Bishops’ Syndrome

Bishops’ Syndrome is sweeping the Reiki community. Perhaps you or someone you know has been infected by it.

This unfortunate malaise is marked by the following symptoms, each of which develops quickly into the next:

  • incomplete information
  • inadequate investigation
  • illogical conclusions
  • finger-pointing
  • arbitrary lines drawn in sand.

All the above symptoms were first evidenced by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), whose Committee on Doctrine issued a statement last month with this conclusion:

“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.”

I propose seeing this apparent obstacle as a call to arms — or hands — and creating a Bishops Relief Effort — a community-based effort to relieve the suffering related to Bishops’ Syndrome.

A comment in the bishops’ statement speaks to all of us:

“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.”

Those of us who teach in the name of anything–church or Reiki–have the responsibility to eliminate our own ignorance before we set out to eliminate that of others. The bishops failed to do this, therefore their statement is misguided. If Reiki practitioners can avoid making the same mistake, we can capitalize on the bishops’ error.

What if each of us who practice Reiki committed ourselves to eliminating ignorance about our practice? We could start by examining the accuracy of the “facts” we share about Reiki, and evaluating the skill and clarity with which we represent our practice to the public.

The bishops’ statement was built from information that has been circulated about Reiki by the Reiki community itself. Many of the rebuttals to the bishops’ statement repeat the inaccuracies seen in the Catholic document. This doesn’t make for an effective counter-campaign, does it?

Rather than waste time in outrage, we can accept that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened. In fact, this is evidence of the rapidly growing popularity of Reiki practice, an uneducated power response to how deeply Reiki has already been embraced by mainstream health care. We can use this to move forward.

Beware apathy: Bishops’ Syndrome is spreading. Some hospital Reiki programs have been pulled. We need to engage.

Skillfully. And now.


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Related Reading:
Want Reiki, Have Nun?
Reiki & the Bishops in the Boston Globe
Reiki and the Catholic Bishops, Again


31 thoughts on “Bishops’ Syndrome”

  1. I have moderately severe degenerative disc disease
    in my lumbar spine. I had Reike 3 years ago with
    gradual benefits over several months.
    I had a severe recurrence recently. I went to a different
    Reike master. She performed psychic surgery to take away my
    back pain. She also purged my depression and one other emotional
    Issue. Then she used to rebalance my energy.
    She told me I had 4 spirit guides. I ‘saw’ one.
    The Reike master told me she could see and communicate
    with my spirit guide. I asked my spirit guide several questions
    and received answers. She also passed on my spirit guides
    advice on my spiritual life and practice.
    In one of the comments in your above response to the Bishops
    it referred to Reike as vibrational therapy. That explanation of
    how Reike works would be compatible with Christian theology.
    I would conclude from your viewpoint that speaking to spirit guides
    Who are people who have died
    is verboten and not part of mainstream
    Reike practice. She has also trained a cat and
    A horse to practice Reike on people.
    These would certainly be additional practices that would be
    condemned by the Bishops.
    I would appreciate your comments as these additional practices
    have given me great concern about taking level 1 and 2 Reike.
    I am a Family Physcian and have a poster advertising the services
    Of my first Reike master. Based on the practice of the second Reike
    Master I wonder if I should remove the poster and stop referring
    my patients to her.

    1. Scott,

      Thank you for taking the time to offer your comment.

      I wish I could be of more help with this, but I seem to be constitutionally incapable of telling people what they “should” do. 🙂

      I do know that coming to these decisions is an irreplaceable part of our growth as individuals…

      Regarding the practices you mention, I can say that to the best of my knowledge, as someone who has made a point of researching this, the practices involving spirit guides, psychic surgery, and purging are not part of traditional Reiki practice.

      That is not to say that they are not valuable in their own right, nor do I in any way pass judgment on your first Reiki master. What she is doing may well be with the best of intentions and may, to the best of her knowledge, be Reiki practice. But however valuable these practices may be on their own, they are not part of Reiki practice as I understand it.

