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Jean Vanier and L’Arche

 So lots of people are getting in touch with me, because L’Arche has released its report on Jean Vanier, and they know of my bond with L’Arche. The report could not be much worse. Well, it could. It seems he did not actually rape any of the twenty-five or more women he lured into sexual activity in the guise of spiritual communion. None of the women was handicapped. Mostly I guess they were devout souls, some of them married and some nuns, all vulnerable, who bought into his cover story, the saintly man who simply wanted a naked dalliance because they were like Jesus and Mary, as he said. Or something. 

It’s deeply disturbing, in fact, heartbreaking, that a humanitarian organization that does such vital work – providing a home-like safe haven for those with disabilities – is now tarnished by this profoundly fucked up man, and his mentor, an even worse monster, the priest Père Thomas, revered when I worked at L’Arche as founder and spiritual father. 

But then, these men were acolytes of a religion that has as one of its most powerful symbols a woman who’s supposed to have been impregnated not by her husband but by a ghost and who gives birth as a virgin, a physical impossibility. A complete denial and repression of sexuality, one of the most fundamental aspects of being alive for our species and all the others. Why? Anglican priests can marry; Jews delight in carnal pleasures. Only Catholics hate and condemn the sexual needs of the body. No? 

And yet, a student writing a book about her past in Quebec’s Gaspé told us that if two years went by between pregnancies, a priest would appear in her home to ask her overloaded mother, who had nine children, what was the delay. Criminal. Endless children, but no sexual pleasure. And a centuries-old cover up of pedophilia and perversion. 

Okay, that’s my rant for today. It’s very cold. Yesterday, my third grandson Bandit had an important operation. The priest can ask in vain where Bandit’s babies are, there will be none. He’s a bit miserable today, with his floppy collar, but his dad is on the case. Does he know what’s missing, I wonder?

My little grey friend, on the other hand, is slowly taking over this house. She meows outside my door early in the morning, lonely little cries – Why O why, heartless one, are you shutting me out? So then I let her in and she settles on my legs and cuts off circulation. I love it. 

I am trying to change my life as a result of the marvellous book Stolen Focus, though I’m only half-way through. TURN OFF THE SCREENS that are colonizing your mind and destroying your concentration! 

Easy to say when I write and look up everything and watch films on one and text my family and check transit on the other. But I’ll try. You try too, and let’s check in and see how we do.

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6 Responses to “Jean Vanier and L’Arche”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Vanier story is so awful but maybe not surprising. The Catholic church has always seemed to me to have at least some of its priorities wrong. Faith isn't incompatible with healthy sexuality, in all kinds of possible forms, and there's a long history of secrecy and abuse in the church's skittish refusal to simple allow humans to be human with a full expression of what that means.
    Theresa (who is trying for a little less screen time too rather than observing Dry January)

  2. beth says:

    It's hard to believe that level of duplicity, but yes, not surprising, with many priorities so wrong in that church. Good luck with screen time – as I sit reading Stolen Focus about how these companies have destroyed our ability to concentrate for more than a few minutes, I get up regularly to check my email. Sigh.

  3. Pat Butler says:

    Beth, The minute I began reading about the report on Jean Vanier I thought of you. I recall you graciously commenting on the allegations during your virtual book launch, but this report is disturbing. Does your friend still work at L’Arche?

  4. beth says:

    No, my friends left L'Arche a long time ago though they remained on the board, and I have other friends still there. One friend connected to L'Arche, a lifelong Catholic, is so revolted by the fact that the Church knew about Vanier and Père Thomas and did nothing, she has left the church. I can't say I'm surprised.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It's so sad to hear of these predators in the midst of such important and valuable work.

  6. beth says:

    Yes, it's horrendous. I hope people recognize that the enormous value of the work L'Arche does is in no way tarnished by the vile sins of its founders.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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