Something interesting has been revealed from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints investigation into the possible sainthood of Pope John Paul II. Personal testimonies from Tobiana Sobodka (a polish nun), and Bishop Emery Kabongo (the Pope’s secretary) have been quoted as saying:
Several times he would put himself through bodily penance.
“We would hear it – we were in the next room at Castel Gandolfo. You could hear the sound of the blows when he flagellated himself. He did it when he was still capable of moving on his own.”
He would punish himself and in particular just before he ordained bishops and priests before passing on the sacraments he wanted to prepare himself. I never actually saw it myself but several people told me about it.”
What is in us that makes us feel self flagellation is redeeming? Why are we programmed to believe “no pain, no gain”? Whatever it is, it explains the “scapegoat” need for redemption found in so many religions.