An independent investigation commissioned by l’Arche, published on Monday 30 January, confirms the wide “grip” that Jean Vanier, a Catholic spiritual figure who died in 2019 and accused of sexual assault in February 2020, was able to exercise. The information had caused a shock wave in the Catholic community.
L’Arche, a federation of associations founded by Jean Vanier and which welcomes people with intellectual disabilities in thirty-eight countries, had unveiled an internal report carried out by an independent body. The latter revealed that Jean Vanier had had with six adult and non-disabled women, some of whom were vulnerable, “sexual relations, generally within the framework of spiritual accompaniment, and some of which have kept deep wounds”.
On Monday, an independent study commission, set up in November 2020 by l’Arche internationale and made up of six researchers, delivered its conclusions which also relate to the Dominican Thomas Philippe, the chaplain of l’Arche and spiritual father of Jean Vanier, died in 1993. This 900-page document, consulted in particular by The crossreveals that not six, but twenty-five women of full age, single, married or consecrated, without disabilities, have been identified to have “experienced, at some point in their relationship with Jean Vanier, a situation involving a sexual act or an intimate gesture”Between “1952 and 2019”.
“Some presented themselves as victims of an abusive relationship, others rather as consenting partners in a transgressive relationship. These relationships (…) are all part of a continuum of confusion, control and abuse”said the Ark, in a separate press release. “Impression, sexual abuse, collective delirium, deviation of notions at the heart of Christianity, incestuous representations of the relationship between Jesus and Mary” were the “deployed mechanisms” both by Jean Vanier and Thomas Philippe, summarizes the report.
“Deviant Theories and Practices”
In the statement, the leaders of L’Arche International, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates Carney, expressed their “dismay” and condemned “without reservation, the actions” of the two men. “L’Arche recognizes its responsibility for having failed to prevent these abuses, to identify them, or to report them, and consequently, to have failed to put a stop to them”, writes the association. L’Arche, which is not an ecclesial structure, announces that it has decided “to join the Recognition and Reparation Commission (CRR)”set up in 2021 for victims of sexual violence committed in religious congregations.
Thomas Philippe and his brother Marie-Dominique Philippe, who was also a Dominican, have long been known for their “deviant theories and practices”, according to the terms of the Church. Both were the subject of canonical sanctions emanating from Rome, respectively in 1956 and 1957.
Another independent commission of several researchers was mandated by the Dominican order to examine how these two brothers were able to continue, despite denunciations and condemnations from the Vatican, to practice within their respective communities. Its conclusions will be made public on Friday, in the form of a book entitled The Affair – The Dominicans face the scandal of the Philippe brothers (editions of Cerf).
“It’s not that the ecclesiastical powers have done nothing”but “Throughout their lives, the Philippe brothers managed to thwart all attempts by the ecclesiastical powers to control them”said its author, historian Tangi Cavalin. “The institution, both the order [dominicain] and also externally, has proven unable to prevent such abuses”lamented Nicolas Texier, France’s head of the Dominican order.