thing.

The Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation teaches that the substance of the bread, what the bread really is, becomes the Body of Christ. The accidents of the bread, the characteristics like color, taste, etc, are not changed. These are properties that are not essential to what bread is. Red bread would still be bread. The accidents include everything that you could determine using chemistry.

The human body will still react to the host because the chemical accident/characteristic of containing gluten remains true.

Gluten-free hosts

Several people have commented/suggested edits about gluten-free hosts. It is my understanding that these are not valid for the Eucharist. See this letter of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI)

To answer a comment:

Note that the words essence , substance , and accidents have a specific philosophical meaning with a history and development that stretches back thousands of years. They don't necessarily agree with how we use the words today, especially if one is coming from a modern, rationalist-materialist worldview.

It is tempting to say that the chemistry of the bread or its components is the essence of the bread, but that does not coincide with how the Catholic Church uses the term essence. An overview of that would be a good question to post (if it has not already been asked).

  • 4
    @Pigfaricus I think it is more accurate to say the chemical properties of gluten are accidents of the bread, rather than the gluten itself. They gluten may be essential to bread. I'm not sure, but the augment the CC makes for not having gluten-free bread suggests that maybe it is essential. I've edited my answer to address some of your comment.
    – bradimus
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 17:40
  • 1
    It is strange in my mind to make a division between the chemical properties of gluten and gluten itself. The chemical properties of gluten seem, to me, to be a substance of gluten, and if gluten is a substance of bread, then the chemical properties of gluten would be a substance of the bread. Perhaps this is devolving into a matter of opinion based on whether or not chemical properties of something = something...
    – Pigfaricus
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 17:54
  • 10
    @Pigfaricus This is exactly the point. The idea that something is the sum of its properties, which is the approach science takes, is called nominalism and dates back to the late 12th or early 13th century. The approach the Church uses to understand what goes on here is a much older philosophical idea, dating back to Aristotle if not before, and says that (to paraphrase a CS Lewis character) what something is, and what it is made of, are different. Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 18:06
  • 4
    @MattGutting and bradimus, I'll go ahead and accept this as the most helpful answer. Thanks for all of your comments!
    – Pigfaricus
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 22:05
  • 3
    It may add clarity to contrast substance and form (which is why it's transubstatiate not transform).
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 11:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .