Modern Science, the Church and Homeopathy
On Catholics and homeopathy, religion and science, who better to refer to than a priest who is a doctor, scientist, philosopher and theologian? On Catholics and homeopathy, religion and science, who better to refer to than a priest who is a doctor, scientist, philosopher and theologian; Jacek Norkowski? His commentary outlining modern science as being more than matter and chemistry and life being more than chemical but dynamic and vital is translated below.¹ He also explains the role of the information paradigm in modern science and concludes this all sits perfectly with homeopathy. Norkowski defends homeopathy on a number of fronts as follows:
Scientists, Science and Homeopathy
To begin with, we should bear in mind that science is also a cultural and social phenomenon, which is characterized by certain inertia and attachment to methods and views, as well as discoveries of the past. The new things are inertly adjusted to the existing framework and everything that does not fit the system is simply rejected as unscientific or “against science”, etc. Why unscientific? Is it because the majority of scientists do not approve of the new ideas?² It is like a vicious circle, and homeopathy is caught up in it. (Strangely enough, some exorcists also ground their claims for reduction of the reality of all the Creation on such a scientific paradigm.)
Many scientists define medicines as substances that have chemical effect and influence metabolism. In other words, the chemical paradigm is dominant in treatment. In cases of successful treatment with homeopathic remedies, supporters of chemical drugs claim that the former have too little of active ingredients to affect metabolic processes in any way. They conclude that homeopathy works just like placebo.
However, a lot of research has proven that homeopathy is many times more effective than placebo, the fact that many “chemists” tend to ignore. Competition and pursuit of financial benefit, as well as the existing system of interests should also be taken into consideration.
One more thing that homeopaths are accused of is that the remedies they use cause psychological and emotional disorders. However, there is no evidence to prove this. Some of the claims of promoters of chemical drugs are based on science, whereas some of them are based on rumours.
Church, Popes and Homeopathy
Many Catholics believe that homeopathic remedies have a negative spiritual effect, and that the Church prohibits them. The Union of Homeopaths of Silesia, Poland, once wrote an inquiry to the Venerable Pope John Paul II, asking to explain if a catholic physician may use homeopathic treatment. On June 22nd, 2004 legate Paweł Ptasznik wrote a reply. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
A few days ago his Eminence John Paul II gave me several letters that had been lying on his desk for a while. There was your letter among them. The Pope asked me to reply in his name. So, I am doing this now with pleasure. In response to your inquiry, I must confirm that, as far as I am informed, there is no documentation of the Magisterium of the Church on homeopathy in particular.
Not long ago, there was the document “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the ‘New Age’”, passed by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The theme of natural and homeopathic treatment is mentioned in the document. It seems to be reflected negatively because it is discussed in the light of the New Age ideology. Generally speaking, the Church does not prohibit homeopathy for treatment provided that it is not related to magic, oriental religions, and especially Buddhism.
The Church warns against using natural treatment methods that contradict science, so that a patient who, for example, trusts [an] energy therapist more does not refuse treatment at hospital, which is necessary at a specific stage of the development of the disease. A long tradition of natural medicines has been preserved in old monasteries and new communities, such as Bonifratres, who care for the sick. It seems that there are no obstacles for using homeopathic remedies provided that the health of the patient is of utmost importance, and the doctor does not harm the patient, even if he has to abandon the latest developments of the science of medicine”.
Having analysed historical sources, it becomes clear that the Church has always had a positive attitude towards homeopathy.
According to professor Pitera of Milan University, homeopathy was brought to the Vatican by Austrian doctor Kinzel in 1827. Kinzel was widely recognised for his successful homeopathic treatments. During the pontificate of Pope Gregory XVI, the famous homeopath Wahle worked in Rome. In 1841 the Pope asked him to explain how homeopathic remedies are made. The doctor’s arguments had convinced the Pope, so he gave the permission to use the remedies in the territory of Vatican City. Also, the Jesuit convent in Rome invited Wahle to work as a monastery doctor.
In 1852 Pope Pius IX gave permission even to the clergy to distribute homeopathic remedies to people in urgent cases if it was difficult or impossible to get a doctor. This Pope had rewarded a number of distinguished homeopaths, such as Charge, De Guidi, Perussel, Ozanam, Tessier and others.
Talianini, the homeopathic doctor, had cured Pope Leo XIII, who had a chronic and progressing tracheitis, which allowed the Pope to live and serve as Supreme Pontiff and Sovereign of Vatican City for a long time after. The personal doctor of Pius XII was homeopath Galeazzi-Lisi, succeeded by another homeopath Professor Negro, who was also the doctor of Paul VI. There is some evidence that Cardinal Ratzinger has also received homeopathic treatment.
