WelCom April 2020:
Jean Vanier, revered for his work with people with physical, mental and emotional disorders, has been accused of sexual misconduct.
The allegations of sexual misconduct follow months of investigation into the founder of L’Arche communities – a global network of institutions serving adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.
The accusations involve six women of various ‘ages, geographic origin and status – married, unmarried, vowed celibate’, says a report following the investigation.
The identity of the women has been kept confidential. However, it is alleged sexual activity with Vanier, who died in May last year aged 90, ‘was coerced or took place under coercive conditions’, says the report.
Four of the six women brought their allegations against Vanier after his death, while two came forward while he was still alive, the first in 2016. The women ‘reported similar facts associated with highly unusual spiritual or mystical explanations used to justify these sexual behaviours,’ the report states.
L’Arche International commissioned the investigation by GCPS, an independent UK consultancy to investigate Vanier’s links to his spiritual mentor, Fr Thomas Philippe. In 2015 a canonical inquiry had found that Fr Philippe had sexually abused multiple women.
During the GCPS investigation, the inquiry received ‘credible and consistent testimonies’ from six adult women without disabilities that Jean Vanier initiated sexual behaviours with them often ‘in the context of spiritual accompaniment’ over a period of more than 30 years from 1970 to 2005.
The GCPS report’s discoveries ‘shocked’ L’Arche International leaders, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney. They ‘unreservedly condemn these actions, which are in total contradiction with the values Jean Vanier claimed and are incompatible with the basic rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles on which L’Arche is based’.