‘Vanier was part of a small sectarian group that subscribed to … predatory and deviant doctrine and practices…’
Two years after abuse allegations against L’Arche’s late founder Jean Vanier were made public, an investigation shows the secret was “carefully maintained for decades.”
From the famous Christian community he developed in Trosly-Breuil, France, the Catholic theologian and leader p-rpetuated a hidden “mystical-sexual” sect. Over a nearly 70-year period, Vanier violated at least 25 women—all of them adults without disabilities—during prayer and spiritual devotion.
The results of the two-year investigation, commissioned by L’Arche in 2020, were released in an 868-page report on Monday. A half dozen of Vanier’s victims spoke up for the first time following his death in 2019 at age 90.
An interdisciplinary team of scholars consulted 1,400 private letters of Vanier’s, including hundreds from a secret folder. They interviewed 89 people, including eight of Vanier’s victims.
L’Arche became well-known and spread around the world as an organization bringing together people with and without intellectual disabilities. While the ministry brought dignity and fellowship to the vulnerable over the decades, the report suggests that Vanier founded L’Arche as a cover to reunite a group who practiced contemplation and spiritual direction with nudity and sexual touch.
“The courage of the women and Vanier’s death in 2019 led to archival research that revealed … that Vanier was part of a small sectarian group that subscribed to … predatory and deviant doctrine and practices,” wrote Tina Bovermann, executive director of L’Arche USA. “L’Arche’s members, partners and friends were lied to and deceived by Vanier.”
The findings “stunned” L’Arche leaders, Bovermann told Sojourners, which broke the news of the new report and is also releasing a podcast on the fallout of the revelations around Vanier.