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I saw Jean Vanier speak at two different conferences. The first was in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in the mid-80s; the second on a farm retreat north of Toronto in the early 90s. It was at the latter where I met and spoke with him briefly. I had read a couple of his early books.
If you are Canadian and Catholic, Jean Vanier is a household name to you.
A dozen schools are named for him across the country, and he won dozens of accolades and honorary degrees—all manner of worldly admiration.
Under the inspiration of a Dominican priest named Father Thomas Philippe, Jean Vanier as the founding myth goes, visited two mentally handicapped man and decided to have them come live with him and that was the beginning of L'Arche, now a worldwide Federation of group homes for the mentally handicapped
When he walked into a room or strode casually up to a lectern before a large crowd, his beautiful face always seem to be beaming.
His tall frame radiated a palpably peaceful aura, which has been compared to being in the presence of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who was a friend of his.
We now know that Jean Vanier was also a serial sexual predator.
After all the heartache and anger and disillusionment felt by millions of Catholics since the long Lent of 2002, now JEAN VANIER? You kidding me?
The truth is, he seems to have learned is diabolical strategies for taking full advantage of women from none other than Father Thomas Philippe, his mentor in spiritual father, a despicable and manipulative fraud.
In this video, Patrick asks the questions that have not been answered about this tragic, shocking fall of a man once hailed as a living saint.
* The Holy Office punished Thomas Philippe in 1956 with severe restrictions and sanctions, which means his despicable behavior was known by the Vatican. Why was this not flagged decades earlier?
* We know of 14 women who say they were abused by Philippe long *after* his formal punishment for doing the same thing in the early 50s. How many more lives were badly damaged because Vanier gave him cover—and access to a steady flow of vulnerable women?
* Pope Francis publicly mentioned that he had talked to Vanier the week before he died in May 2019, and went out of his way to praise his life work. As of this moment, the Pope has not said a word, either about the victims nor the scandal itself. Why not?
* Finally, how could a man who lived a very public life as a model of morality and goodness have so successfully segmented and hid this level of evil?
In addition to praying for his victims, and for his soul, I also pray for the community he started.
The prophetic witness of L'Arche is even more urgently needed today than it was in 1964.