No doubt, homeopathy is a challenge to the contemporary scientific paradigm. The latest data and the new phenomena shatter the existing scientific theories, and we may be witnessing the birth of a new paradigm of medicine.
Biology is vital and dynamic, not only chemical
The vital systems of an organism function as a complex transmition of information by means of electrical, magnetic, gravitational, chemical, optic and hydrodynamic impulses and transformations in bioplasma. A living organism is dynamic and non-linear. The processes can be affected even from a distance, and sometimes information can be passed on at the speed of light. An organism is a coherent macroscopic unit, the parts of which are interconnected locally and non-locally by means of information links, which keep them all together as a whole. Life is not just chemical reactions, which are but one of many ways of passing on vital information. There are many more means of transmitting information, not only in its narrow sense, but also in its broader sense, which means not only information but also knowing how to organize it and survive in an organized state. The universe is a complex formation of matter, energy and information. Quantum physics speaks of fermions, bosons and infonoms that influence it. Living organisms are bio-systems that can send and store specific information at the quantum level. This is a phenomenon of circulation of not only matter and energy but also information.
Every live cell is like a tiny and complex nanoprocessor that analyses, stores and generates information. The carriers of information can be not just proteins and nucleic acid but also water, which constitutes a major part of an organism. There are various levels of transmitting information, as well as hierarchy, organization and disorganization… All this data could be treated as something from the field of science fiction, were it not for the fact that the development of computer technology caused the study of the possibility of using organic and biological materials in electronics. Soon, the day will come when we will be using bionanocomputers.
The contemporary paradigm of biology and medicine disputes the “non-chemical” attitude to living organisms. However, thanks to the development of computer technologies, the information paradigm of life is receiving more and more support from physicists, biologists and medical doctors. This paradigm can explain why homeopathic treatment is possible: extremely small quantities of preparations and tiny doses do affect transmition of information and impulses of information, which stimulate the systems of the organism to fight the disease and return to the normal state.
The author Jacek Norkowski is a priest and a Dominican friar, a graduate of the Medical Academy of Poznan, a former student of Pontifical Academy of Theology in Krakow, the John Paul II Center for Bioethics in Boston and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome.
1. This text is a translation of the original article in Polish Homeopatia, nauka i wiara by Jacek Norkowski published in the Polish newspaper “Rzeczpospolita”, 2009 04 15. Jacek is responding to criticisms in the paper about homeopathy. The original article is far more scholarly in which Fr Jacek shows his knowledge of medicine, science and philosophy to defend homeopath: https://homeopatiapolska.com/homeopatia-a-kosciol/item/20-homeopatia-nauka-i-wiara.html Other articles are available at Homeopatia Polska
2. See my post on peer review
This text is an edited and translated version by www.kunigas.lt of the original article Homeopatia, nauka i wiara by Jacek Norkowski published in the Polish newspaper “Rzeczpospolita”,2009 04 15. The article, in Polish, is very enlightening but can be translated with Bing, Chrome etc. by “right clicking” and selecting “translate”. Chrome might prove more reliable.
Thanks to the Center for Classical Homeopathy and for translating:
(This link is no longer available
My post on information: Homeopathic medicines contain nothing but information
From the EWTN website – it’s interesting that Fr Torraco (before he suddenly died in 2010) personally knew of the “successful treatment of breast cancer by a homeopathic physician”.
Answer by Fr.Stephen F. Torraco to a question on homeopathy (article has been removed from new EWTN website):
“Current scientific understanding” is not necessarily sound scientific understanding. The principle behind homeopathic treatment and chiropractic treatment – essentially cooperating with nature, as I previously explained – is in perfect harmony with faith and right reason. As I also previously explained, this principle is also that of the Hippocratic Oath. It is a principle that modern western medicine has left behind with its heavy dependence on drugs for the manipulation of nature. (Have you recently watched TV commercials for new drugs, at the end of which they warn you about all kinds of possible bad side effects?) In fact, modern western medicine’s neglect of this basic principle (there is nothing Gnostic about it)is fundamentally grounded in its goals as originally articulated by French philosopher Rene Descartes: overcoming bodily mortality, the ultimate attempt at manipulating nature. Do not confuse that principle with people who badly apply it. I know personally of the successful treatment of a woman with breast cancer by a homeopathic physician. I also know that my mother is being successfully treated by a chiropractor in her ability to walk again.
Fr Torraco was a professor of theology.