Valid Matter for the Eucharist

Q: What ingredients can be used in making the bread that is consecrated during the Eucharist, and how does it affect the validity of the consecration if other ingredients are used?

A: In the Latin Rite of the Church the bread is to be made with wheat and water only. Nothing may be added to the recipe, and the introduction of materials such as baking powder, salt, and honey render the bread that is used illicit. In the Eastern Rites, leaven may be added to the bread.

Here is what Inestimabile Donum, the Church’s most recent major statement on liturgical abuses, states:

“The bread for the celebration of the Eucharist, in accordance with the tradition of the whole Church, must be made solely of wheat, and, in accordance with the tradition proper to the Latin Church, it must be unleavened. By reason of the sign, the matter of the Eucharistic celebration ‘should appear as actual food.’ This is to be understood as linked to the consistency is mof the bread, and not to its form, which remains the traditional one. No other ingredients are to be added to the wheaten flour and water. The preparation of the bread requires attentive care to ensure that the product does not detract from the dignity due to the Eucharistic bread, can be broken in a dignified way, does not give rise to excessive fragments, and does not offend the sensibilities of the faithful when they eat it” (Inestimabile Donum 8).

And the Code of Canon Law states:

“The bread must be made of wheat alone and recently made so that there is no danger of corruption” (CIC 924:2).

This means that any admixture of any other substance renders the use of the bread for consecration automatically illicit (unlawful). Concerning the issue of what happens to the validity of the consecration (i.e., whether Transubstantiation occurs), here is what Fr. Nicholas Halligan, one of the foremost sacramental theologians in the country, has to say in his manual of sacramental theology:

“The requisite material for the celebration of the Eucharist and the confection of the sacrament is only weaten bread, recently made whereby the danger of corruption is avoided… Unleavened bread alone is to be used in the Latin Rite.

“The bread must be made from wheat, mixed with natural water, baked by the application of fire heat (including electric cooking) and substantially uncorrupted. The variety of the wheat or the region of its origin does not affect its validity, but bread made from any other grain is invalid material. Bread made with milk, wine, oil, etc., either entirely or in a notable part, is invalid material. The addition of a condiment, such as salt or sugar, is unlwaful but valid, unless added in a notable quantity. Unbaked dough or dough fried in butter or cooked in water is invalid matter; likewise bread which is corrupted substantially, but not if it has merely begun to corrupt….

“The bread must be of wheat flour and only in case of necessity a white material thrashed or crushed from wheat. It must be free from mixture with any other substance besides flour and water. It is gravely unlawful to consecrate with doubtful matter. Altar breads must be fresh or recently baked and must not be allowed to get mouldy, which condition varies with regions, climates, etc.” (Nicholas Halligan, The Sacraments and Their Celebration, [New York: Alba House, 1986], 65-66).

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