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.
"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.
Phoenix, March 27, 2009 - Maybe TV isn't so bad after all.
An estimated 92,000 inactive Catholics in the Phoenix Diocese have come back to the church in the last year thanks in large part to a groundbreaking television advertising campaign called Catholics Come Home.
The promotional spots featured people and locations from around the Phoenix Diocese to promote the church during prime-time television. The cornerstone of the campaign, the Catholics Come Home Web site, addresses often misunderstood aspects of the faith.
"For those who had fallen away from the practice of their faith, it let them know that we want them to come home," Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said.
The commercials, which ran during Lent in 2008, detail the good works of the Catholic Church throughout history. They also offer real-life testimonials of local fallen-away Catholics explaining what turned them away and what drew them back.
"Phoenix was supposed to be this quiet little test," said Tom Peterson, a former resident of Phoenix who is president and founder of Catholics Come Home, which is now based in Georgia.
"Word went worldwide as soon as you launched," he said in an interview with the Phoenix diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sun.
More than half a million different visitors from all 50 states and 80 countries have visited the Web site catholicscomehome.com since the spots first aired.
The response was so positive that other dioceses around the country are looking to Phoenix for ideas on bringing Catholics back to the church.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas recently launched different versions of the television spots in English and Spanish. Each parish supplemented the commercials at Ash Wednesday services with a brochure for everyone answering common faith-related questions and listing Mass times and ministries.
The Catholics Come Home spots will appear in more than a dozen other dioceses around the country later in 2009 or early 2010. By the time Advent rolls around in 2010, organizers say they'll go national on major networks.
"Our family is made up of every race," begins the longest of the spots. "We are young and old, rich and poor, men and women, sinners and saints."
The two-minute ad highlights the vital part the Catholic Church has played in establishing hospitals, orphanages and schools in addition to its role in science, marriage, family life, Scripture and sacraments.
"If you've been away from the Catholic Church, we invite you to take another look," the announcer says toward the end. "We are Catholic; welcome home."
Another two-minute ad shows men and women alone watching the best and the worst scenes from their lives play back before them on an old movie reel.
The final ad that aired -- Peterson has dozens more like it ready to go -- featured snippets of testimonials about why Catholics left the church and what they found upon their return.
Peterson said the Catholics Come Home campaign has "the potential of re-Christianizing our society and even catechizing the world."
A lot of pro bono production, nearly $1 million from various donors and foundations, and a grant from the Catholic Community Foundation helped put the ads on the air.
The Diocese of Phoenix has witnessed increased interest in the church, which leaders are attributing to last year's campaign.
"It's exciting to see the fruits that continue to grow from this," said Ryan Hanning, coordinator of adult evangelization for the diocese. According to Hanning, a number of the faithful have found a renewed passion for the church, while fallen-away Catholics rejoined parish life.
Hanning worked closely with Peterson on the Catholics Come Home campaign and ensured that parish leaders, especially those in faith formation, were ready to welcome back Catholics and resolve sacramental and doctrinal issues. More than 25 parishes created programs to welcome Catholics back to the church.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tempe was one of them. It showed a video before Easter Masses and held a six-week program for returning Catholics.
"The commercials helped (fallen-away Catholics) realize that they were missing something in their lives," said Father John Bonavitacola, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He noticed that Catholics who had grown lax in their faith or who felt hurt by the church, or who had divorced and remarried, returned. Many had their marriage validated in the church while others joined for the first time.
Six months after the media campaign ended, a comprehensive analysis of its impact revealed a 22 percent increase in Mass attendance at nine sample parishes. Throughout the diocese, the average increased Mass attendance -- returned and new Catholics -- was 12 percent. That's despite a flat population growth in the diocese during that period.
"Wherever they've been, they can come back home. It's a message that resonates," Hanning said. "I never thought I'd have thousands of Catholics calling and e-mailing me and saying, 'I'm proud to be Catholic and I want to help others.'"
Davenport, Iowa, Mar 21, 2009 - Late last year, Larry Dingman was suffering from a painful spinal infection that put him in “sheer misery.” Two operations later, the patient at Mercy Iowa City says he’s doing better — but not just thanks to the hospital’s doctors and nurses.
“The chaplains have been fantastic,” says the Catholic truck driver from Iowa City. “The best thing is that they’d talk with me and say, ‘You’re in my prayers,’ which may not sound like a lot, but it meant a lot to me… I think that’s part of the healing process.”
In the Davenport Diocese, the three Catholic hospitals — as do other hospitals — acknowledge spirituality’s potential by providing Masses and ecumenical services, in-house and home chaplains, and other offerings. The efforts not only comply with the U.S. bishops’ directive that Catholic health care institutions treat “the whole person,” but reflect research that has linked spiritual well-being to better immune function and quicker recovery.