      Traditionally, only a small percentage of people trained to practice Reiki are trained as Reiki masters. For example, Usui trained over 2000 people but only made around 20 masters. Hayashi and Takata trained around the same number of masters. Animals were not, to my knowledge, initiated as Reiki practitioners. Animals are not able to practice.

      It is important for people to realize that there are no standards for Reiki practice and it is a buyers beware market. Click here for an article with recommendations on finding a credible local Reiki class.

  2. I guess the bishops in South Jersey didn’t get the memo about this! One of the largest hospitals in Camden, NJ is Our Lady of Lourdes. They sponsor a Wellness Center that teaches reiki and also gives treatments.

    I have read their statement and was not pleased by it. I am now a reiki master but for many years I didn’t say much about being a reiki practioner. Many of my friends were evangelical christians and they frowned upon such things. (I’ve always been the square peg in the round hole!!!) Then, about 10 years ago, I worked for a woman and made the mistake of saying that I had to leave on time because I had to be somewhere after work. When she asked where I was going , without thinking, I said to a reiki share. Then she asked what that was. So I explained it in very simple terms. Well, the next month, when it was time to go to the next reiki share she said…Oh, you have to leave on time so that you can go do that witchcraft thing that you do. Luckily, I was able to quit soon after that but it really hurt me. So, I kept it very quiet again for many years. Then three years ago we got a new pastor at our church. She was Korean. I had her over for dinner one night and we were talking about how when she was visiting her family in Korea she had had acupunture. So, I mentioned that I had just become a reiki master. She became very excited and said that she had had it down after her acupunture. So we began to talk about it and she wanted to know why I didn’t tell people at church about it because it would be a great ministry and she knew that people would benefit from it. So I told her my “witchcraft” story and she was appalled! That’s when she shook her finger under my nose and told me that God had given me a gift and I’d darn well better use it or else! So, thanks to her, I have boldly spoken to people who I thought might benefit from it. It’s been wonderful. I don’t really make any money but it is wonderful to use your God given talents. Thanks to Pastor Chung!

    Not all people of God are close minded. I think the bishops had better take a step back and remember the old saying about “people in glass houses…”.

    And, by the way, I do reiki on as many Catholics as I do on Methodists!!!

  3. Takata-trained Reiki master Paul David Mitchell is a practicing Catholic. He will speak to me about Hawayo Takata, Catholicism, and the future of Reiki in a free webinar at 6 PM EST on Monday, January 30, 2012. Click here to register now and you will receive the recording link even if you are not able to be with us live. Registration closes when the event starts.

  4. Interestingly, I just clicked through to read the bishops’ statement again and the link did not work. When I searched “reiki” on their website I got no results. Any theories about why they would have removed it?

  5. I am a Roman Catholic priest with 40 years experience in Brazil and ten years of practice in reikiI and have just published in Brazil ^REIKI para Cristaos^ in an effort to dispel the fears and reserves of Christians about the practice of REIKI and encourage its use as being particularly suited to Christians because of the frequent use of healing by laying on of hands by Jesus Christ and the order he left with those who came to believe in the teaching of the Apostles to vindicate that teaching by ^signs^, one of which was ^They will lay hands on the sick and these will be healed^Mc. 16, 18. I would hope to have the translation in English (already done)
    this summer. If any editor is interested I would like to hear from him or her.

  6. Kimberly Niner

    No problem, Pamela. We’re on the same side.

    I was upset that the Bishops disregard the fact that anyone with the proper preparation can access the zero energy field. I read a statement that said a half-cup of energy from that field could boil the oceans. The potential to heal people and situations is immense. Bernadette’s comment that this is beyond religion is absolutely on point. I feel the Bishops are scaling Reiki down to “a religion, doctrine or dogma” and that simply doesn’t fit the situation. I feel sorry for the people who are now conflicted between following the Bishops and following their calling to comfort and heal others.

  7. My apologies, Kimberly. I didn’t understand the connection you were making, but I didn’t take exception to your comment. I went on to make another point but didn’t leave space to clearly indicate that (I have since made the edit). My bad! And for the record, I like blunt!

