Report reveals Vanier’s history as abuser

 — Feb. 1, 20231 févr. 2023

Single, married, and even nuns, Jean Vanier abused at least 25 adult women over six decades even while he founded the international movements of L’Arche and Faith and Light, and inspired millions of Catholics around the world with his insight into the Christian life.

“It seems to me that Jean had a kind of split personality,” Jesuit Fr. Bill Clarke told The Catholic Register as a 900-page report into Vanier’s career as a sexual abuser was made public.

“The Jean I knew and lived with at L’Arche for a few years, he was just wonderful. He was great with the people with disabilities,” said Clarke.

The six-person team of investigators, including two historians, a sociologist, a psychiatrist, a psychoanalyst and a theologian, found no evidence that Vanier ever interfered with any of the intellectually disabled core members of L’Arche. All of the known instances of abuse involved adult women who came to Vanier for spiritual direction.

Read the rest of this article in the Catholic Register

As a rule, Vanier’s victims were educated, fervent Catholics seeking to deepen their lives of faith.

The investigation was initiated and financed by L’Arche International, the umbrella organization that leads and co-ordinates the life of 149 communities and 14 projects in 37 countries, all of them serving intellectually disabled people and their families.

“What justifies L’Arche is not its founder, but the life of its members, with and without disabilities, at the service of a more human society. This task of re-reading our past, will help us remain faithful to this commitment,” L’Arche’s co-leaders Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney wrote in a letter to the L’Arche community.

L’Arche’s presence in Canada is large and Canadians have played a major role in the development of the movement, both while Vanier was still alive and since his death in 2019.

“It will take all of us in L’Arche, and I’m sure many others, to work out where we stand regarding Jean Vanier,” said national vice executive director of L’Arche Canada Lori Vaanholt in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

L’Arche can’t easily forget the man who founded and inspired the movement since he took two disabled men from an asylum in France and began living with them in Trosly-Breuil near Paris in 1964.

“Jean Vanier remains our founder,” said Vaanholt. “However, after nearly 60 years of existence, L’Arche’s reason for being is not based on the life of its founder, but on what L’Arche has achieved and continues to achieve, day after day, in each of its communities.”

In the context of spiritual direction or retreats, Vanier’s practice of gradually sexualizing his relationship with young women took on strange spiritual justifications. Semi-naked and praying with his head resting against the women’s breasts, Vanier told his victims, “It’s not us, it’s Mary and Jesus.”

Vanier apparently reproduced, almost exactly, the sexual spiritualism of his own “spiritual father,” disgraced and defrocked Dominican priest and theologian Pere Thomás Philippe.

Philippe, his brother Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe (founder of the Community of St. Jean) and his sister Sr. Marie Philippe (a Dominican mother superior) have all been found to have used vowed life and a twisted interpretation of Catholic spiritual teaching to gain sexual access to people they could dominate psychologically by using their own Catholic faith to undermine their sense of chastity.

“The influence of Pere Thomás on Jean was big, and a source of a lot of the suffering,” Clarke said. “Pere Thomas, he was really messed up — he and his brother, both.”

The degree of secrecy and the scale of the betrayal woven into Vanier’s life is difficult to comprehend, said Vaanholt.

“This man who was at the heart of our history, known by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world, and who committed these abuses in total contradiction with the image we had of him, at the end of his life he concealed this part of his life and lied about the nature of his relationship with Pere Thomás,” she said.

Clarke still calls Vanier his friend and still has Vanier’s books on his shelf. He calls the two sides of Jean “unreconcilable.”

“Jean and I were friends and I still love him,” he said.

“I didn’t get rid of them (Vanier’s books). I know a lot of people did when the first reports came out three years ago or so. But his writing is still good, it’s valuable.”

Posted: Feb. 1, 2023 • Permanent link:
Categories: Catholic RegisterIn this article: abuse, Jean Vanier, L'Arche
Transmis : 1 févr. 2023 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : Catholic RegisterDans cet article : abuse, Jean Vanier, L'Arche

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