Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: March 2010

March 2010

Energy Medicine: Hijacked by New Agers

Regarding Fr. Thomas J. Eute­neuer’s dismissal of energy medicine as “New Age” in his December Líbera Nos a Malo column (“The Nature of Satan & the Church’s Warfare Against Him”): Energy medicine is a collection of scientific observations that shows that the human body has an electromagnetic field that looks somewhat like a bar magnet, with a positive pole at the head, negative at the feet, and magnetic waves radiating around from one to the other. (Picture a bar magnet underneath a sheet of paper covered with iron filings.) On the microscopic and submicroscopic scale, tiny electromagnetic currents do the fine-tuning of cellular regulation. Each tissue type has its own resonant frequency, with measurable aberrations distinguishing health from disease.

This sort of thing has had clinical application for thirty years. For example, Robert Becker, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, discovered that bone fractures heal much more quickly when the appropriate electromagnetic frequency is applied across the fracture. Other machines have been developed to treat various illnesses electromagnetically, with a fair amount of input from the National Institutes for Health, yielding some remarkable results.

So far we are just talking measurable science, but there are metaphysical implications that support Catholic theology. For example, an experiment on intention showed that the sequence of events in moving an index finger went as follows: electronic “blip” in the energy field around the head, followed by a “blip” of the motor cortex, followed by movement of the digit. Condensed interpretation: The soul initiated the action, the brain performed the mechanics, and the finger responded. In a word, man is not a biochemical machine.

Similarly, in embryology, evidence suggests that the early process of differentiation is governed by an energy field that directs one clump of cells to begin developing into the neural tube (ectoderm), and other genetically and cytologically identical cells to develop into gut (endoderm) or muscle (mesoderm), and so on, into full adulthood. Specialized photography of developing salamander embryos has shown the outline of an adult salamander into which the embryo apparently grows. This is eerily like the de fide statement of the Council of Vienne (1312), which ruled that the soul is the form of the body — “form” in a construction sense, like the forms into which cement is poured to make walls.

Alan Shewmon, M.D., a UCLA neurologist (and, last I heard, member of the UCLA Opus Dei community), has two patients with anencephaly (no brain, no motor, visual or auditory cortex, nothing in their skull but water) who nonetheless have favorite music, recognize their family members’ voices, and can negotiate a maze. How do they do that without a brain? Perception through their energy field? There are two blind patients being studied in England who can jog and are aware in some way of trees and other obstacles. How does that happen? Energy field again? No one knows, but given the new data, such an explanation is becoming much more plausible.

While it is true that energy medicine has been colonized by New Agers, I would suggest that energy medicine has rediscovered the soul. Energy medicine is not a woo-woo spiritual enemy suitable for Berkeley back alleys; it is just new science, fully compatible with the Catholic faith. It has been hijacked by New Agers, but that is not the fault of the data. Since energy medicine seems to be telling us that the soul is the driver and the brain simply “brakes and accelerator,” as it were, it would seem that energy medicine has made Newtonian medicine (“we are all random chemical accidents”) as obsolete as Newtonian physics.

There is one further implication, from a prolife standpoint: If the soul is in fact the form of the body, then no single organ is more essential to life than any other; this would apparently invalidate organ donation on the basis of “brain death.” But that is another discussion for another time.

Robin A. Bernhoft, M.D.

Ojai, California


Dr. Bernhoft provides a tremendous analysis of the marvels of natural electromagnetic forces from a scientific point of view. It must be noted, however, that I did not say that the Church is against “energy medicine.” I said that the Church is against “energy therapy” and other esoteric healing techniques that have been taken over by the occult, a phenomenon Dr. Bernhoft recognizes.

The main difference between energy medicine and the Church’s critique of occult healing techniques is in their origins. In a document issued in March 2009, the U.S. bishops took aim at Reiki, a so-called healing technique, and the deceptions that go along with it. To the extent that Reiki can serve as a paradigm for the Church’s critique of all such healing techniques, it becomes a case study of the Church’s attitude toward these nefarious influences. First and foremost, the bishops said that Reiki is neither legitimate science nor legitimate religious faith. If it were the former, it would be practiced according to objective criteria, verifiable over time and subject to study by the medical community. It would also have a standard set of protocols and rules by which it could be handed down from one generation to the next and across cultures. It has none of that, unless one would consider the oral apprenticeships of “Reiki masters” to be real science. If it were the latter, it would overtly recognize the true God and have a developed body of doctrines to guide it. It would recognize the transcendent dimension of the human person and understand that his ultimate fulfillment (and healing) is to be found in a personal relationship with the true God. Reiki has none of this, nor do any of the other so-called healing techniques, unless we were to consider the esoteric “spirit guides” of the Reiki masters to be revelations and servants of authentic faith. They are anything but. They are demons disguised as “angels of the light” (2 Cor. 11:14).

What Dr. Bernhoft describes, then, is not what the Church condemns. He is describing scientifically verifiable forces of nature and analyzing them from a truly scientific point of view. He says, almost casually, “While it is true that energy medicine has been colonized by New Agers….” Well, isn’t that the point? We are to reject Satan and “all his works and all his empty promises.” If the New Age movement is moving in on legitimate science, then legitimate scientists must reject this “colonization.”

The Church has no problem with anything that fits into legitimate scientific discovery and can be used for the authentic healing of the human person. As Pope John Paul II regularly pointed out, science and faith are not incompatible: They both spring from the same truth. If it were proven somehow in the future that blind people were able to negotiate a maze using an innate “energy field” in the body, I don’t think the Church would have any problem with that. It is the occult perversion of the things of nature that the Church rejects categorically.

The Fury of a Woman

In his December Líbera Nos a Malo column (“The Nature of Satan & the Church’s Warfare Against Him”), Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer writes that holiness is the “one remedy” that will reduce Satan’s “chance to force his destructive will on society.” Although holiness is unquestionably the only good and fitting shield against the Devil and the non-demonic evil acts of men, it is my understanding that the Devil does not stop his attacks in response to holiness but instead increases his diabolical efforts, usually by cloaking himself in apparent goodness. He gets wilier when challenged, and the tactics of this “noonday” devil are much less sensational than the head-twisting displays that frighten the immature. Canonized saints are known to have suffered increasing demonic assaults as they advanced in virtue; martyrs die for their holiness.

When we pick up the shield of holiness, as we surely must, Satan takes it as an invitation to engage us in battle. Our doing so does not deny him a chance to force his will on us, but stimulates him into greater action.

But greater activity on his part does not guarantee his victory. St. Ignatius of Loyola was correct when he compared the fury of the Devil to the fury of a woman: “The enemy acts like a woman, in being weak against vigor and strong of will. Because, as it is the way of the woman when she is quarrelling with some man to lose heart, taking flight when the man shows her much courage: and on the contrary, if the man, losing heart, begins to fly, the wrath, revenge, and ferocity of the woman is very great, and so without bounds; in the same manner, it is the way of the enemy to weaken and lose heart, his temptations taking flight, when the person who is exercising himself in spiritual things opposes a bold front against the temptations of the enemy, doing diametrically the opposite. And on the contrary, if the person who is exercising himself commences to have fear and lose heart in suffering the temptations, there is no beast so wild on the face of the earth as the enemy of human nature in following out his damnable intention with so great malice.” In other words, Satan gets bolder if we cower before him, but flees when we meet him straight up and shout him down.

John Quintero

Carson City, Nevada


I appreciate Mr. Quintero’s insights, which in essence do not conflict with what I wrote. I do, however, wish to address a certain exaggeration of his: I said that holiness is a weapon against the devil; I did not say that holiness makes the devil disappear. It is true that when the Evil One encounters true holiness he tends to shift into higher gear, but that is not the point I was making, nor do I deny that it sometimes happens. I was making the point that, in actual fact, true holiness weakens him, however fierce his external bluster may seem.

