Blog Post

Science and the Church

MS writes: "If western science shows that practices such as acupuncture work, will the practices become ok to use?"

The Church does not approve or disapprove of a practice based solely on its scientific efficacy, but also on its compatibility with revealed Truth. Regardless of whether something "works", if it relies on occult powers, (i.e., "life force energy" or psychic powers) it will not be approved for use by the faithful.

As this blog points out, the Church believes in the union of faith and reason. Even though faith is above science, the Catechism teaches that "there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason" (CCC No. 159).

Therefore, the Church bases her opinions on both faith (if the practice is compatible with the Christian worldview) and reason (if the practice is scientifically sound).

Science may, however, discover that a practice works for reasons other than the various mystical philosophies with which it is associated, which might then change the way the Church rules on the use of a particular practice.

A good example would be acupuncture. Science is currently studying acupuncture with a belief that it may work because of the release of endorphins which are part of the body's natural pain-control response; by stimulation of nerves in the spinal cord that release pain suppressing neurotransmitters; or by the naturally occurring increase in blood flow in puncture areas that remove toxic substances.

Science does not believe that acupuncture works for the reasons put forth in Chinese Traditional Medicine which assert that the insertion of needles at certain locations on the body, known as meridians or energy pathways, helps to balance the flow of "qi". There is no scientific evidence that "qi" even exists, let alone that it infuses the body in such a way that it can be balanced by the insertion of needles. Belief in qi is also based in a pantheistic belief system that is not compatible with Christianity.

The Church currently associates the Traditional Chinese version of acupuncture with the New Age, and rightly so, but it may rule differently if science determines that its course of action is due to the normal function of the body rather than to the occult forces with which it is presently associated. Should this be the case, it would no longer be acupuncture.

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