Potential pit falls with Rene Girard's writings?

I came across Girard’s theory on scapegoating and am interested in doing some reading of his work. I saw some mentions of his views on Jesus being crucified not being a sacrifice on some blog post etc. Before I spend my limited time and resources digging into him I thought I would ask if their any substantial areas of concern or conflict with his theories and the teachings of the faith and the doctrine of the Church. I know much will have to be sorted on my own as I work through but would prefer to go into it aware of any know issues.


Let me scratch my neck at bit while I contemplate your question. You do know I was not scratching my neck right?
Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and the only sacrifice that would satisfy the debt.

Don’t waste time about another theory with your limited resources.

If you are looking and seeking the teachings of faith and the doctrine of the Church, if you get this one wrong you get it all wrong.

I am not aware of any contradictions between his writings and Catholic teaching.

He proposes that civilization is built upon the murder in which people come together to take all the aggression that they have with one another, and focus it on a scapegoat.

People covet what the other has, envy and hostility of competing for what the other has threatens to tear the community apart; ritualized murder of the scapegoat allows the community to project those envies and hostilities on the unwitting victim, and the group common identity is thereby maintained. The rising competition of man against man is transposed by group cooperation to carry out the ritual murder.

This is the world of Satan, in Girard’s view, the peace of Satan, if you will. It relies on people not knowing what they are doing, and assuming that the scapegoat victim really is guilty.
With Christ rising, the Satanic lies are exposed for all time, for the process becomes revealed for what it is, a projection of one’s own sin upon that of a victim who has nothing to do with the hostility in the first place. Christ’s rising from the dead proves his innocence, and if innocent, then it is the mob who is guilty of murder.

But that leaves a situation where the peace of Satan, temporary though it may be, is no longer believed in, and no longer can be a release mechanism for the built up aggression that come through constant envy of the other. The peace of Christ is to love one another and see the success of the brother whom you serve as your success.
Without that love of Christ, and now with the mechanisms of scapegoating fully exposed, civilization will explode.

There is nothing contrary to Catholicism in Girard’s anthropology. He even believes that a literal bodily resurrection is the only sufficient explanation for how what followed.


I personally like to read Sacred Scripture, and those who expound on and explain it in a deeper way that I can understand right now. And I most appreciate it when what is written does just that!

Thank you for your responses.

I have a background in anthropology though it has been along time since I have read much of an academic nature. I am relatively new to the faith and am putting most of my reading/ contemplation time towards scripture, prayer, and some online exploration here and at sites like The Reason for our hope and The word on fire (where Fr Barron brought up Girard).

It seems his work is worth the time to review more thoroughly. It also seems possible that the online comments may be splitting hairs over terms and how he describes the sacrifice of Jesus for us and our salvation.

Just trying to avoid going down a path and then fiddling something problematic.

The Lord’s blessings to you in your prayerful pondering!



Thanks Dorothy!

I find a mix of materials beneficial, and appreciate when one area of study illuminates another. I too enjoy the depth of knowledge others are able to bring forward and place the scriptures in a more complete context for my understanding. I’m listening to an interesting homily on 1st Samuel as I type this by Fr. Barron and am getting ready to read some more in a study guide by Fr. Pacwa on the Eucharist. Do you have any favorite reads, podcasts, or videos that you are using to increase your understanding of particular scriptures?

Thanks for asking!

I, too, very much like Father Robert Barron’s videos and have a few of them that I like to show to others, and then have a discussion and some prayer. The one on the seven capital sins is a good source for discussion, I shared it at meetings with a group of seniors at my parish. They liked it very much.

I have a DVD by Father Mitch Pacwa explaining about Gnosticism which I found very informative.

I will share with you a site from a Long Island parish where they present many MP3s of conferences that Father Venard Poslusney, O. Carm. gave several years ago. There is a short biography of him at the site, and then a list of the available tapes that were made into MP3s. I was fortunate enough to attend several years of his monthly Days of Prayer with Mass and two conferences when I lived up north. The tapes were not professionally made and so they end abruptly, and when there are some questions and answers at the end of the conference, only the answers of Father is audible.

Each conference is about forty minutes long. His forte was spiritual direction, and he gave retreats to priests, cloistered nuns, and lay people interested in a deeper prayer life.


I hope you find that helpful.



Thanks for the link, I bookmarked it. Started listening to some but will save it for the car.

You’re welcome!


Thank you for your kind reply to my comment.
I hope I can count on you when I have a question about the bible.

Your kind manner gives me the feeling that you will dig deeply into things and be helpful.

Best to you,

God bless you, and may He lead all of us according to His Way!

Well said.


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