View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fr. Richard "Reiki Master-Teacher" Hunt, SJ

As a teacher, I have over the years been subjected to various fad teaching methodologies. Seems like there was a new one every 5-7 years, with districts dishing out big bucks for speakers, books, training, etc. I found most of them were worthless. I took what I found useful - which was usually something I was already doing as part of sound traditional pedagogy (Yep, I took some of them there edumacation classes) - and just went on as before.

I've found the same thing in theological circles. Some new pop psychology fad or prayer method would be introduced, usually on retreat with a guest speaker and books for sale. Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, labyrinth, and so on. I was always cautious about them. After all, this involved more than just students' minds: It was my soul I was messing with.

One of the newer fads was Reiki therapy. I read a little about it, decided it was a crock, and avoided it.

Seems I'm not alone.

The Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops this past week issued a document in which they said Reiki therapy "lacks scientific credibility. It has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy."

Further, "Reiki therapy finds no support either in the findings of natural science or in Christian belief. For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems."

Then comes the kicker: "Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it wold 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 provide support for Reiki therapy."

There's a Reiki Healing Center here in Rochester. Reiki, Animal Communication classes, Angel classes, crystal healing, the Merlin Astrology Report and Chart, reflexology, an ear-candling class, etc. All sorts of nifty new-agey stuff.

Alas, one of the teachers is Father Richard Hunt, SJ, who just happens to be the chaplain at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is teaching a class on "The Power of Blessing." He is described on the Reiki Center website as: Father Richard Hunt S.J. a psychotherapist, healer, teacher, meditation instructor, spiritual director and Jesuit priest living in Rochester.

Rochester Catholic - to which I give a nod for raising this issue - uncovered this description of Father Hunt from a 2006 "Sound Healing" workshop:

Richard currently is Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at RIT. He is a psychotherapist (Marriage & Family Therapy) and Spiritual Director, a (sic) Richard has studied healing for 35 years with various teachers: he is a Reiki Master-Teacher, uses kinesiology and dowsing, he has studied and practices Tibetan, and Chinese healing methods, Christian laying-on-of hands, Therapeutic Touch, esoteric and psychic healing methods, he has trained as a shaman with a Native American healer, uses color, sound and music healing methods, Cymatics, Radionics, Rapid Eye Technology, EMF Balancing Technique, Spiritual Clearing, various healing instruments, etc. as well as some methods he developed.


We'll put all that aside. The bigger issue here is that the Bishops have suggest that folks representing the Church - I think a priest could be described as filling that role - and chaplains - one of Father Hunt's many titles - should not be involved with Reiki.

Admittedly, the document just came out. And I don't know Father Hunt. He may be a good and holy man, and a faithful son of the Church. So I wonder if he will soon be ending his affiliation with the Reiki Healing Center and describing himself as a Reiki Master-Teacher?

Maybe they'll give him a parting gift of some crystals, rock soap or a free "vibrational treatment" session.

And then maybe my old friend Baba Dada can take over the Reiki Center class. After all, he wise to all such ways, can talk the mantra, and is a trained Dada Master.

"There are those who say, `Be here, now.' I was there yesterday."


Blogger Chris Dickson said...

Can you please explain to me how otherwise intelligent and educated Roman Catholics would allow themselves to become captured by New Age?

Somewhere along the line, after we threw the Baltimore Catechisms into the bonfire, at that very moment, some in our leadership chose to worship Baal!

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:57 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

The Benedictine Sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Cottonwood, Idaho are into all that garbage. The average age there is about 65 and the new ones coming in are in their 50's. What does that tell you?

11:55 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Chris - It was the 60s, man, or was that the 70s? Or the 80s, yeah, no, the 60s. They all run together, dude. Hey man, do you grok my crystals? I got them from Don Juan. Or was it that guy at the Dead concert in 1972?

7:16 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Dr K. I'd go with Reiki Master-Teacher as that's a title he seems to have accepted.

As for the super soaker business, I was not there, and I don't have objective sources for information, so I don't plan to write about it. But there is short interview and a nifty picture of him with one at

7:19 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Adrienne - although I joked with Chris, there was indeed a time in the 60s/70s/80s when many sincere people were trying to interpret what Vatican II wanted us to do and were searching for new ways to expore spirituality. Merton, for example, was exploring Eastern beliefs. Back here, folks were looking at Native American spirituality, and psychological techniques and programs. It was a time when the Charismatic Renewal got off the ground as well - I myself was involved with that. Some people considered tht kooky then.

There was a lot going on. I think it was part of a growing process, and it did produce some benefits. So I don't dismiss it all per se.

Some people seemed to be able to successfully combine elements from these other traditions with authentic Catholicism, and to remain true to the faith. Good for them.

On the other hand, some of it did cause some harm. Some peope left the Church. Some distorted Catholic teachings. And some people remained rooted in these new ways at the expense of their Catholic faith (or credibility!).

But I think over the years many people have moved back to looking at our own traditions more - traditions that had been forgotten, or overlooked, or that had gone almost dormant, but were still there. Mother Angelica was part of the Charismatic Renewal, for example, and then turned back to more traditional ways. My SFO group grew out of a local Charismatic group.

8:05 AM  
Blogger Rich Leonardi said...


Charismatic Renewal, which is not my cup of tea, is at least Christian; many of these other "new ways" from the sixties (that now seem so dated) aren't. So I think there is a bright line between the former and the latter. In any event, thanks for putting together a solid post.

11:53 AM  

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