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L’Arche founder Jean Vanier found credibly accused of sexually abusing at least six women

| Sunday, February 23, 2020

Catholic activist and humanitarian worker Jean Vanier was found to have sexually abused at least six adult women, according to a report commissioned by L’Arche, the service organization he founded.

In a press release Saturday, L’Arche said the alleged abuse took place between 1970 and 2005, often in the context of spiritual direction. None of the six known survivors had intellectual disabilities. The investigation deems the allegations against Vanier credible.

Vanier was a recipient of two awards from Notre Dame, both of which were revoked Sunday, said Paul Browne, the University’s vice president for public affairs and communications.

The sexual abuse investigation began the summer of 2019, following Vanier’s death in May. 

Findings from L’Arche’s report also implicate Vanier in covering up similar behavior by Father Thomas Phillippe, his spiritual mentor. Allegations of Phillippe’s sexual abuse first surfaced in 2014 and were deemed credible by the Vatican in 2015. Vanier publicly denied knowing anything of the abuse.

The report’s findings “do not relate” to L’Arche communities in the United States, the release said. L’Arche is an international nonprofit created to serve those with intellectual disabilities. Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns often partners with the organization for Summer Service Learning Programs and community seminars. 

Vanier received the Notre Dame Award in 1994. In 2014, he and L’Arche were given the Ford Family Notre Dame Award for International Development and Solidarity during the Kellogg Institute’s Conference on Human Dignity and Human Development at the University’s Rome Global Gateway.

“The L’Arche report was thorough, rigorous and fair, prompting University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., to revoke the award,” Browne said in an email. “Similarly, the 2014 Ford Family Notre Dame Award for International Development and Solidarity given to Vanier by the University’s Kellogg Institute was revoked today by the institute.”

University President Fr. John Jenkins issued a public statement commemorating Vanier after his death in 2019.

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