Capitalism and the Communion Wafer

Are communion wafers a low fat snack?

Over at Killing the Buddha, Rowan Moore Gerety reports on the Cavanagh Company of Greenville, Rhode Island, the company that makes 80% of the “altar breads” consumed in the United States.  Gerety chronicles the way that Cavanagh is undermining the smaller, local, convent-centered manufacturers of communion wafers.  Here is a taste:

Clergy and producers alike are adamant that the bread is just bread prior to consecration (a Cavanagh employee used to joke that there was a priest waiting on the loading dock to bless the wafers as they came off the assembly line), but there is something uncanny about embracing advertising for a product destined to become the body of Christ. Predictably, Cavanagh’s general manager sees it differently: “Advertising our altar bread is a positive thing for Cavanagh Company. We take a lot of pride in putting our family name on a product that will eventually become the body and blood of Jesus.” Brands are a secular innovation. Cloistered communities have tended not to advertise their products, though the Clyde monastery sold 1.5 million wafers to Pope John Paul II for his 1993 visit to Denver. Cavanagh has built a brand that dominates the markets in Australia, England, and Canada.

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