The purpose of this blog is purely educational. It does not advise any reader to forgo medical treatment for any condition. It describes methods that have not yet been proven effective through widespread scientific testing. Readers who are concerned about their health are advised to contact their physician.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Energy healing and the Catholic church -- or "the Pope butts his nose in"

Recently we were treating a patient with stage 4 cancer. We were recommended to him for our ability to control pain and improve quality of life. We treated him three times, and each time he signalled that he had obtained significant pain relief.The day after the third treatment he was stronger and far more alert than he had been since the first time we had seen him. Then suddenly a wall went up and we were told our services were no longer needed. No explanation was given. The turnabout was so sudden and unexpected that we wondered whether there had been some kind of intervention. We were aware that the patient had received bad news and we assume that the bad news was that he was terminal. We now take a leap of imagination and go on to wonder whether he then spoke to a priest and was then told that what we were doing to him was unchristian. This is a leap of imagination; we don't actually know that this is what happened. I just can't for the life of me understand why someone with terminal cancer would turn down the opportunity to feel better without a strong philosophical reason. And of course we have to respect patients' choices, whatever they may be. As a friend of mine said, we can't negotiate dying, but we can negotiate how we die, or rather how we live until the moment of dying.

It seems that the Catholic establishment has a wee bit of a problem with energy healing. It summarily ignores Christ saying to his apostles in the Bible "all this ye shall do and more" and questions where the healing comes from, attributing it to suspect or even possibly malevolent forces.

This is from the March 31 2009 issue of the Guardian:

Reiki, an alternative Japanese therapy with a growing band of followers in the west, is "unscientific" and "inappropriate" for use in Catholic institutions, according to America's bishops.

Guidelines issued by the committee on doctrine at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops warn healthcare workers and chaplains that the therapy "lacks scientific credibility" and could expose people to "malevolent forces".

The document also claims that for a Catholic to believe in reiki presents "insurmountable problems".

Reiki means "universal life energy" and was developed by the theology professor Dr Mikao Usui at the turn of the 20th century, from Buddhist beliefs and Sanskrit teachings. The client lies on a couch, clothed and relaxing, while the therapist's hands rest lightly on the body in a special sequence. Clients often report heat and tingling sensations.

The church's guidelines state: "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. Superstition corrupts one's worship of God by turning one's religious feeling and practice in a false direction."

The document goes on to state that since reiki therapy is incompatible with Christian teaching and scientific evidence, "it would be inappropriate" for Catholic institutions, such as healthcare facilities and retreat centres, or people representing the church, such as chaplains, to promote or provide support for it.

We should note at this point that the church's problem with Reiki is likely not lack of scientific evidence. It took the Vatican only 400 years to accept Galileo's scientific evidence that the Earth revolved around the Sun, so one could not exactly call the church a pillar of empirical scientific inquiry. It is amusing to read that worshippers who dabble in Reiki are engaging in superstition right after the warning that Reiki may expose them to "malevolent forces".

What we do is not specifically Reiki, but all energy therapies tend to be lumped under the heading "Reiki" by people who do not practice them. The problem seems to be that Reiki is "New Age" and "New Age" thinking is inappropriate for Catholics. (Click here for the Reiki response.) At any rate, this is the same church that is happy to let its people live in poverty or suffer from AIDS so long as they don't use condoms, so why should it be more humane about the manner of their dying? As I said to one of my colleagues, who was disappointed about the outcome of our treatment of this patient, we are lucky that the world has changed enough that "they" are not coming to cart us away to throw us on the pyre.

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