This is beyond shocking:
Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, the world’s foremost network of communities for intellectually disabled people, has been found to have engaged in sexually abusive relationships with at least six women.
After nearly a year of investigation, L’Arche International is about to release the findings of an independent investigation – to which The Globe and Mail has had exclusive access in the English-speaking world – into the past of Mr. Vanier, who died last May at the age of 90.
The report establishes that Mr. Vanier had “manipulative sexual relationships,” many of them coercive, over the course of 35 years, between 1970 and 2005. Some were assistants, some were nuns. The report also establishes that he enabled and shared sexual partners and “mystical” sexual practices with Pere Thomas Philippe, a censured Dominican priest and serial sexual abuser who was Mr. Vanier’s “spiritual father” – and one of the inspirations for L’Arche. Mr. Vanier publicly denied any knowledge of the practices on more than one occasion.
None of the women were intellectually disabled, the core members of L’Arche.
The revelations are a blow to Mr. Vanier’s vaunted reputation. He was the son of governor-general Georges Vanier who abandoned the Navy, the Catholic church and academia to found a globe-spanning series of homes for the intellectually disabled.
Mr. Vanier was a perennial candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, a Companion of the Order of Canada, a winner of the Templeton Prize and the Joseph Kennedy Foundation Award with his good friend Mother Teresa. As many as 14 schools in Canada bear his name. He wrote best selling books, the most famous of which, Becoming Human, was the basis of a series of Massey lectures.
How the findings will damage L’Arche – which began as a revolutionary alternative to the institutionalization of the intellectually disabled in 1964, and has since become the crown jewel of community-based housing for them – remains to be seen. And how they will affect the intellectually disabled residents of L’Arche – among whom Mr. Vanier lived until the end of his life – is difficult to imagine.