Stephanie Roy

Publication Date



scapegoat, sexual abuse crisis, Catholicism, homophobia, sacrificial violence, ritual


This work seeks to explore the contemporary and historical phenomena of scapegoating, as it is rooted in the scapegoat ritual of Leviticus XVI and operative in Christian faith communities and the Catholic Church today. I propose that in addition to exhibiting the Hebrew scapegoat ritual’s core components of selection, degradation, and alienation of the victim, the scapegoating practices employed by many Christians throughout the Common Era serve as a continuation of this ancestral tradition, displaying the same degree of calculated orchestration, need for cyclical repetition, and shared goal of revitalization and renewal for the community. Utilizing a historical-critical methodology, in conversation with social theory, I begin with investigation into the origin and purpose of ritual scapegoating, as it arises from Genesis 37. Briefly exploring the European witch hunts of the Early Modern period and the African American lynching era of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, a structural and psychological pattern is identified that underlies the anti-Jewish genocide of the Holocaust, Islamophobia of the post-9/11 War on Terror, and homophobia surrounding the present-day sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. A call for honest and critical self-reflection is issued to the Catholic populace, particularly clergy, challenging them to examine and check their own participation in systems that victimize others for the sake of individual catharsis and institutional stability.