CH writes: “My question is about an energy therapy called ‘Polarity Therapy’. Polarity Therapy is being done at the Catholic Church of my friend. I assumed that it was an OK therapy for Catholics because the Catholic Priest in charge of the Church and Nuns allow it and have treatments. I have doubts that it is an approved Catholic therapy.”
First, it’s important to note that the Church rarely “approves” or “disapproves” specific therapies. A recent exception would be Reiki, which was condemned by the U.S. bishops. Otherwise, we are expected to rely on Church teaching to determine whether a therapy is compatible with our faith, such as psychic healing, the Silva Method, or practices that rely on divination, all of which involve the occult, which is strictly forbidden to us (See Catechism No. 2115). Does the practice involve calling upon gods, such as transcendental meditation which uses the names of Hindu gods/goddesses as mantras, or yoga with its physical postures that were designed as positions of worship to Hindu deities? (Ibid, No. 2112)
The treatment you mention, Polarity Therapy, falls under the heading of “energy medicine” because it is based on a perceived need to balance “life energies” which are scientifically unfounded and which the Pontifical document, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life refers to as the “New Age god.” These treatments are problematic on several fronts because; 1) they introduce people to concepts that are part of a pantheistic belief system and, 2) they are scientifically unfounded and therefore have never been determined to be safe. Persistence in the use of unproven alternative therapies ventures into the realm of superstition, in this case being known as “superstitious medicine.” Obviously, Catholics do not want to be involved in superstition (Catechism No. 2111).
Polarity therapy is a treatment involving manipulation, stretching exercises and diet in order to remove blocks in the flow of “life energy” between the positive (head) and negatives poles (feet) of the body. Polarity therapists use a variety of techniques to clear these paths such as twisting the torso, spinal realignment, curling the toes, rocking motions and moving the hands or crystals along the body’s so-called energy pathways.
It was developed in the 1940’s by Randolph Stone, a chiropractor, osteopath and naturopath, who studied was student of traditional medical practices from India and China.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “Claims that polarity therapy is an effective treatment for cancer and other serious diseases have not been proven. The existence of energy field paths in the human body has also not been proven. Little clinical research has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals on polarity therapy.”
In spite of these poor credentials, the American Polarity Therapy Association reports that there are about 1,000 polarity therapists registered in the United States. While various schools and training programs exist worldwide to teach polarity therapy, none of these organizations are regulated by any government agency, which means just about anyone who says they’re qualified to train therapists can get away with doing so.
I seriously question the wisdom of promoting polarity therapy in a parish setting, not only because it is promoting pantheistic beliefs, but because there is always the risk of injury and your parish could be held liable if something goes wrong on their premises. Some parishes who venture into the realm of alternative therapies require that a person sign an agreement not to hold them liable if something goes wrong, which means the recipient must handle all medical bills – which could be substantial if it’s a long-term injury – another reason why untested therapies should not be offered or received in a parish setting.
A pastor should also consider the probability of introducing someone to this therapy who might decide to stop receiving conventional treatment for a serious condition such as diabetes or cancer. This happens more often than you might think, and is why the ACS warns that “Relying on this treatment alone and delaying or avoiding conventional medical care for cancer may have serious heal th consequences.”
I can’t see why any Catholic parish would subject itself or its parishioners to the many physical and spiritual risks inherent in the practice of polarity therapy.