This is the reason I spoke of holiness in terms of a “remedy for the power of spiritual evil” and as the Church’s “greatest weapon against evil.” The Devil has power all his own and will use it effectively against the Church until the end of time, but any good military commander knows that the best way to win a war is to deprive the enemy of his ability to make war. That is what holiness does, and that is the clear lesson of all the saints who “fought” with the Devil in one form or another. Remember that St. John Vianney, who was subject to just about every form of diabolic attack, was the one who used to comment, “Oh, it’s just the Devil,” each time he would be attacked. He was accustomed to all the bluster and knew that it had very little power against the work of God happening through him.

Mr. Quintero makes the further — mistaken — presumption that the increasing external attacks of the Devil on people growing in holiness is a sign of the Devil’s strength. They are anything but! In fact, they are a sign that the Devil is desperate because he knows that he is losing ground. When the Evil One, in his desperation, has to come out into the open to show himself by externally attacking a holy person, he has already lost his battle. The Devil and his minions work best in darkness and deception. They abhor anything that will shine a light on their evil or their wiles. Holiness is the very Light of Christ that vanquishes the Devil and his servitors, visible and invisible, over time. Indeed, the Devil once yelled out to St. John Vianney through the voice of a possessed woman, “Vianney! If there were six other priests like you, my kingdom would be vanquished!” That’s the desperation of someone who knows he has already lost the battle.

There is one final clarification that I have to make to Mr. Quintero’s letter. He says that the Devil “gets wilier when challenged.” Holiness is indeed challenging to the Devil, but it is never a frontal attack. I want to be clear that I am asking no one to overt­ly challenge the Devil except exorcists who are commissioned to do so by the bishop of the local Church. Challenging the Devil is different from the duty of rejecting him and “all his works and all his empty promises,” which all of us have promised to do as a requirement of our baptism. In a 1985 letter to bishops, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in fact forbids overt challenges or attempts to stir up demons unless these are in the controlled environment of authorized prayer by the Church. The war that the average Christian is involved in is not the direct confrontation of an exorcism or deliverance session but rather the regular daily pursuit of holiness and conversion of heart, something which the Devil hates more than anything but also something which he usually finds difficult to stop. If a person is truly serious about his prayer life and salvation, he will understand that the Devil has to be encountered at some point during the journey, but he will not fear the battle.

I therefore reiterate what I said about growth in holiness: If we all took this obligation more seriously, the Devil’s power would not be more ferocious, as Quintero seems to think. It would be utterly vanquished.

Excommunicate Her!

I recall some years ago when a group of nuns who dared to publicly suggest “dialoguing” with abortion advocates (translation: compromising with them) were quickly excommunicated. My question is: Why hasn’t Sr. Donna Quinn, who has been volunteering as an abortion escort (“Nun of This Prolife Stuff,” The News You May Have Missed, Dec.), been excommunicated?

By all appearances, Sr. Donna and her cohorts in the radical National Coalition of American Nuns aren’t doing anything useful, such as teaching school — we should be grateful for that! — and worse, are in open opposition to many of the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church.

Another question: What’s up with the bishop whose diocese includes Hinsdale, Ill., where Sr. Donna is busy on behalf of the Culture of Death? Why hasn’t he run her out? If he’s reluctant to do that, then I suggest Pope Benedict put someone in charge who will — someone like Thomas Tobin, the bishop of Providence, R.I. — and relegate the present ordinary to a chaplaincy at some remote monastery of traditional contemplative nuns.

I hold out little hope for the future if the Church continues to put up with folks like Sr. Donna and her ilk.

W. Gregory Mullally

Stockton, California

After reading the entry “Nun of This Prolife Stuff” in The News You May Have Missed (Dec.), I just cannot understand why, when Catholic nuns support abortion or when Catholic priests sexually abuse children, they are not simply stripped of their habits, frocks, collars, gowns, denied Holy Communion, and kicked out of the Church. Where are the leaders of the Church? Who makes these decisions? Who do these people report to? Where are the mother superiors and bishops? Where is the accountability in our Church?