    Regarding what the Popes know of Reiki, my guess is that the current Pope is unaware of it. From my travel and communication with Reiki practitioners and doctors in Europe, Reiki doesn’t seem to have nearly the presence in health care in Europe that it does in the US, and it is through health care that the American bishops became aware of Reiki. I believe only people in Wanja Twan’s circle of students and colleagues were previously aware of her experience in Poland. I am thrilled that there is now documentation about this available on a website.

  8. Kimberly Niner

    The fact that the previous Pope, Pope John Paul approved of Reiki and allowed nuns to become Reiki Masters casts light on my comments. Since when do Bishops contradict any Pope living or dead?

    I’m a very blunt person. Some call it truthful, others don’t appreciate it. I believe my statement was quite clear. I’m sorry you took exception to it.

  9. Dear All,
    Were the Bishops not aware that many leading health care facilities
    across the nation have Reiki available to patients?

    Traditional health care / hospital systems must be reasonably satisfied
    with the research available and reports of satisfaction from patients.

    I believe a list of hospitals utilizing Reiki is available in Ms. Miles Reiki book.

    Do the Catholic Bishops think that MDs and hospitals do not consider
    complementary therapies closely before allowing them at their sites?

    How did this come to be a concern for this group? Have other religious leaders
    raised concerns?

    I’m a middle of the road Catholic, and an RN, and when I initially became interested in Reiki, I did inquire of the Archdiocese of Detroit if the church had any concerns re: this, and was informed that the church had no formal position on Reiki.

    I also, have followed my own conscience and discernment in my life, and
    was drawn to Reiki with my two early small breast cancers, and have seen and experienced its positive effects with myself, my mother, and the patients I have
    facilitated Reiki for at the Integrative Medicine department at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI.

    I do not think the bishops understand Reiki, however, isn’t it one of the Reiki
    tenets that it is not up to the Reiki practitioner to ‘convince’ or ‘proove’ to
    people; simply to explain, have person experience and come to their own
    decision about its use in their health care?

    I look forward to see how this concern proceeds…
    Susan McLean

  10. John Janssen, Reiki Master

    Hi, Pamela;

    I wonder if you have heard the story from Wanja Twan about training over 200 people in a catholic chirch in Poland several years ago – and upon returning several years after the initial class, the church priest reportedly had a letter from Pope John Paul saying he approved of Reiki.

  11. Hawley Todd TSSF

    The Bishop’s statement does not take into account movements in Christianity in a postmodern era. It is written from a modern perspective which still uses Thomas Aquinas and his distinction of knowing into natural and revealed theologies. It also reflects an understanding of science based on Newtonian physics rather than quantum physics. A postmodern Christian theology of healing might be an answer to this problem.

    Christianity tends to operate out of classical, modern, and postmodern perspectives. As the dialogue contiunes, please know that within Christianity there is a wide divergence of perspectives. Some embrace energy therapies and some do not. Peace and all good to you all.

  12. Greetings all,
    I too share the sentiments of those who have posted here.

    We can not change another’s point of view by talking as it is their belief and each person is entitled to their own thoughts.
    We can however share information like scientific research so that this other can explore a different point of view.

    Hopefully this will lead to a productive dialogue and remove the fear that is over-riding this situation.

    Thanks for letting me share.

  13. Bernadette, I plead guilty to fueling debate about Reiki. That is actually one of my goals. Intelligent, clear, open-minded, respectful debate can only move the field forward.

    Reiki has been a spiritual healing practice since its creation by Mikao Usui in the 1920s and it is important that Reiki continue to be identified as such. There is, however, a huge difference between spirituality and religion.

    You overestimate the scientific research available on Reiki, especially the small amount that falls within conventional science, and more specifically, is recognized in mainstream health care as relevant to clinical practice.

    This is why I teach the Medical Reiki class, to help practitioners understand the medical paradigm, giving perspective and accurate information, and focusing on the areas where Reiki practice can support conventional medicine. In this way, Reiki practitioners can help bridge the many gaps that exist between Reiki and mainstream health care. The obstacles are considerable, but not insurmountable.

