It must be strange trying to keep Christian dogma relevant in a modern society. For starters, you have to deal with a wide array of absurd verses, both in the Old and the New Testament — ranging from slavery to smashing infants on rocks (we’ll get to that a bit later). However, the Vatican is keeping itself busy. Their latest preoccupation — gluten-free bread. Really, bread?

Image credits: USAF.

The question is relevant in the context of the Eucharist, a very important Christian rite, especially for Catholics and Orthodox. Many Protestants also place a great importance on the Eucharist, though they might call it “Communion”, “the Lord’s Supper”, or “the Breaking of Bread”. If you’re not familiar with it, this is the basic rundown. During the Last Supper, Jesus allegedly gave his 12 apostles bread and wine, referring to the bread as his body and the wine as his blood. The idea is for Christians to ritually eat holy bread and holy wine to remember and cherish Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. It’s a rather interesting (and distinctly pagan-looking) celebration… but what if you’re gluten intolerant?

Well, you just don’t get to do it, simple as that. In a letter circulated to Roman Catholic bishops, the Pope instructed Cardinal Robert Sarah of the Congregation for Divine Worship to tell congregation members the correct ingredients for the ritual. The “body of Christ” must contain gluten, and the “blood of Christ” must be made from unsoured grapes. Even if the bread is made from another grain, it’s still invalid.

“Hosts that are completely gluten-free are invalid matter for the celebration of the Eucharist,” according to the letter which was translated by Vatican Radio.

Low-gluten is an option, and not drinking wine is also an option — but bread must contain gluten for it to be able to become “holy.” Just to clarify, this is just regular bread, with ingredients readily available in supermarkets.

“Low-gluten hosts are valid matter,” the letter continues. Those unable to consume bread or wine containing gluten are directed to drink a pressed fruit juice known as “mustum”.

I’m going to take a step outside formal journalism and ask who comes up with things like this? It’s two-thousand years ritual based on symbols. The bread is a symbol, the wine is a symbol, everything is a symbol. Needless to say, the Bible doesn’t really discuss anything about gluten, but the Vatican’s theorists have that figured out and came up with this gem.

Besides, having alternatives for wine and not for bread seems highly unlogical. If you happen to be gluten intolerant, no Eucharist for you — and again, this is one of the most important rituals in some Christian communities. How does the Bible theory deal with this? Of course, it doesn’t. The Bible is a two-thousand-year-old book that doesn’t offer much in the way of clarity, and at points, in the way of sanity.

For instance, St Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 2:12 is quite interesting: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent” the saint says. The Psalm 137 also presents an interesting view of revenge: “Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” That seems a bit rough, eh? “Do not allow a sorceress to live” doesn’t even seem that bad after it. The bottom line is, being religious and following the Bible is fine as long as you understand you just can’t take it literally and as long as you don’t make up stuff around it. You know, kind of like how abortion isn’t ever mentioned in the Bible, but Christians adopted a religious position around it.

Of course, most of the Bible “crazies” come from the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, Jesus himself expresses support for the old Prophets. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” he says.

The problem is, there are lots of massively outdated things in the Bible. You get references to slavery, killing people who commit adultery, and plenty of cruelty to go around. Some parts of the Bible definitely haven’t aged well, but then again, after 2,000 years, what hasn’t?

Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!

Like us on Facebook

Your opinion matters -- voice it in the comments below!