Reiki therapy inappropriate for use by Catholic

Washington, April 01, 2009 - Reiki therapy, an alternative medicine originating in Japan, is unscientific and inappropriate for use by Catholic hospitals, clinics and retreat centers and people representing the church, the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine said March 26.

"For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems," the committee's guidelines said. "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 bishops said the technique -- which involves a Reiki practitioner laying hands on a client -- also is encouraged as a "spiritual" kind of healing, but that for Christians "access to divine healing" comes through prayer to God.

A Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki "would be operating in the realm of superstition," they said.

The U.S. bishops outlined their position in "Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy." The guidelines, available online at www.usccb.org/dpp/doctrine.htm, were developed by the doctrine committee, chaired by Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.

They were approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee March 24 during its spring meeting in Washington. The Administrative Committee is the authoritative body of the USCCB that approves committee statements.

The guidelines described Reiki as a healing technique "invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui, who was studying Buddhist texts."

They stated that "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 Web site of the International Center for Reiki Training calls it a "technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing."

But, the bishops' guidelines said, "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," the guidelines said.

In 2008, after conducting a review of random clinical trials using Reiki, the International Journal of Clinical Practice concluded: "The evidence is insufficient to suggest Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of Reiki remains unproven."

The bishops' guidelines noted that "Reiki is frequently described as a 'spiritual' kind of healing as opposed to the common medical procedures of healing using physical means."

However, there is a radical difference between Reiki therapy and the healing by divine power in which Christians believe, the guidelines said.

"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," they said.

In sum, Reiki therapy "finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief," the guidelines said.

They warned that "there are important dangers" in using Reiki for one's spiritual health.

"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," they said.

"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 continued.

One's worship of God is corrupted by superstition, because it turns "one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction," the guidelines stated.

"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," they said.

"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.

- CNS

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