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100 years ago in Spokane: Prohibition causes headaches for Catholic churches needing sacramental wine

Catholic churches were having trouble obtaining sacramental wine because of prohibition, The Spokesman-Review reported on Aug. 11, 1917. The newspaper also reported that World War I draft boards were cracking down on exemptions for having a dependent wife. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Catholic churches were having trouble obtaining sacramental wine because of prohibition, The Spokesman-Review reported on Aug. 11, 1917. The newspaper also reported that World War I draft boards were cracking down on exemptions for having a dependent wife. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The state’s prohibition law was having an unintended consequence. Churches were having trouble obtaining sacramental wine.

Catholic Bishop Augustin F. Schinner of Spokane said that “local authorities in some of the towns do now seem to understand the law.” They were claiming that a federal law prohibited them from shipping wine into a dry territory, yet the law actually exempted sacramental wine.

Some churches were resorting to a simple solution. They had simply switched to unfermented grape juice. The Scripture, said one pastor, simply says “fruit of the vine.”

From the draft beat: Draft boards across the country, including in Spokane, were cracking down on exemptions because of a dependent wife. So many married men were claiming exemptions that authorities were worried about drafting enough men.

As a result, the instructions to draft boards had changed. They were no longer allowing exemptions to all married men. The men had to prove that the wife was supported entirely by the man’s labor. “When the wife can be supported by income from property or other sources, the man will not be exempted from military service.”


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