On February 22, 2020, L’Arche International published the results of an investigation on its Founder: Jean Vanier (1928-2019), is accused of initiating sexual relations with six women, none of whom had disabilities, from 1970 to 2005, in the framework of spiritual accompaniment. The Vatican’s media echoed the results of this investigation, summarized in a press release of L’Arche, which we translate below.
L’Arche’s Press Release
In a letter addressed today to the whole of the Federation present in 38 countries, the leaders of L’Arche International made public the conclusions of the investigation, which they entrusted to an external and independent organization. This investigation related to testimonies, calling into question their Founder and his historical link with Father Thomas Philippe, whom he called his Spiritual Father.
The investigation was entrusted to GCPS, an independent organization based in the United Kingdom, whose mission is to help institutions improve their systems of prevention and of report of abuses. In order to testify to the integrity, quality and legitimacy of the investigation, L’Arche also established an Independent Supervisory Committee, made up of two former top French functionaries, without links to L’Arche.
In the course of this investigation, sincere and concordant testimonies, reporting on the period 1970-2005, were received from six adult women with no disabilities, which indicate that Jean Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, generally in the framework of spiritual accompaniment, and of whom certain have harbored deep wounds. These women, without links between them, reported similar facts, associated to a supposedly spiritual or mystical speech geared to justify them. These actions indicate Jean Vanier’s psychological and spiritual hold on these women, underscoring his adherence to certain deviant theories and practices of Father Thomas Philippe.
Nothing in the investigation enables one to think that persons in a situation of handicap were concerned.
On February 22, 2020, the leaders of L’Arche International, Stephan Posner, and Stacy Cates Carney, wrote a letter addressed to members of L’Arche.
“We are shaken by these discoveries and we condemn without reservation these actions in total contradiction to the values that Jean Vanier claimed and, furthermore, incompatible with the elementary rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles of our communities.
(. . . ) we recognize the courage and suffering of these women, and of those also that, perhaps still today, will remain silent. We also wish to express our gratitude to the women who some years ago, broke the silence on the subject of Father Thomas Philippe and thus helped others to free themselves from an unjust burden of shame and pain. We ask pardon of all of them for these events, carried out in the context of L’Arche, certain of which were initiated by our Founder.
(. . . ) for many among us, Jean (Vanier) was counted among our most loved and respected persons. We are conscious of the trouble and pain that this information will caused many among us, inside L’Arche but also outside . . . so much did he inspire and comfort numerous people everywhere in the world. If the considerable good he did throughout his long existence is no put into question, we must, however, mourn a certain vision we might have of him as well as of our origins.”
L’Arche is determined to have its 154 communities throughout the world be places of safety and growth for all its members, with or without handicap. Through the Federation, L’Arche International is going to undertake an in-depth and independent evaluation of its present measures of prevention of abuses and protection of persons. Complementing those already existing at the local level, L’Arche International has put in place a centralized procedure of reporting, to which all its members can have access, in a sure and confidential framework. A Commission made up in part by persons outside of L’Arche (link), examines the information and reports received.