Jerry Filteau of the The National Catholic Reporter reports on a recent statement by the Committee on Doctrine of the US Catholic Bishops characterizing Reiki as "superstition" and as "not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence." The document, titled "Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy," can be found here. Filteau reports that apparently no one was interviewed about Reiki practice, including Catholics who practice Reiki.
Filteau’s article reminds me that in a seminar I’m teaching this semester at Fordham called "Pastoral Theology and Practice," we are using two primary texts that teach research in ministry. One is titled Ordinary Theology: Looking, Listening, and Learning in Theology, by Jeff Astley, and the other is Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice: An Introduction, by Mary Clark Moschella. Both texts reflect an important shift in practical and pastoral theologies over the last many years: toward the significance of asking "everyday" Christians about their practices and beliefs as a prologue to and condition for the generation of theological claims.
No one, of course, claims that ethnographic/sociological data on faith and practice simply determines "normative" theological claims, but something more subtle is being argued in this shift: that social science methods that attempt to map the spiritual landscape of practice, used critically, are congenial to theological work because all Christians in some way lead a "theological life" that bears some degree of authenticity, and one way to delve with care into what that authenticity might be is to practice social-scientific listening, or something like a spirituality of attention to practice.
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York