Reiki therapy, a Japanese spiritual healing system, has found a welcomed place in Catholic religious orders and retreat centers —enough to compel the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to condemn the practice in a special statement.
While Catholic officials have condemned non-Catholic or unorthodox spiritual practices in the past (such as the Vatican’s criticism of New Age and Eastern forms of meditation), the bishops’ more specific target suggests that the use of Reiki is especially widespread among a segment of American Catholics. The National Catholic Reporter (April 17) notes that “many women in Catholic religious orders have become Reiki masters or practitioners and regularly teach or practice Reiki therapy at their orders’ retreat facilities or spiritual centers around the country.”
The newspaper’s web search reveals “scores of such U.S. centers as well as several retreat centers run by women religious in Canada offering similar programs. The bishops’ six-page statement criticizes Reiki as a superstition that operates in a “no-man’s land between faith and science.”
Such alternative practices as aromatherapy, tai chi and massages are not criticized, as they are viewed as neutral psychological techniques, but Reiki moves into pantheism and Gnosticism with its assertion of a universal life force or energy that Reiki masters say they can manipulate for healing purposes, according to Fr Thomas Weinandy, who heads the doctrinal affairs office for the U.S. bishops. Practitioners defend their use of Reiki as a way of spiritual enrichment that takes place in the context of prayer and a belief in Christ as the healer.
(National Catholic Reporter, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111)