Joseph D. Palermo

Round Rock, Texas


After the news broke that she had been escorting women to abortion clinics for over six years, Sr. Donna Quinn was reprimanded by her order, the Wisconsin-based Sinsi­nawa Dominicans, who also issued an apology: “After investigating the allegation, congregation leaders have informed Sister Donna that her actions are in violation of her profession as a Dominican religious,” Sr. Patricia Mulcahey, prioress of the Sinsinawa Dominicans, said in a statement. “They regret that her actions have created controversy and resulted in public scandal.”

Although she has ceased — for now — her “escort services,” Sr. Donna remains unrepentant. “As a peacekeeper, my goal is to enable women to enter a reproductive health clinic in dignity and without fear of being physically assaulted…. I am very worried that the publicity around my presence will lead to violations of every woman’s right to privacy and expose them to further violence,” she said in a statement to the press. Moreover, she took the opportunity to harangue the prolifers who counsel women and pray outside the abortion clinic where she volunteered: “I urge those demonstrating against women who are patients at the Hinsdale Clinic, whom I have seen emotionally as well as physically threaten women, to cease those activities,” she said. “I would never have had to serve as a peacekeeper had they not created a war against women.” The prolifers called her accusations of violence “unbelievable” and “without basis.”

Three bishops reportedly planned to meet to discuss what type of action to take against Sr. Donna: Francis Cardinal George of Chicago; J. Peter Sartain of Joliet, Ill.; and Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisc. Sr. Donna’s motherhouse is located in the Madison diocese; she lives in the Chicago archdiocese; and the abortion clinic is in the Joliet diocese. Whether the bishops did in fact meet, and what, if anything, they decided, has not yet been made public.

In addition to acting as an abortion escort, Sr. Donna has advocated for women’s access to artificial contraceptives, joined in pro-abortion pickets in Washington, D.C., and even petitioned the Pope for a female archbishop. She has also called the Virgin Mary “one of the first women in the New Testament to express Choice.”

That slap on the wrist she got from Sr. Patricia must really sting.

What Is Usborne's Theory?

I enjoyed Anne Barbeau Gardi­ner’s review and analysis of Cor­nelie Usborne’s Cultures of Abortion in Wei­mar Germany (Dec.). As always, Prof. Gardiner draws trenchant conclusions from what she has read. I especially applaud her ability to examine, relatively dispassionately, a book written by an apparent opponent of all that we in the prolife camp advocate.

Yet I was left wondering: What, exactly, is the thesis of Usborne’s book? From Gardiner’s analysis, the book appears to be simply an exposition of the contraception/abortion culture that suffused the Weimar Republic. Does Usborne draw upon this mountain of facts to voice her agreement or disagreement with the evil perpetrated at that time, or does she simply lay out the facts she has uncovered and let readers draw their own conclusions?

Herbert Hoffman

Milton, Florida


I didn’t find a “thesis” as such in Usborne’s book. Although she approves of abortion, she doesn’t grind an axe. Her book is meticulous, dispassionate historical research. This is why her findings are useful to the prolife side, as may be seen in this conclusion of hers: The Nazis “set out to destroy the subculture of clan­destine abortion which they considered had spiraled out of control during the ‘libertine’ years of the Wei­­mar Republic.” They banned abortion ads. They legalized abortion on medical grounds, but there was a stringent assessment and registration procedure. The assessment centers put obstacles in the way of abor­tions of “sound stock,” even if illegitimate, but facilitated abortions of Polish and Russian children. By 1935 “compulsory eugenic sterilization” was supplemented by the legalization of abortion on eugenic grounds.

Hope on the Horizon?

I appreciate the attention you’ve given in recent issues to “what’s happening at Notre Dame.” Your articles are very well written and point directly to the heart of the matter: money. I cannot help but wonder if the replacement of John D’Arcy as bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., with Kevin Rhoades will result in Notre Dame following the path directed by the Vatican, particularly Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Or will he succumb to the pressure of the wealthiest Catholic university in America?

Ken Treger

Lehighton, Pennsylvania

Are You Done Yet?

