The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has warned Roman Catholics to shun the eastern healing art of Reiki because it lacks scientific credibility and is dangerous to Christian spiritual health.
"Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief," said the USCCB doctrine committee in a document issued Thursday.
In health terms, using a therapeutic technique that has no scientific basis "is not generally prudent," said the eight bishops on the committee, which in the past has issued guidelines on how to minister to "persons with homosexual inclinations" and frequently asked questions about why only men are ordained.
In spiritual terms, using Reiki carries "important dangers" because the therapy is based on the theory that illness can be healed by re-balancing "universal life energy", or Reiki, by a laying on of hands by a trained master, and that clashes with Christian belief, the bishops said.
"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," the bishops said in a statement.
And then there's the fact that "neither the Scriptures nor the Christian tradition as a whole speak of the natural world as based on 'universal life energy' that is subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will," the bishops said.
To use Reiki is to operate "in the realm of superstition, the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science," the bishops warned, urging Catholic healthcare institutions, retreats and chaplains to ditch the therapy, which originated in Japan in the 1800s.
A survey conducted in 2002 by the US National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) found that more than 2.2 million US adults have used Reiki for health purposes.