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Victim soul

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A victim soul is a concept most clearly seen in Catholic theology, although it has pre-Christian roots. It is described by one theologian as a soul or person "chosen by God to suffer more than most people during life, and who generously accepts the suffering in union with the Savior and after the example of Christ's own Passion and Death."[1]

In Judeo-Christian thought, the concept of one being suffering in the place of another has a long history. One early and well-known example of this is the scapegoat ritual of Yom Kippur, described in Leviticus chapter 16. Christian tradition tends to interpret the scapegoat practice as a prefigurement of Christ's atonement through his own suffering and death.[2] The concept of the victim soul builds on this, bolstered by such New Testament passages as Christ's declaration that "If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."[3], and St. Paul's statement that "I find joy in the sufferings I endure for [Paul's fellow Christians]. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church."[4]

Many Christian figures throughout history have claimed to be or popularly recognized as victim souls, although the Catholic Church does not recognize individuals as such[5]. One recent example is that of St. Faustina, who wrote in her diary that Christ had chosen her to be a "victim offering," a role that she voluntarily accepted.[6]


  1. Fr. John A. Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary (Eternal Life Publications, 2000).
  2. See, e.g., Hebrews chs. 9-10.
  3. Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23.
  4. Colossians 1;24.
  5. Diocese Issues Interim Findings on Miraculous Claims Statement by Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Worcester
  6. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul: the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (Marian Press, 2005), pp. 74-76, paras. 135-37.

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