With faith’s role in mind, Mercy Iowa City has for about 40 years done a spiritual assessment of inpatients, says Mark McDermott. He is director of pastoral care for the hospital and one of its four full-time chaplains, all lay Catholics. (Area priests and sisters also visit the hospital, which has 9,500 inpatients annually.)
The assessment asks about emotional and spiritual issues patients are facing, the patients’ levels of faith, courage and other “inner resources,” and external supports such as a church community. Chaplains use that assessment to meet patients’ spiritual needs — perhaps by reading Scripture and praying with those who say they have no faith community nearby, McDermott says, or providing counseling.
“This stems from our mission that believes healing involves body, mind and spirit, all intimately connected,” he says. “We heal in the spirit of Jesus Christ, who healed the whole person — not just the physical ailment.”
Similarly, Mercy Medical Center in Clinton asks patients if they’d like to see a chaplain, and may document a review of patients’ church community, relationship with God, external support and coping skills. But chaplains automatically respond to code calls, deaths, traumas and high-risk transfers to provide spiritual support, says Judy Wallace, director of social services.
McDermott says he often senses emotional vulnerability in patients, who in the hospital are often more dependent than usual. “I’ll ask, would you like a prayer, and then all of a sudden the tears come,” he says.
Dingman, who was told by a doctor he “just about bought the farm,” can relate. “The experience has taught me a considerable amount about humility,” he says.
During such challenges, “there’s a need to be understood,” says McDermott. Patients need someone willing to listen and empathize, and “sometimes pastoral care is simply being that listening presence.”
“I get fulfillment out of helping someone feel understood,” he says.
Besides ministering to patients and hospital staffers, he and other Mercy Iowa City chaplains offer morning and evening prayer, daily worship service, a bereavement support group, Mass three days a week and ecumenical services four days a week. In Clinton, chaplains are available 24/7 at Mercy Medical Center, and Mass or services of the Word are offered five days a week.
Similarly, at Mercy Medical Center in Centerville, a hospital that has about 1,300 inpatients annually, Mass is celebrated monthly and an ecumenical service takes place in a nursing-home unit weekly, says Ann Young. She is vice president of community and staff relations.
Father Dennis Schaab, C.PP.S., pastor of Centerville’s St. Mary Catholic Church, is among area clergy who take turns ministering to patients each day.
LaVina Stepnoski says she appreciated his visits when a recent hospital stay kept her from attending daily Mass at St. Mary’s as usual.
“It was very important for me to have Communion,” she says. Fr. Schaab “helped me with everything I needed,” hearing her confession and praying with her.
Fr. Schaab says that even for people who’ve lapsed in their faith, religion can play a role in times of illness.
“I think in the hospital there’s a special openness on the part of people who haven’t been going to church,” he says. “It’s a time for them to be contacted, affirmed in their faith and welcomed back into their church community. That happens quite a bit.”
Two days after Pope Benedict XVI warned that more condoms would facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the world's condom-promoters and their political allies are leading an all-out attack on the pope and on the Catholic Church.
However, at the same time, Catholic and other conservative leaders are defending the pope, pointing out that not only is science on his side, but also that in his remarks the pope was showing a welcome deference to the pro-family culture of Africa, which is opposed to the population control agenda promoted in the continent by many Western "aid" agencies.
The day after the Pope made his comments, the heavily anti-Catholic government of Spain announced it would be sending over a million condoms to African countries. The Spanish health ministry said in a statement Wednesday, "Condoms have been demonstrated to be a necessary element in prevention policies and an efficient barrier against the virus."
The French foreign ministry called the comments a "threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life," while the Dutch development minister said it was "extremely harmful" and that "the pope is making matters worse." Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppé, interviewed Wednesday by France Culture, said, "This pope is becoming a real problem."
"To go say in Africa that condoms increase the danger of AIDS is, first of all an untruth and it is unacceptable for the African people and for everyone else," Juppé said.
Aurelio Mancuso of the Italian group Arcigay said, "While across the world and especially in Africa thousands are dying of Aids, Ratzinger [Benedict] can think of nothing better to say than repeat the Vatican's position on condoms.
"We are now beyond the paradox, this view simply contributes to the spread of the disease and especially in Africa where there are not enough medical resources to treat patients."
The Telegraph also quoted Lisa Power of Britain's homosexualist activist group, the Terrence Higgins Trust, who said, "We deeply regret the continued misinformation around condoms, which remain the most effective way of preventing the spread of HIV.
"Both abstinence and condoms are valid weapons in the fight against HIV, but unfortunately abstinence has a far higher failure rate."
Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, told the Guardian that the Pope's "opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans."
However, while Pope Benedict in his remarks was merely reiterating Catholic teaching, backed up by research showing that the failure rate of condoms and the promiscuity they encourage significantly contribute to the spread of AIDS, defenders of the pope have observed that the Holy Father's remarks had a further inspiration, beyond the science of the matter.
