Bread or Cake, Validity & Liceity


Some arguments never go away.

In my many years inhabiting the RPI discussion boards (see side bar), I frequently tangled with a person named “Lee” who had many points to make, and on occasion he stretched them to the point of being ridiculous. Once he insisted that Jesus’s DNA was to be found in the consecrated host, and was outraged when I wrote that if, heaven forbid, it were ever tested, we’d find the somewhat cooked and broken-down DNA of wheat.

Classical accidents, my friends.

If you think the Catholic blogs have testy commentariats, well … RPI was a precursor to it all.

So I have to take exception to the excitable suggestion of Tony from Catholic Pillow Fight (also see side bar):


I’m grateful that Todd assists in combating this abuse, but in the case of additives in altar bread, it deprives the faithful of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Transubstantiation is not effected on invalid matter. So contaminated altar bread deprives the faithful of the source and summit of our faith.

This discussion came up many years ago at RPI. And the simple fact is that bread can still be bread inclusive of a small amount of sugar in the recipe. It’s still not the right thing to use, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still bread. Invalidity would not be in play unless and until the amount of ingredients that were not wheat flour and water turned the food into something that was not bread.

“Lee” was not impressed when I asked if the Orthodox addition of yeast as a leavening agent to their perfectly valid sacrament also triggered invalidity.

If taken to extremes, the slightest speck of dust drifting into a batch of bread dough would be enough to invalidate the whole operation. At some point, good sense has to replace scrupulosity.

Liam weighed in more sensibly:

I do agree with Tony that invalid matter* for the eucharistic species is a Def-Con 5-level issue, as are all issues that trigger sacrametal invalidity. Such things are a profound deceit on the People of God; no one, including us progressives, should ever feel any pressuer to be quiet about those problems, because being quiet does no one any favors and is deeply false charity. Inform the pastor in professional, but no uncertain terms, and if he quibbles about resolution, go to the bishop.

Parish bread bakers putting a small amount of honey or sugar into a eucharistic bread recipe: that’s a major bad, and it’s no doubt illicit (illegal) but it doesn’t trigger invalidity unless the resulting confection ceases to be bread.

If a fly were to get stuck in the bread batter, get baked, and the loaf or host happened to dodge quality control and the sacristan, the fly would not be part of the sacrament. But the surrounding accidents of bread would be.

If a hard nugget of sugar (or even a lump of flour) did not mix in with the rest of the ingredients, that nugget would not be part of the sacrament. But the surrounding mixed bread would be.

The real question, as I see it, have flavoring additions ever been piled in to a bread recipe to the point of rendering it a cake? If you can truthfully answer affirmatively, then you have invalid matter.

If not, you have a situation that might need correction, but nothing more grave than that.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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