When Jean Vanier died last year at age 90, his life and his ministry of working with people with disabilities was nearly universally celebrated.
“We don’t often find people born into privilege and status, and highly educated, who then follow the downward path of Jesus,” wrote Bethany McKinney Fox. “But as founder of L’Arche International, Vanier spent decades in community with people with and without intellectual disabilities and embraced the joys, complications, and demands that go along with such a life.”
Then, last weekend, L’Arche International released a report, looking over a 30-year span, stating that multiple women told an investigative team about experiences of sexual assault with Vanier.
“The relationships involved various kinds of sexual behavior often combined with so-called ‘mystical and spiritual’ justifications for this conduct,” it stated. The report went on to say that the women provided, “sufficient evidence to establish that Jean Vanier engaged in manipulative sexual relationships with at least 6 adult (not disabled) women. This number does not presume that there were no other cases, but takes into account spontaneously received testimony.”
This news comes at a time when many are undoubtedly exhausted by the number of scandals and exploits of high-profile leaders.
“Right now, that this is starting to feel very routine is pointing to the fact that the church has done a very poor job of dealing with issues of sexuality and spirituality and power,” said Ruth Haley Barton, the founder of the Transforming Center, an ecumenical leadership organization. “We just don't talk about them and we haven't helped our leaders ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more