Franciscan Father Maurizio Faggioni has suggested that the pope was in part responding to a grave cultural threat to Africa posed by the condom philosophy and the international population control movement that promotes it. Faggioni, who has advised the Vatican on sexual morality issues, told Catholic News Service that the pope sees condom campaigns as a question of "cultural violence," especially in Africa, where there has never been a "contraceptive mentality."
This opinion is supported by local African AIDS activists who regularly complain that AIDS sufferers in their countries are being used in a massive international campaign both to reduce African populations and undermine traditional African family values.
Martin Ssempa, a key player in Uganda's highly successful abstinence and faithfulness anti-AIDS programmes, told LifeSiteNews.com that the hostility towards the Catholic Church of the international AIDS organisations is matched only by their hatred of traditional Christian sexual morality.
Ssempa, a Protestant minister, said in October 2007, during a previous media-sponsored wave of furor over the Catholic Church's opposition to condoms, "Condoms have not reduced HIV-AIDS anywhere in the world ... Higher condoms [rates] across Africa have resulted in higher HIV."
In 2008, Sam L. Ruteikara, the co-chair of Uganda's AIDS-prevention Committee wrote in the Washington Post that in the fight against AIDS, "profiteering has trumped prevention."
"AIDS is no longer simply a disease," he said, "it has become a multibillion-dollar industry ... Meanwhile, effective HIV prevention methods, such as urging Africans to stick to one partner, don't qualify for lucrative universal-access status."
Rutkara said, "Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored. Telling men and women to keep sex sacred - to save sex for marriage and then remain faithful - is telling them to love one another deeply with their whole hearts. Most HIV infections in Africa are spread by sex outside of marriage: casual sex and infidelity. The solution is faithful love."
In a meeting with the press on board the plane taking him to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, on Tuesday, the pope set off a firestorm after responding to the assertion that the Catholic Church's position on combating AIDS is considered "unrealistic and ineffective."
"I would say the opposite," Benedict said. "I think that the reality that is most effective, the most present and the strongest in the fight against AIDS, is precisely that of the Catholic Church, with its programs and its diversity."
"I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money -- which is important, but if there is no soul, no people who know how to use it, (money) doesn't help," he said.
"One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem."
Benedict said that combating the spread of AIDS requires "first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another. Second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering."
Catholic Church in India has petitioned the country's Supreme Court to protect Christian lives and property in Orissa state.
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar told the Asian church news agency UCA News Sept. 2 that the church decided to approach the highest court "as we are not getting sufficient response" from the Orissa government.
The archbishop, whose archdiocese is in Orissa, said the church wants the court to order federal authorities to protect Christians in the eastern state.
"We want some clear help and response" from the government, added the archbishop, who has stayed in New Delhi since the violence broke out in Orissa Aug. 24.
The church petition seeks the deployment of sufficient riot police in villages where Hindu extremists continue to destroy churches and Christian buildings. It also demands that the Central Bureau of Investigation, the country's criminal investigative agency, probe the violence.
In addition to its regular judicial duties, the Supreme Court of India can take action if individuals file a petition with a question of public importance that needs the court's involvement.
Archbishop Cheenath said the attacks have now decreased, since "there are no more targets to attack." But in several villages Christians reportedly have been forced to sign documents declaring they are Hindus and have been asked to destroy their churches and other Christians' houses afterward.
The archbishop told UCA News all Christian institutions have been destroyed in the Kandhamal district, the worst-hit area of Orissa. The violence began there after suspected Maoists gunned down an 85-year-old Hindu religious leader and five associates Aug. 23. Hindu radicals targeted Christians, claiming they had masterminded the killings.
A probe into the situation by the Central Bureau of Investigation is necessary because "there seems a hide-and-seek game" in the whole matter, especially regarding the Hindu leader's killing, said the archbishop.
"Let the truth come out and the guilty be punished," he said.
The state government has ordered a judicial probe, but the archbishop said the church suspects this report would be biased against Christians.
The church also wants India's National Human Rights Commission to study the Orissa violence. He recalled that the commission went to Orissa when Christians were attacked in Kandhamal last Christmas, but the state administration did not allow commission members to visit the affected villages.
Archbishop Cheenath said the church petition also asks that individuals be compensated for their losses, such as $9,000 for fully destroyed homes and half that amount for damaged homes.
He welcomed media reports about the prime minister promising relief packages and compensation from his emergency fund for the Orissa victims.
"But all this should be implemented in reality," he added.
Archbishop Cheenath said he sees the attacks as the fruit of "hate campaigns" Hindu radical groups have carried out in Orissa for the past 25 to 30 years. People "are poisoned and have lost their capacity to think correctly," he added.
Political parties allowed the radical groups to grow for the parties' vested interests, and "now they can't control them," he said.