A respected Canadian Catholic figure who helped improve conditions for the developmentally disabled in multiple countries over half a century sexually abused at least six women, a report produced for his French-based charity has found.
According to the report released by L’Arche International Saturday, the women’s descriptions provide evidence enough to show that Jean Vanier engaged in “manipulative sexual relationships” over a period from 1970 to 2005, usually with a “psychological hold” over the alleged victims. Vanier died last year at age 90.
“The alleged victims felt deprived of their free will and so the sexual activity was coerced or took place under coercive conditions,” the report said. It did not rule out potential other victims.
None of the women was disabled, a significant point given the Vatican has long sought to portray any sexual relationship between religious leaders and other adults as consensual unless there was clear evidence of disability. The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, however, have forced a recognition that power imbalances such as those in spiritual relationships can breed abuse.
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.”
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