New Vatican Requirements for Eucharist Bread
NCR reports (here) that the Vatican has mandated that bishops “verify and guarantee the validity and worthiness of the bread and wine used for the celebration of the Eucharist.” Pope Francis asked the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to notify every bishop of these requirements. This is bureaucracy run amuck.
This was deemed necessary because bread and wine for the Eucharist are no longer exclusively supplied by religious orders/communities, but also by “supermarkets and other stores and even over the internet.” But this has been true for some time. Why the sudden need for a crackdown?
About the Altar/Eucharist Bread
Pope Francis and the Vatican said the bread used for the Eucharist must be “unleavened, purely of wheat, and recently made”; furthermore, “it is a grave abuse” for the unleavened bread to contain any additives such as “fruit or sugar or honey.” This is consistent with Canon Law 924 which requires unleavened bread made from only wheat and water. There deosn't seem to be anything new here.
In the Last Supper, Jesus presumably used unleavened bread, or matzah, since it took place on Passover, the festival of unleavened bread. But originally, the Eucharist did not use unleavened bread. Paul did not require his Gentile flock to make matzah for the Eucharist. They used regular bread.
Neither did the apostles use unleavened bread. The Didache, or Teaching of the Apostles, gives detailed instructions for the Eucharist bread (9:5-12). Part of the prayer says, “As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth” (v. 8). This alludes to Jesus’s miracles in feeding thousands with pieces from a loaf of bread. It was bread, not matzah.
Pictures in the Roman catacombs also show the Eucharist being celebrated with large, round loaves of bread – leavened bread. Similarly, most of the Eastern Churches have always used leavened bread. In fact, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (see Altar Bread), “the earliest documentary evidence that the altar-breads were made in thin [unleavened] wafers is [from] the middle of the eleventh century.” In other words, even the Catholic Church used regular bread for centuries before switching to unleavened bread.
While the Catholic Church obviously knows that leavened bread was originally used to celebrate the Eucharist, they repeatedly declare that this is invalid. It apparently believes that its founders didn’t know what they were doing, and screwed things up for about a thousand years.
The Church insists that Jesus magically transforms the altar bread into his own body when he hears the priest utter the magic words. This is one hell of a trick. But the infallible Church would also have us believe that Jesus cannot manage this with a piece of leavened bread, or even unleavened bread that is not 100% wheat without additives. This seems almost blasphemous, not to mention idiotic.
The Catholic Church spent thousands of hours reaching this conclusion, and tens of thousands of hours disseminating it. But they claim they do not have the resources to address their child abuse problems, or to feed the poor without making further special collections. This is bureaucracy run amuck. It is yet another example of its policy of doubling down on absurdities it knows are false. Eventually, these absurdities become accepted as sacred tradition.