Canadian organizations grapple with Jean Vanier's legacy after sex abuse report

Clay Curtis
February 26, 2020

L'Arche, an global mental health charity based in France, accused its Canadian founder on Saturday of sexually abusing several women.

Although he was a layman and not a priest, many Catholics hailed Vanier, who was Canadian, as a living saint for his work with the disabled.

Vanier, the Canadian founder of the French-based and Catholic-inspired charity, died previous year at the age of 90.

AP says the report did not rule out potential other victims. The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, however, have forced a recognition that power imbalances such as those in spiritual relationships can breed abuse.

"These actions are indicative of a deep psychological and spiritual hold Jean Vanier had on these women", it said.

None of the women he abused was herself disabled, the report says. 'We approach pardoning for these occasions which occurred with regards to L'Arche, some of which were brought about by our originator'.

"It was shocking", said L'Arche Quebec community leader Elisabeth Richard.

The letters, released after Vanier's death, seem to indicate that "he shared sexual practices similar to those of Father Pere Thomas Philippe with several women". The reasons lay in his theories, which were described as "false mysticism", and the sexual practices that stemmed from them.

The board tells CTV News that parents of students at Jean Vanier Catholic School on Viscount Road will soon receive a letter.

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"We ask forgiveness for these events which took place in the context of L'Arche, some of which were caused by our founder".

He went on: "We have been shocked, annoyed, disappointed".

The Catholic community is reeling after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced over the weekend against Jean Vanier, and now the Collingwood high school that carries his name is considering wiping it from their walls. "This is devastating for our family", he tweeted. "Please pray for us, and also for L'Arche".

"We knew that. some students would have some discomfort wearing his namesake in light of what he has been found to be involved with", said Stevenson. "It's really about our community of L'Arche Winnipeg together have made something of value, of relationships, so I'm pretty sure we'll continue on and maybe even be strengthened as we go through this really hard process". "The truth is painful".

Vanier, son of former governor general Georges P. Vanier, worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to Catholic-inspired charity work.

He founded L'Arche - the Ark - to provide communities for people with learning difficulties to live alongside people without disability as equals.

There is no indication Vanier had inappropriate relationships with people with intellectual disabilities, according to the inquiry's findings.

Vanier, who was unmarried, also traveled the world to encourage dialogue across religions, and was awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize for spiritual work, as well as France's Legion of Honor. In 2017 he was the subject of a narrative screened at the Cannes Film Festival called 'Jean Vanier, the Sacrament of Tenderness'.

The situation with Vanier opens up another hole in the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse charges and allegations.

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