[The Ironic Catholic is traveling for work until Wednesday. In IC's absence, the Spouse of the Ironic Catholic (sic) is filling in.]
[click image twice to enlarge the full nutrition facts label]
Washington, D.C. -- The Food and Drug Administration has rejected the Nutrition Facts label submitted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in order to comply with FDA regulations, a USCCB spokeswoman said today. The action was likely to exacerbate the dispute between the Church and the agency following the agency's ruling last month that the Eucharist, in both species, falls under FDA oversight.
"We submitted what we believe to be a factually accurate label," said USCCB spokeswoman Sr. Mary Jane Waltz. "Ontologically speaking, it reflects the reality of what the faithful are consuming when they receive the Eucharist."
But FDA regulators were "not amused" by the label, which listed as ingredients the "Body and Blood, soul and divinity" of Jesus Christ. The label also included a detailed list of the graces received with reception of the Eucharist.
"The agency wishes to respect the religious beliefs of Catholics," said FDA spokesman Sammy Bonk. "But given that some 38 million people are consuming the Church's bread and wine on a weekly basis, we feel that it is well within our authority to ensure that consumers are informed about exactly what they're ingesting. A simple 'wheat' would suffice for the ingredients list, along with a basic nutritional analysis. We just don't see the need to complicate this. We didn't get any grief from the Unitarians."
"Of course, the Unitarians don't believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist," Waltz clarified.
At issue, according to Bishop Harry Barrington, is whether the nutrition facts label applies to the bread and wine before or after consecration. "If we're talking pre-consecration here, well, no problem," he said. "But we don't distribute unconsecrated bread and wine at communion. As the Council of Trent taught, the substance of the bread changes into the substance of our Lord's body, and the substance of the wine changes into the substance of our Lord's blood. Frankly, we think that the government is overreaching its authority by trying to regulate the Divine Presence."
The Church plans to appeal the agency's ruling. Meanwhile, speculation is running rampant about whether the agency will expand its oversight by classifying chrism oil as a schedule III controlled substance, given its supernatural powers.