Is the NOR through slamming Notre Dame? Am I to assume that nothing is correct there? That there is no true spiritual growth there to honor the school’s legacy? Notre Dame was there long before President Obama, Fr. Jenkins, celebrity football coaches, et al., were there, and will be there long after they are gone. Notre Dame will remain after the Culture of Death and moral relativism are in the spiritual ash heap.

Breyman Schmelzle

Tucson, Arizona


Mr. Schmelzle raises an interesting question: Is there no true spiritual growth at Notre Dame? First, our articles have not suggested that there is universally no spiritual growth on the campus. Of course there is spiritual growth at Notre Dame — in pockets. For example, the recently deceased Prof. Ralph McInerny was arguably one of the most orthodox philosophy professors of the late 20th century. His Catholicity and love for the faith was unassailable. This prolific author not only taught at Notre Dame for decades, he headed the Jacques Mari­tain Center there and even set his Father Dowling mystery novels on campus. We have no doubt that Dr. McInerny had a tremendous influence on Notre Dame students during his years there. Also of note is the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, the epicenter of the renaissance in traditional Catholic church architecture and architectural neo-Classicism in general. Thomas Gordon Smith and Duncan Stroik are two of the finest church architects of our day.

That being said, our criticisms of the University of Notre Dame, of Fr. Jenkins, and of the Obama scandal remain important and valid. You’ll notice that a good many of our writers are alumni of the university and write out of genuine concern for the well-being of an incredible institution of higher learning. But Notre Dame is nowhere near the institution it could be. Following Ex Corde Eccle­siae would be a good start.

Fascism & the Reign of Sin

Several readers advance the discussion of Left vs. Right (letters, Dec.) and the question of where fascism resides along the political spectrum with their accurate descriptions of historical and politically dichotomous worldviews. But I think they down­play the NOR editor’s important suggestions (ed. reply, Oct.) about common vices among ideologues, which can only be explored while mindful of what Christian witness must confront in any civilization. A tyranny of false values is as much cultural as political, and can easily exist in “free” societies.

It is indisputable that authentic Christians, and many others with some faith, identify truth as objective and accept that human rights are not capriciously political but divine endowments exercised with cognizance of and respect for the natural law’s moral obligations. Even nonbelievers presuppose as much during every moment of anger, the emotional expression of innate human expectations.

Clearly, an objective moral order is closer to what modern conservative philosophers have professed. And while informed Christian opinion may be far more respected and published in conservative media, it is critical to note that practical expressions of what is repeatedly presented as the prime conservative values — personal freedom and reduction of the scale of government — has effectively reduced the imperatives of natural law to an abstraction. This has enabled disciples of Ayn Rand and other libertarians to feel at home in the conservative milieu. Yet the Randian principles of disparaging altruism, prudence, and self-sacrifice, not to mention the existence of God, is as far removed from Christian attitudes as humanly possible.

There is a common denominator between the smug mindlessness of perpetual change in pursuit of a political utopia that denies the imperfectability of the human condition, characteristic of many progressives, and the smug moral indifference toward some voracious economic activities, capable of generating serious social damage, characteristic of many conservatives. Conservatives are right to lament excessive government regulation designed to effect social engineering but wrong when many of them respond to legal fraud and usury without the same moral outrage.

All of God’s children, liberal or conservative, are sinners. And despite our denials, those of us who hold religious faith and acknowledge our status as sinners are not much less sinful than those who do not believe in the concept of sin at all. The denial of sin is a universal human experience requiring exponentially greater effort than the original transgressions. Atheism is a denial process but so is using religion as a means to feel superior. No matter how we identify ourselves, it is impossible for our denials not to distort what we believe about everything else, evidenced by our unlimited capacity for harebrained theology. When liberal theologians abuse the notion of private conscience to justify moral caprice, or when “loyal Catholics” make the far more blasphemous presumption of deciding who shall and shall not be saved, both are performing systematic acts of denial. Theological errors are never accidental.

