Jean Vanier founded L'Arche in 1964 Image copyright Getty Images

A religious leader who founded a celebrated organisation for people with learning difficulties sexually abused six women, an internal report found.

Canadian Jean Vanier founded the global network L’Arche in France in 1964 and died last year aged 90.

None of the women he abused were themselves disabled, the report says.

An investigation into Vanier was commissioned by L’Arche International last year after suspicions were raised.

“L’Arche in the UK is thoroughly shocked and saddened by this news. Jean Vanier was an admired figure and the findings of this report will cause pain for many,” said L’Arche UK’s CEO, Loren Treisman in a statement.

The organisation is believed to operate in 35 countries, and runs homes and centres where people with and without disabilities live together.

What does the report say?

Vanier had “manipulative sexual relationships” involving “coercion” with at least six women between 1970 and 2005, according to Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail which has seen the report .

The women included assistants and nuns.

The relationships were “characterized by significant abuses of power, whereby the alleged victims felt deprived of their free will and so the sexual activity was coerced or took place under coercive conditions.”

Vanier also enabled and shared sexual partners and “mystical” sexual practices with a disgraced priest Thomas Philippe, according to the Globe and Mail.

Father Philippe, who died in 1993, was Vanier’s “spiritual father”.

Vanier publicly denied knowledge of those practices, but the report finds that he was using the same methods.

Who was Jean Vanier?

Jean Vanier was the son of a Canadian diplomat and left a naval career in 1950 to study theology, saying he wanted to “follow Jesus”.

While visiting a chaplain in Paris who worked with men with learning difficulties, he became disturbed by the poor conditions in which the men lived.

He founded L’Arche to provide communities for people with learning difficulties to live alongside people without disability as equals.

There are now believed to be 147 L’Arche centres around the world.

Mr Vanier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and was awarded the prestigious Companion of the Order of Canada.

In 2015, he was the recipient of the Templeton Prize, an award described as “entirely deserved” by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

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