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According to the Catholic Church, what sort of latitude is afforded a parish in terms of the bread used in the Eucharist? For example, would it be allowed for a parish to use homemade whole wheat tortilla chips (or something similar) for the Eucharist?

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Supportive Dante would be more accurate to say there is "very little latitude" than to say "no latitude." His interpretation of Redemptionis Sacramentum in his answer is not correct. See this commentary on the same by Father Edward McNamara:

Although this document is written primarily for the Latin Church, what it says about the requirements for the validity of Eucharistic species also serves for the Eastern Churches, but not necessarily what refers to licit matter which may vary among Churches.

The use or omission of leaven in baking bread does not affect the reality of the end product as true bread. And so both leavened and unleavened bread are valid matter for the Eucharist.

The traditional use of unleavened bread in the Latin Church is a requirement for the Eucharist's licit celebration. A priest who consecrates a roll, bun or some other form of true wheat bread containing leaven performs a valid but illicit act.

Most Eastern Churches traditionally use leavened bread for the Eucharist and this would be a requirement for the licit celebration of the Eucharist in those Churches.

It must be observed, however, that one or two movements or associations of faithful within the Latin Church have received permission to use leavened bread within the context of Mass celebrated exclusively for members of the group or association.

The document indicates that nothing may be mixed into the bread which would make it something other than plain wheat bread, however, we know that plain wheat bread is plain wheat bread with or without leaven. Leaven is generally not allowed in the Western Church (though Fr. McNamara notes that permission has been granted to use it in some places in the West), but a Western priest who consecrates leavened bread at Mass still consecrates a valid Eucharistic Sacrament. Christ becomes present in such bread. The priest should not do this because it is considered illicit, and he is disobeying the general guidance from his superiors, as well as the standard rubrics for the liturgy he is celebrating.

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There is no latitude.

Valid matter for the Sacrament of the Eucharist (in the Latin Church) is bread made solely of wheat flour and water.

Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[48.] “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”.

[50.] “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).

The Church understands that using invalid matter is not merely a sinful abuse of the Sacrament, but it also means that the Sacrament cannot possibly occur.

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  • I wouldn't say there's "no latitude" since the regular unleavened bread (basically a flat loaf cut into small chunks) that was used in my (and probably others) college ministry can be validly consecrated since it meets the definition of wheat bread, but doesn't resemble a traditional host. Not saying that wasn't a terrible idea that I'm very glad they corrected, but I'm pretty sure it was a valid sacrament; at least in retrospect I'd be very sad if it wasn't.
    – Peter Turner
    Jun 7 at 13:01
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    This isn't accurate. If leavened bread is valid matter for the Eastern Churches, then it is also valid matter for Western Churches, however its use is illicit in the Western Rite generally. See this commentary on the passage you cited from Redemptionis Sacramentum
    – jaredad7
    Jun 7 at 15:07
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    Forgot to actually add the commentary: ewtn.com/catholicism/library/leavened-vs-unleavened-bread-4951
    – jaredad7
    Jun 7 at 15:24

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