    It is not too late to impact the Catholic Church regarding Reiki. The statement was made by the American Catholic bishops. They do not speak with the final authority of the Vatican.

  14. Kimberly, I don’t see the reasoning regarding money. Can you explain?

    Overall, I think we as a community need to be careful not to point fingers or make blanket negative statements. What if the bishops are sincerely trying to fulfill their duties, and simply didn’t connect with quality information about Reiki, for whatever reasons? It can put it in perspective if we remember that misinformation and specious claims regarding Reiki are much easier to come across than reasonable information.

  15. Thank you for sending this very unfortunate information. This doctrine appears to be further evidence of the growing chasm between the old, crumbling paradigm that institutions like the Catholic Church still embrace (fear-based action, separatism, attacking other beliefs in the name of religion) and the new paradigm of interconnectedness, love-based action, energy medicine and the potential of a remarkable new science for personal and communal healing.

    I must say, however, that Pamela perhaps has unwittingly fueled the debate. I have been very uncomfortable with all the references in her books to Reiki as a spiritual practice. Many people unquestionably find their spiritual journey supported by it, but “spiritual healing” as a term usually conjures up faith healing or laying of hands in a church context.

    That is not what Reiki is. It’s quantum physics, and I’m afraid Pamela has helped blur the line between science and spirituality. If anyone would like scientific definitions of Reiki, please look at “The Science Behind Reiki: What Happens in a Treatment” by the Research and Development arm of the UK Reiki Federation, “Science and the Human Energy Field” by James L. Oschman, Ph.D., and “Reiki Energy Medicine: Enhancing the Healing Process” by Alice Moore, RN, Reiki Master, Hartford Hospital, Department of Integrative Medicine, Hartford, CT. All these
    articles are easily found on the internet, and keep the definition and focus of Reiki very clear as a modality that has been measured scientifically.

    Since Pamela is a highly visible spokesperson for Reiki, my strong hope is that she will move away from categorizing Reiki as a form of “spiritual healing,” instead speak up about the growing body research now available about Reiki, and make every effort to help people like the Catholic bishops draw a clear and correct conclusion about its scientific basis.

    It’s too late now toaffect the conclusion of the Catholic Church regarding Reiki. Since it took 500 years for the church to apologize to Galileo’s family, I doubt they’ll be changing their mind about Reiki anytime soon. And that means hundreds of thousands of patients in Catholic hospitals, nursing homes and hospices will no longer be able to benefit from the accelerated healing power of this modality, and all the Catholic nuns who are Reiki Master Teachers will no longer be able to practice or teach. Some have written to me about their anguish already.

    The good news is how extraordinary their doctrine is. If they have singled out Reiki (currently the fastest growing complementary modality in America) among all forms of complementary therapies currently practiced, consider it a threat, and consequently make a public pronouncement, they must understand on some level the extraordinary potential of this particular form of energy medicine to change the world for the better forever.

  16. I believe that this is entirely to do with money. The Bishops have been aware of Reiki and believed that they could control the people that offered it. Now that the global economy has contracted, they are looking for ways to consolidate their power. Although the Archbishop my listen to our representative, it may be futile. By all means, send healing to this situation. We must try, but keep in mind that the Catholic Church usually sends apologies a century after the transgression. The idea of working with hospitals that are more open-minded is more sensible. We cannot allow this to stop us from our mission to help others.

  17. First, I express my heartfelt thanks to Pamela and others who are wholeheartedly and purposefully bringing Reiki to the medical community! I live in a small town and have been practicing for 15 years. Our local Catholic hospital even built a complementary health center several years ago, offering many beautiful therapies right across the street from the main hospital. I am waiting to hear how they have responded to the bishops’ position.
    As a simple practitioner and teacher of Reiki, I agree that we are also called to be clear in our expression of the Reiki principles and benefits. Those who experience this healing way are not swayed.
    Thanks again, and bless you!

  18. Great idea! I would love to have a conversation with the Archbishop. Anyone have ideas how to make that connection?

  19. Judith S. Jacobson

    Ignorant as I am about the Church, I am wondering if it might be worthwhile to try to meet with Archbishop Dolan.

