Catholic bishops say no to Reiki treatment
Mar. 27, 2009 By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service
Mar. 27, 2009 By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Catholic Bishops said Thursday (March 26) that Catholic chaplains, health care facilities and retreat centers should not promote or support Reiki therapy, a Japanese alternative healing practice.
Reiki "finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Doctrine said in six pages of guidelines.
"For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems," said the committee, which is chaired by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference, said that over the last 18 months a number of bishops have asked the doctrine committee to evaluate the use of Reiki and make a judgment on its suitability for Catholic institutions.
About 2 million Americans have used Reiki, according to a 2002 survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Practitioners believe that a salutary life energy flows through the body and fosters well-being, the center said. The energy is often transmitted through experienced Reiki practitioners who lightly touch or place their hands above the patient's body.
But the bishops said "Reiki lacks scientific credibility" and "has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy." (And neither were chiropracters or acupuncturists.)
The Japanese practice differs from Christian faith healing because "the healing power is at human disposal," the bishops said. In contrast, "for Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior."
Moreover, practicing Reiki puts Catholics' spiritual health in danger, the bishops said, by corrupting worship of God and turning religious devotion "in a false direction." (Reiki is not a religion, although some practioners set themselves up as ministers, thats more of a legal dodge.)
"A Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition," the bishops said, "the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science."
I think I'm getting permanent heartburn. This document came out on Wednesday while the Vatican is still trying to spin Pope Benedict's 'scientific' understanding as to how condoms encourage the spread of AIDS. In fact Benedict was attacked fairly strongly by the British medical publication Lancet.
Now we have the USCCB declaiming the superstitious and unscientific basis of Reiki. Apparently they've forgotten the same thing was said about acupuncture and Reiki is very similar in outlook and language. Reiki practitioners just don't use needles, but the idea of chi energy and chakras is core to Reiki.
I'll be up front here. I know a lot of Reiki practitioners and I have a very definite opinion about the system of accreditation. I think in the West, Reiki is a very lucrative pyramid scheme. It didn't start out that way in Japan. In fact the original practitioner Dr. Usui, never charged for Reiki treatments or the students he mentored. Like most spiritual healers he felt developing spiritual healing talent was idiosyncratic and came with spiritual discipline. He did not teach a formalized system. Padre Pio would recognize a lot of himself in Dr. Usui, including the mystical experiences.
That all changed once Reiki hit the West. For whatever reason, if money is to be made it will be made and schools will be started and levels and initiation ceremonies will cost more and more money. Had this document dealt with this aspect of Reiki, I'd have been impressed. But it didn't. Instead it attacked the underlying assumptions on which Reiki is based, and quite frankly to an outside observer Reiki is no more superstitious than belief in the healing powers of relics.
Jesus was a hands on healer. The Gospels testify to that over and over again. Jesus said if we believed in Him we would do greater works than He did, because He was going to His father. This implies connection with the energy of His Father through Him and through the hands of His followers. It's not that different from Reiki's concept of universal energy. It's probably the same energy under a different name. Theoretical quantum physicists would not be so quick to condemn the influence of human consciousness on the material world.
For that matter, neither would a lot of the medical field in that pharmaceutical companies have to design double blind studies specifically to rule out the well known placebo effect---mind over matter. Some people think it's incredibly unethical to use double blind studies precisely because half the participants will not get the active agent and suffer harm. At least Reiki doesn't harm anybody even if it should be proved it doesn't help anybody.
I've worked with some talented Reiki healers, but I don't subscribe their talent to Reiki. I subscribe it to how they live their lives and their spiritual discipline. Catholicism does not have the corner on spiritual healing. God apparently doesn't limit himself to Catholic healers, no matter what the bishops think.
I also know a number of Catholic practitioners who went through Reiki training because Catholicism does not offer training or support for Catholic healers. As such they practice a form of Catholic Reiki sometimes centered around the intercession of the Archangel Rafael. (Not sure he would be my first choice, but then what do I know? All the healing he's ever been involved with for me has always been at the expense of my ego.)
I think what this is really all about is another shot at the New Age movement. One thing we do know about the West is that people are leaving organized religions in order to find a more honest spirituality. Spirituality and religion are not the same thing. Neither are Faith and religion. The sad thing is attacking New Age spirituality does nothing for spirituality with in Catholicism. This is another area where our bishops might find dialogue an eye opening experience. Not everyone involved in 'New Age' spirituality is out to make a buck.
There are some hugely talented spiritual people doing very important work. It's not an accident that Indigenous elders take some of them very seriously, even as equals. Catholic leadership seems to be of the opinion that none of this has anything to do with Jesus or Catholicism. They might be very surprised at how wrong that assessment actually is. It's one of the reasons I write this blog. Human consciousness is changing and instead of keeping our Light under our own little bushel, we need to share it. Is that really such a heretical concept?