L’Arche Ireland ‘very disappointed’ at latest revelations about founder Jean Vanier – The Irish Times

The Irish branch of L’Arche, an international charity for people with intellectual disabilities, said it was “very disappointed and saddened” after a report found its French-Canadian founder Jean Vanier had abused no fewer than 25 women.

Mairead Boland Brabazon, chief executive of L’Arche Ireland, said that “fortunately the report showed that the rest of L’Arche was not involved”. She said she was grateful that the charity’s international leadership had “investigated the matter thoroughly and recognized the women involved. They took it very seriously.”

Ms. Boland Brabazon oversees L’Arche’s four centers in Ireland, in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Kilkenny, caring for up to 170 people with day services for more than 100 others.

What the latest report uncovered was “completely against our values,” she said. “We work very hard to ensure that people have a very good quality of life,” she said, adding that she was grateful for all the support the charity has received since the first revelations about Mr Vanier in February 2020.

At the time, an internal investigation by the charity revealed that he had sexually abused six women. In 2015, an investigation by the Catholic Church found that Dominican priest Father Thomas Philippe, Mr Vanier’s “spiritual father”, had sexually abused 14 women, many of whom were linked to the L’Arche community, with some Incidents date back to the 1970s. It is understood that no people with disabilities were abused. He died in 1993.

Ms Boland Brabazon said “the HSE and Hiqa have been very supportive to us” as have the families of the people they support. “They tell us to keep going, not to get discouraged and not to be thrown back by one person’s activities,” she said.

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The latest report comes from an independent commission set up by the charity in 2020 following the first revelations about L’Arche’s founder. It concluded that “25 women of majority, single, married or consecrated and without disabilities, between 1952 and 2019 were identified as having experienced a situation involving a sexual act or intimate gesture at some point in their relationship with Jean Vanier included”.

It went on to say that some of the women “presented themselves as victims of an abusive relationship, others as consensual partners in a transgressive relationship. Some of these women have since passed away. In their diversity, these relationships, sometimes simultaneously, are all part of a continuum of confusion, control, and abuse.”

It also said there was “no evidence that people with disabilities could have been subjected to such abuse” or that anyone at L’Arche could “willfully be accused of covering up this abuse, despite fragmented information circulating”.

However, it added that “a mixture of certain institutional dynamics within L’Arche, the charismatic personality of Jean Vanier, the lack of a reliable mechanism to allow victims to be heard, and the shortcomings or failures of the ecclesiastical institution Silence made possible for decades. L’Arche acknowledges its responsibility for not being able to prevent, identify or report these abuses and therefore could not prevent them.”

Mr Vanier, an apparently devout Catholic, died in 2019. A month later, in June 2019, L’Arche announced that it had “hired an outside organization to conduct a thorough and independent investigation that will allow us to better understand our story.” to understand”.

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His report, published in February 2020, found that Mr Vanier was implicated in the sexual abuse of six women, but that this did not involve any women with intellectual disabilities. The abuse continued into the 2000s. L’Arche then decided to set up a study commission “to better understand the life orientation of Jean Vanier, the founding history of L’Arche and the institutional dynamics within the organization”.

Mr. Vanier founded L’Arche near Paris in 1964 to care for people with learning disabilities. Named after the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, it has more than 10,000 members in 149 congregations in 39 countries worldwide. Since 1978 it has developed four congregations in Ireland, in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Kilkenny.

In 1971, Mr. Vanier also founded the non-denominational organization Faith and Light to help people with learning disabilities. It has more than 1,600 such communities in 80 countries, including 23 on the island of Ireland.

In 2015 he received the £1.1 million Templeton Prize for “an outstanding contribution to the affirmation of the spiritual dimension of life”.


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