[extropy-chat] the extropy list isn't actually dead

scerir scerir at libero.it
Tue Aug 31 18:07:49 UTC 2004

"May you live in interesting times"
         (Chinese curse)


'Church says girl's communion not valid'

Thursday, August 19, 2004

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.

Now, Haley Waldman's mother is pushing the Diocese of Trenton and the
Vatican to make an exception, saying the girl's condition should not exclude
her from the sacrament, which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ
before his crucifixion. The mother believes a rice Communion wafer would

"It's just not a viable option. How does it corrupt the tradition of the
Last Supper? It's just rice versus wheat," said Elizabeth Pelly-Waldman.

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

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.

The diocese has told Haley's mother that the girl can receive a low-gluten
wafer, or just drink wine at Communion, but that anything without gluten
does not qualify. Pelly-Waldman rejected the offer, saying her child could
be harmed by even a small amount of the substance.

Haley's Communion controversy isn't the first. In 2001, the family of a
5-year-old Massachusetts girl with the disease left the Catholic church
after being denied permission to use a rice wafer.

Some Catholic churches allow no-gluten hosts, while others do not, said
Elaine Monarch, executive director of the Celiac Disease Foundation, a
California-based support group for sufferers.

"It is an undue hardship on a person who wants to practice their religion
and needs to compromise their health to do so," Monarch said.

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.

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.

Last year, as the third grader approached Holy Communion age in this Jersey
Shore town, her mother told officials at St. Denis Catholic Church in
Manasquan that the girl could not have the standard host.

After the church's pastor refused to allow a substitute, a priest at a
nearby parish volunteered to offer one, and in May, Haley wore a white
Communion dress, and received the sacrament alongside her mother, who had
not taken Communion since she herself was diagnosed with the disease.

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
Pelly-Waldman. "She lives in a world of rules. She says 'Mommy, do we want
to break a rule? Are we breaking a rule?"'

Pelly-Waldman is seeking help from the Pope and has written to Cardinal
Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
in Rome, challenging the church's policy.

"This is a church rule, not God's will, and it can easily be adjusted to
meet the needs of the people, while staying true to the traditions of our
faith," Pelly-Waldman wrote in the letter.

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.

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