  20. I agree, Roseanne, that Reiki practice deepens one’s own inner spiritual connection without any dogma. People of varying religious affiliations have told me that their faith has strengthened with Reiki practice. It is ironic that the bishops would take a stand against a non-denominational spiritual practice that actually helps many connect more deeply to their religion, and all this from ignorance of what Reiki truly is. Now the questions are: how have we (each of us) contributed to the public’s misunderstandings about Reiki practice, what can we do about it, and what will we do about it?

    And thank you, Gerianne. You’re right, I would love to meet this Catholic priest, as I always enjoy connecting with people who have a strong inner connection and can articulate it. What he says echoes what I have heard from others, especially in Italy, where the Church is obviously an even stronger political power than it is in the US, yet the Italians I know are mindful that regardless one’s religion, ultimately one works out these matters within–and that is spirituality.

    At the same time, the political reality is that at least some Catholic hospitals have closed their Reiki programs.

    Nadeja makes a good point that many people can, and will, choose hospital care on the basis of what is offered. Health care is, after all, a business. I know of at least one hospital in New Hampshire that started a Reiki program because they were losing patients to another local hospital where Reiki was offered (check out the article on Portsmouth Regional Hospital).

  21. This is an unfortunate message from the Catholic Bishops. Although I realize that Reiki is not a religion, it has always brought me deeper, not farther, into my own spirituality. I have learned to think for myself and my heart tells me what is genuine. Those that I have practiced Reiki with have expressed a deep peace from the experience. I hope and pray that the misguided messages the Bishops embrace will be withdrawn, and not be dependent upon information they may have gleaned (erroneosly) over the internet about such things.
    Health and Blessings!

  22. Yes, I agree with Michael – let’s hold this in light and continue our work. Reading your email, Pamela, I feel we will also be called to action – whether that is clarifying and filling in our own gaps of knowledge or clearly and lovingly educating others about Reiki. I am hoping this will strengthen and unite the Reiki community!
    There is a wonderful Catholic priest in our community who has spoken eloquently (Pamela, you’d love his words!) about same-sex relationships and the position of the Catholic Church. When he finishes giving the “official” statement, he ends it by saying that, in the end, the Church recognizes we ultimately must follow our own CONSCIENCE and decide for ourselves. I suspect he’d say the same about Reiki.
    One more thing: thanks for taking the lead on this, Pamela!

  23. Hi Pamela,
    When I heard about this pronouncement made by the Catholic Church, I was initially saddened. It was clear to me that the people who wrote it were coming from a place of fear and misunderstanding. Reiki is not a religion and is not in opposition to the Catholic Church. The energy that we channel as Reiki practitioners is pure God consciousness and is available to everyone. As I sat in ghasso position with this information in my consciousness, I realized that Reiki healing is being called for in this situation. Since that time, I have been ending Reiki to the situation, and to the Catholic Church for their highest healing. My goal is that we will all be able to transcend our differences and realize that we are all One, which is the basis of all religious thought.

  24. Let’s just keep holding the light of truth as we know it. I really believe, that though this whole dismissal of Reiki by the Catholic bishops has been done through ignorance, people will be led by the Spirit to make their own decisions in their own time.

    I’ve personally never really given much sway to the “official” teachings of any church, as they are usually more historical and political, rather than truly heart-felt expressions of faith.

    Let’s keep holding the light, doing our Reiki work, spreading love, peace and Christ Consciousness, and letting the light of heaven shine on earth. 🙂

  25. The same statement may be even worse had been made by Russian orthodox church long ago. Reiki had been named as destructive totalitarian sect, which had t o be destroyed by authorities. So nothing new in Catholic church response. All churches sense Reiki as concurrent and try to protect themselves from new teachings because they afraid that it could diminish their followers and their income.

    I think that we should ignore this statement and continue our work.
    if they pule of Reiki from Catholic hospitals so we should offer Reiki programs to other hospitals that’s it.

    And the more people in other hospitals will enjoy the Reiki programs the less would believe this bishop’s statement and the less would go to the catholic hospitals.

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