By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued guidelines that call Reiki therapy, an alternative medicine originating in Japan, unscientific and inappropriate for Catholic institutions.
According to a press release issued today, the bishops outline their position in “Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy,” which was developed by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, chaired by Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Reiki is a healing technique invented in Japan in the 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts. As the Guidelines explain, “according to Reiki teaching, illness is caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one’s ‘life energy.’ A Reiki practitioner effects healing by placing his or her hands in certain positions on the patient’s body in order to facilitate the flow of Reiki, the ‘universal life energy,’ from the Reiki practitioner to the patient.”
The Guidelines state that “Reiki lacks scientific credibility” and “has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy.”
“Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious,” they state.
The Guidelines note that “Reiki is frequently described as a ‘spiritual’ kind of healing as opposed to the common medical procedures of healing using physical means.” They assert, however, that there is a radical difference between Reiki therapy and the healing by divine power in which Christians believe: “for Christians the access to divine healing is by prayer to Christ as Lord and Savior, while the essence of Reiki is not a prayer but a technique that is passed down from the ‘Reiki Master’ to the pupil, a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results.”
In sum, Reiki therapy “finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief,” the Guidelines state.
“For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems,” the Guidelines state. “In terms of caring for one’s physical health or the physical health of others, to employ a technique that has no scientific support (or even plausibility) is generally not prudent.”
The guidelines warn that in using Reiki for one’s spiritual health, “there are important dangers.”
“To use Reiki one would have to accept at least in an implicit way central elements of the worldview that undergirds Reiki theory, elements that belong neither to Christian faith nor to natural science. Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, however, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith nor science,” they state.
“Superstition corrupts one’s worship of God by turning one’s religious feeling and practice in a false direction,” the Guidelines state. “While sometimes people fall into superstition through ignorance, it is the responsibility of all who teach in the name of the Church to eliminate such ignorance as much as possible.”
“Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy,” the Guidelines said.
The document can be found at http://www.usccb.org/dpp/doctrine.htm
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