A few moments after saying the communion rite, the priest looked at his congregation and uttered easily the most disturbing thing I have ever heard said in a church: ‘If anyone wants a gluten-free Eucharist, please queue up on this side.’
The builder boyfriend, already grumpy at being made to go to mass, tittered behind me. We hadn’t been able to find two seats together so I now had to imagine him making a series of faces to my back.
I couldn’t resist. I had to turn round and seek his opinion on this most revoltingly PC of moments. I have been going to mass off and on like the bad Catholic I am all my life but I have never heard anything so ludicrous.
As the congregation started queuing for communion, I turned round as discreetly as I could and the builder b’s face was a picture. His response was everything one could have hoped for: ‘They’ll be offering halal communion next.’
He whispered it, but he whispered it loudly enough for several pews full of worshippers to hear, so it produced a few gasps.
But he’s right. Where does it all end?
Strictly speaking, for us Catholics for whom transubstantiation really happens, the Eucharist is the body of Christ, so vegetarians are going to cut up rough if the Catholic Church wants to start going down the literal route. But I suppose it was only a matter of time before the Pope gave in to food allergies. He won’t allow divorce, extra-marital sex or birth control but wheat intolerance? The might of Rome is no match for wheat intolerance.
The Catholic Church presumably knows that if it were to fight ‘fad’ diets it would eventually do itself out of the few million people left who are willing to troop down to mass every Sunday.
While every poor soul in the developing world is happy to eat anything, every spoilt idiot in the western world is allergic to some perfectly innocuous foodstuff that they claim will kill them if they eat a molecule of it. No dietary assumption is too illogical or too scientifically baseless for us to trumpet it.
It has entered into middle-class legend that carbohydrates are poisonous as surely as it has become a well-known fact in chattering circles that if you place silk flowers on the dashboard of your Volkswagen it will render it carbon neutral.
I have girlfriends who say, ‘What?! You eat potatoes?!’ quite in the same tone of voice as if I had declared myself fond of eating glass. But it is not just carbs, as they are affectionately known by all those who refuse to ingest them. I have a friend who comes over all Lady Bracknell when I say I have no health objections to tomatoes.
‘Tomatoes! TO-MAAAAA-TOES!!!!’ she says, like Edith Evans. Her argument goes — in hushed tones — that no woman should ever, ever eat tomatoes past a certain age. Women of a certain age who eat tomatoes are damning themselves to a hell of their own making. Something to do with blah blah in tomatoes and female hormones blah blah. I never listen because it is obviously total rot.
‘I’m allergic to wool,’ said a friend the other day, as we browsed the January sales for pullovers. ‘How do you know?’ I asked.
‘I get itchy.’
‘Because the wool is itchy, perhaps?’
Another friend regales the waitress in the following manner as we attempt to order food in an eaterie on the King’s Road: ‘Is there bread in the scampi?’ Yes. ‘Is there flour in the gravy?’ Yes. ‘Is there...’
‘Yes!’ I scream. ‘Yes, there’s prawn in the prawn cocktail and there’s soup in the soup and there’s steak in the steak!’
This is the same chap who a while back took out a digital scales in the same restaurant and weighed his sirloin then produced a folding nest of plastic measuring cups and measured his vegetable portions, whereupon I threatened to walk unless he desisted.
But who are these people who have demanded their Catholic priest offer them a gluten-free Eucharist? For truly they are on a whole new level of dietary obnoxiousness.
And why has the mighty Catholic Church made such an ass of itself by giving in to them? How can it expect anyone to take it seriously when it offers communion à la carte?
What next? The priest asking parents if they’d like to see the children’s menu, where the ‘Happy Communion’ features mini Eucharists with smiley faces on them?
Would not a better route have been for the church to tell those worshippers agitating for a special menu to pray for their digestive problems to be relieved? I’m sure if they have faith, their dietary burdens will be lifted from them.