Jean Vanier, the deceased founder of a Christian charity that helps people with intellectual disabilities integrate into society, has been found to have abused at least 25 women over a 50-year period, a new report has revealed.
Commissioned by L’Arche International in 2020 and published in January this year, the new report found the 25 women were single, married or consecrated and without disabilities.
They were all identified as having experienced “a situation involving a sexual act or an intimate gesture between 1952 and 2019” with Vanier.
The 900-page document is a follow-up to a previous independent review in 2020 that looked into Vanier’s treatment of women and his spiritual practices as several abuse accusations came to light a few months before he passed away in 2019.
The 2020 report found Vanier had manipulated and sexually abused at least six woman as well as confirming Vanier’s loyalty to the doctrines of his spiritual father, Thomas Philippe – a Dominican priest who was investigated and barred from ministry following sexual abuse allegations.
Now, in a statement published alongside the report, L’Arche International said Vanier and Philippe formed a “sectarian core” around them which allowed the abuse to go undetected for several years.
“This nucleus formed a microsystem at the inception of L'Arche that did not spread beyond a very narrow circle of people whose situations are widely documented in the report,” the statement read.
The report said the pair’s abuse included, “spiritual deviation, manipulation, incestuous representations of relationships between Jesus and Mary”.
There is no indication that people with disabilities were exposed to or suffered abuse by Vanier, the report said.
L’Arche International’s leaders, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney, said the abuse was “in total contradiction with the elementary rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles of our communities”.
In a letter to all the organisation’s members, they wrote: “We sincerely ask for forgiveness from the people who were victims of this abuse. We again express our gratitude to those who, a few years ago, broke the silence about Father Thomas Philippe and then about Jean Vanier and thus helped others to free themselves from an intolerable burden.
“We recognise our institutional responsibility for failing to spot these abuses, report them and forestall them. At the same time, we feel that our founder’s adherence to the doctrines of Thomas Philippe and the reproduction of his practices, their concealment and the lies that followed, constitute a serious breach of trust towards L’Arche and its members. ‘’
The two leaders added: “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.”