On February 22nd, 2020, the leaders of L’Arche International sent a letter to the Federation of L’Arche Communities, which operates in 38 countries worldwide, publishing the results of an inquiry that had commissioned from an independent organization. The inquiry included testimony implicating its founder, Jean Vanier, and his historical link to Father Thomas Philippe, who he thought of as his spiritual father.
The investigation was carried out by GCPS, an independent U.K. consultancy which specializes in improving procedures for the prevention and reporting of abuse. In addition, L'Arche International established an Independent Oversight Committee made up of two former senior civil servants in France, to assess the integrity and reliability of the inquiry’s process and findings.
The inquiry received credible and consistent testimonies from six adult women without disabilities, covering the period from 1970 to 2005. The women each report that Jean Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment. Although they had no prior knowledge of each other’s experiences, these women reported similar facts associated with highly unusual spiritual or mystical explanations used to justify these behaviors. The relationships were found to be manipulative and emotionally abusive, and had a significant negative impact on their personal lives and subsequent relationships. These actions are indicative of a deep psychological and spiritual hold Jean Vanier had on these women and confirm his own adoption of some of Father Thomas Philippe’s deviant theories and practices.
The inquiry made no suggestion that Jean Vanier had inappropriate relationships with people with intellectual disabilities. These actions are indicative of a deep psychological and spiritual hold Jean Vanier had on these women and reveal his own adoption of some of Father Thomas Philippe’s deviant theories and practices which he continued over a very long period of time.
The inquiry found no suggestion that Jean Vanier had inappropriate relationships with people with intellectual disabilities.
The Leaders of L’Arche International, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates Carney wrote in a letter to the federation of L’Arche today:
“We are shocked by these discoveries and 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.
We recognize the courage and suffering of these women, and of those who may remain silent. We also want to express our gratitude to the women who, a few years ago, broke the silence about Father Thomas Philippe and thus helped others to speak out about the undue burden of shame and pain. Because these events took place in the context of L’Arche and some were brought about by our founder; to all of you, we ask forgiveness”.
L’Arche is committed to making sure that its 154 communities across the world are places of safety and growth for all its members, with and without disabilities.
Across the Federation, L’Arche is undertaking a thorough and independent evaluation of safeguarding & wellbeing policies and procedures. In addition to the safeguarding and wellbeing regulations, already existing throughout its federation, L’Arche International has created a commission, composed in part of people from outside its organization, to allow all its members to speak out and to follow-up on any reports in complete confidentiality.
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