L'Arche, an organization that welcomes people with intellectual disabilities around the world, unveiled an internal investigation on Saturday in which its Canadian founder Jean Vanier, who died in 2019, is accused of sexual abuse of several women.
This investigation made it possible to collect the "sincere and concordant testimonies relating to the period 1970-2005" of six adult women, without disabilities, with whom Jean Vanier "initiated sexual relations, generally within the framework of spiritual accompaniment, and some of which have kept deep wounds, "said L'Arche International in a statement.
"Psychological and spiritual hold"
The investigations, carried out by an independent body, did not identify disabled people among the victims, it is specified. "These actions indicate a psychological and spiritual hold by Jean Vanier on these women and underline his adherence to some of the deviant theories and practices of Father Thomas Philippe," adds l'Arche.
The Dominican Thomas Philippe, spiritual father of Jean Vanier and bulky figure of the Ark, was suspected of sexual assault on women.
This sexual violence is said to have taken place in part as part of spiritual accompaniment. "Spiritual accompaniment has turned into sexual touch," said one victim in the report, quoted by Radio-Canada. “It lasted three or four years, each time I was frozen. [...] He told me that it was part of the accompaniment ”.
"We are overwhelmed by these discoveries and we unreservedly condemn these actions in total contradiction with the values that Jean Vanier claimed elsewhere," wrote the officials of L'Arche International, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates Carney, in a letter addressed to members of the organization.
"Stupor" of the bishops of France
"We also want to express our gratitude to the women who, a few years ago, broke this silence about Father Thomas Philippe and thus helped others to free themselves from an unfair burden of shame and sorrow", have they added, asking them "sorry".
The Conference of Bishops of France expressed its "stupor" and its "pain" before these revelations, ensuring its "compassion for women who have been so abused", as well as its "determination to act so that the light be done ”.
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L'Arche, with its international headquarters in Paris, is a federation of associations which runs 154 locations in 38 countries where people with intellectual disabilities live - the specificity of these communities - with their carers, employees or volunteers.