PARIS — An internal report reveals that L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, a respected Canadian religious figure whose charity work helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over half a century, sexually abused at least six women.
Vanier died last year in Paris at age 90.
According to the report seen by the AP Saturday, the women’s descriptions provide evidence enough to show that Vanier engaged in “manipulative sexual relationships” over a period from 1970 to 2005. The report does not rule out potential other victims.
During the inquiry, commissioned by L’Arche last year and carried out by the independent, U.K.-based GCPS Consulting group, six adult, non-disabled women said Vanier had engaged in sexual relations with them as they were seeking spiritual direction.
According to the report, the women, who have no links to each other, reported similar facts and Vanier’s sexual misconduct was often associated with alleged “spiritual and mystical justifications.”
A statement released by L’Arche France Saturday stressed that some women still have “deep wounds.” Vanier’s actions show “he had a psychological and spiritual hold on these women,” the statement said, adding that nothing suggests that disabled people may have been involved.
Vanier worked as a Canadian navy officer and professor before turning to charity work. A visit to a psychiatric facility prompted him to found the Catholic-inspired charity L’Arche in 1964 as an alternative living environment where those with developmental disabilities could be full-fledged participants in the community instead of patients.
The charity now has facilities in 38 countries that are home to thousands of people both with and without disabilities.
Vanier, who was unmarried, also traveled the world to encourage dialogue across religions, and was awarded the 2015 Templeton Prize for spiritual work, as well as France’s Legion of Honor. He was the subject of a documentary shown at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival called “Jean Vanier, the Sacrament of Tenderness.”
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