At one time, religious communities of monks and nuns were charged with making the wine and the bread used in Holy Communion rites, Menke said. Today, communion wafers are available online and wine bottles line liquor and grocery store shelves. Menke speculated that the recent circular letter may have arisen more over concerns about wine purity than bread.
“The Holy See realizes that people are probably buying wine that’s not specifically made for Mass,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s wrong or that it can’t work for Mass, but they just want to remind bishops that it’s important to pay attention to how things are made.”
Accommodations are made, though, for those with conditions that make consuming alcohol or gluten impossible. Priests may choose “gluten-free” breads made from wheat, which have had almost all of the offending protein removed, according to a 2003 circular letter; a trace amount (no more than 20 parts per million, according to food regulators) may remain, which the church considers acceptable. Gluten-free products not made from wheat are considered too far removed from the original intent of the Eucharist to count.