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victim soul

But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness (Leviticus 16: 10).

And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness (Leviticus 16: 16).

A victim soul is a person who suffers pain or sickness for another person. This notion is clearly related to the belief that Jesus of Nazareth redeemed humankind by suffering and dying for our sins. Jesus as scapegoat probably goes back to the ancient Jewish custom of letting a goat loose in the wilderness on Yom Kippur after the high priest had (symbolically) laid upon the goat all the sins of the people (Leviticus 16).

According to Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Worcester (Massachusetts), the concept of the victim soul was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. He has set up a committee to investigate the claims that a young girl in his diocese, Audrey Santo, is a victim soul. The girl allegedly agreed with the Virgin Mary to be a victim soul when asked while on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina (formerly part of Yugoslavia). At the time the girl was four years old and in a comatose state [akinetic mutism] due to an accident that had destroyed a good part of her brain a year earlier. Her mother, Linda Santo, had hoped for a miracle cure. Instead, she says, the Virgin Mary appeared to her daughter and talked to her about being a victim soul. Linda Santo claims that her daughter suffers so others can live and has turned her lifeless daughter into a living relic. She has set up a shrine in her home and accepts visitors, who can view the comatose Audrey through a glass window.

Audrey Santo died on April 14, 2007, at the age of 23.

Maria ValtortaAnother who offered herself up as a victim soul was Maria Valtorta (1897– 1961) who spent the last 28 years of her life bedridden. She was attacked on the street and injured when she was just 23. A pious woman, she offered herself up as a victim soul after she was injured and wrote more than 15,000 pages that she said were dictated to her by Jesus. The pages allegedly tell the story of Jesus not told in the Bible. These writings became the basis of her 5,000 page Poem of the Man God. Some find inspiration in her writings and consider them authentic revelations; others find her writings inauthentic, even if inspiring.

further reading

Nickell, Joe. Looking For A Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures (Prometheus Books: Buffalo, N.Y., 1993).


Mass Media Bunk (commentary on a 20/20 program called "the miracle of Audrey")

Miracles or Deception? The Pathetic Case of Audrey Santo by Joe Nickell, Skeptical Inquirer, Sept/Oct 1999.


Fastest-growing Catholic pilgrimage site in the world ...and the skeptic wept....

Last updated 30-Jan-2015

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