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L’Arche ‘in mourning’ over Vanier abuse allegations

The Head of L’Arche International, Stephan Posner, has spoken to The Tablet of his hopes that the organisation will continue to flourish despite devastating allegations of sexual abuse made against its founder, Jean Vanier.

A report based on an internal investigation, seen by The Tablet and due to be made public on Tuesday, reveals that Vanier was accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour by six women of various “ages, geographic origin and status – married, unmarried, vowed celibate”. 

The identity of the women has been kept confidential but the summary report states that sexual activity with Vanier, who died in May last year aged 90, “was coerced or took place under coercive conditions”.

Mr Posner told The Tablet: “The considerable good [Vanier] did throughout his life is not in question”, but he said that L’Arche will “nevertheless have to mourn a certain image we may have had of Jean.” 

He went on: “We have been shocked, annoyed, disappointed. But everyone I know in L’Arche goes back to their own experience, and says, ‘This is not what I have lived; and I still want to get up each morning and work for L’Arche.’ This is reassuring. That is all I can say.”

The report, commissioned by L’Arche International and conducted by GCPS Consulting, a UK-based expert in the investigation and prevention of sexual abuse, over the course of a year, highlighted six manipulative sexual relationships, some lasting several years, that took place between 1970 and 2005. 

The women came forward independently of one another, but their testimonies are strikingly similar.

Very often, the report found, abuse occurred within the context of spiritual accompaniment, and sexual relations, involving “everything except intercourse”, were given “mystical and spiritual” justification by Vanier. One woman reports: “He said: ‘This is not us, this is Mary and Jesus. You are chosen, you are special, this is secret.”

The summary report states that the findings of the inquiry are “based on a ‘balance of probabilities’, and not ‘beyond any doubt’ standard of proof”.

While four of the six women brought their allegations against Vanier after his death, two came forward while he was still alive, the first in 2016. 

Read more at The Tablet

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