Recent news about Jean Vanier

The Community has been deeply influenced by Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche Communities. He lived with people with developmental disabilities and shared a home with them. Vanier experienced how they could teach us acceptance, sharing and joy in a society that values production and competition. This was the context of his writing about community. In particular, his book Community and Growth was foundational in helping us to think through the principles of community itself. We had felt that our grappling with the paradox of community as an emerging dispersed network, yet firmly within the Celtic monastic tradition, was addressed by Vanier’s awareness of the inner journey and the human heart.

Given his significant influence on the Community, we were deeply shocked and immensely saddened, when, on 22nd February 2020, we heard about the findings of an inquiry that had been commissioned by the Federation of L’Arche Communities. The inquiry investigated allegations of abuse committed by Vanier, and Father Thomas Philippe, who Vanier regarded as his spiritual father. The findings of the inquiry were that Thomas Philippe sexually abused women whilst he was in L’Arche, Trosly (France) and exercising his ministry as priest, despite having been banned from any such ministry by the Catholic Church back in the 1950s. The inquiry also “received credible and consistent testimonies covering the period from 1970 to 2005 from six adult women without disabilities. The women each report that Jean Vanier initiated sexual behaviours with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment”.

Standing with the Leaders of L’Arche Communities, we, too, unreservedly condemn Vanier’s actions. We honour and praise the courage of the women who dared to come forward to speak truth. Our hearts reach out to them and anyone who is affected by the revelation of Vanier’s secretive abuse of his power and his repeated denial of knowing about Thomas Philippe’s behaviour and devious practices. It is our prayer that all members of L’Arche communities worldwide will find a way to get through this painful time, as they were brave enough to face the process of re-evaluating their founding years and Jean Vanier’s life and work.

For further details here is a link to L’Arche’s formal statement.

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