Short of our Lord’s return, if sin were theoretically eliminated from the human condition, we would not have our Babylonian nightmare of conflicting belief systems, of claim and counterclaim, effectively wearing down humanity to adapt to one form or another of extreme injustice or mass carnage. Sin makes our thought self-serving, which is easily socialized into group ideologies that project an explanation for evil in the world onto those we prefer to believe to be of a different sort. This is the one and only cause of war. Sinners hate truth and humility. This is why Catholics often hate being Catholic and are as willing as anyone else to believe comic-book history like The Da Vinci Code or accept claims of environmental catastrophe to rationalize their unspoken support for the elimination of inconvenient life.

We define sin in a variety of ways, but the most straightforward is self-worship. The smug revolutionary, the smug billionaire, the smugly religious, or even the smugly poor have little to set their vanities apart. Avoiding self-worship does not mean foregoing self-esteem formed in humility. There are the brokenhearted who experience a greater sense of fault than they deserve, and there are the many prideful who acknowledge little outside their desire. The complexity of the human soul and our lifelong process of pilgrimage place most of us in both struggles most of the time. The way Christians replicate the changelessness of God is in recognizing that the sole mission of the Christian life of prophecy remains unchangeable. It is not to seek political salvation; it is not to dichotomize humanity; it is not to feel morally superior. It is to comfort the afflicted when afflicted, and afflict the comfortable when comfortable, whatever beliefs they express, and whoever and wherever they are.

Fr. George Ryan, C.S.P.

Port Richmond, New York

Spiritual Motherhood

I would like to add my story to the discussion about the “pain of infertility” (letters, Nov.). I am 71 years old. My husband of 53 years and I desperately wanted children. We both underwent fertility testing and were found to be “fine.” But I never became pregnant. We were very poor in those days and had to opt out of adoption.

Like the lady in the September issue (name withheld) whose letter began this discussion, I too was brokenhearted. But I had faith that God had some reason for this and that at some point I might understand it. As I got older, I tried to do those things He asks of us, and so I taught catechism, and counseled young people at the major university where I worked. As I looked around and pondered the ways of our world, I realized that one person alone can’t do much to change things, but we can each do something very important, and that is pray, pray, pray.

Then I came across a short Bible verse that seemed to make sense of it all for me: “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear…for the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her that is married, says the Lord” (Isa. 54:1; Gal. 4:27). I never once felt bad after that. I figured that I may have had numerous spiritual children in my life and when I pass on, if God is willing, I just might meet them again.

To the woman who suffers from infertility: I beg you to carry on and pray that God will show you what He wants of you. If you seek to do His will, He will let you know what it is.

Judith Martin

Powell, Ohio

Spiritual Adoption

Apropos the recent discussion about infertility (letters, Nov.): Couples who are unable or unwilling to conceive or even to adopt might want to consider the multifaceted foster-parent program offered by the PIME Missionaries. PIME (Pontificum Institutum pro Missionibus; Latin for Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), a Catholic society of apostolic life, was founded in Italy in 1850 and opened its North American regional headquarters in Detroit in 1947. Alberic Crescitelli, a PIME missionary priest and martyr, was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000. The causes of several other PIME priests, brothers, and lay missionaries are being considered by the Vatican.

PIME is seeking sponsors to “spiritually adopt” children in such impoverished places as India, Bangla­desh, Myanmar, Thailand, Brazil, and Africa. PIME relies on contributions ($15 per month per child) to house, feed, clothe, and educate orphaned, abandoned, or simply poor children. Unlike some more expensive international adoption programs advertised on television, PIME’s program is staffed by nuns, priests, and lay missionaries, which means overhead is low and more money goes to support the children.

To date, PIME and its sponsors have “rescued” more than four thousand of these unfortunate children. Sadly, countless more remain unwanted and uncared for.

Potential sponsors are invited to contact PIME’s Foster Parents Mission Club at: 17330 Quincy St.,

Detroit, MI 48221-2765. Telephone: (313) 342-4066. E-mail: fosterparents@pimeusa.org.

Hugh & Danielle Mulvaney

West Grove, Pennsylvania

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