What do we do when we discover our saints and mentors and heroes have feet of clay? We grieve.
Perhaps you have already read the article in the Globe and Mail, “L’Arche founder Jean Vanier sexually abused at least six women, report finds”. If not, you will soon I am sure. The article says the full report will be published in the coming days. I find this such unfortunate timing after we heard many of our Partners offer tribute to Jean Vanier in our PartnerConnects over the past weeks.
Does this eliminate all the good Jean Vanier did through L’Arche? Of course, it does not. But as the article says, “How the findings will damage L’Arche remains to be seen.” I have great admiration for Stefan Posner, the international leader of L’Arche, for getting out ahead of the scandal by commissioning an independent inquiry to discover the truth and bring these damning findings to light. Mr. Posner is seeking to make clear that “L’Arche the institution is not the same as L’Arche’s founder.” It is my hope L’Arche will thrive and continue to do its good and necessary work for decades to come.
I am grateful Vanier’s unwanted sexual advances were not toward the disabled. I am deeply disturbed he would take advantage of his position of power and influence and his relationships of trust to continue his non-consensual sexual acts against vulnerable women especially under the guise of offering “spiritual guidance”. And I am profoundly disappointed that, when confronted, he lied for so long.
This day and in the days to come I want to pay close attention to my own responses of grief and sadness and disillusionment and disappointment and live these in light of the divine compassion that holds me in the middle of it all. In my opening post of the year I quoted from Becoming Human. Vanier writes:
All of us carry within ourselves brokenness, as well as shadow areas, dark corners of the spirit where uncomfortable things are hidden. (p.30)
If we deny our weakness and the reality of death, if we want to be powerful and strong always, we deny a part of our being, we live an illusion. (p.40)
The way honest vulnerability has been modeled in the SoulStream community has profoundly changed me and the way I live my own broken humanity. My only wish is that Jean Vanier had lived more deeply into the truth of his own profound teachings.