L'Arche International has today published the results of an inquiry which investigated the early history of L’Arche and the role of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche International within it.

The investigation was carried out by GCPS, an independent British consultancy specialising in abuse prevention and reporting systems to investigate further. They also looked into his historical link to Father Thomas Philippe, whom Jean named as his spiritual father.

In the course of this investigation, testimonies were received from six adult, non-disabled women, which indicate Jean Vanier initiated sexual relations, generally in the context of spiritual guidance, covering the period 1970-2005, in Trosly-Breuil, France. These relationships were found to be manipulative and emotionally abusive, resulting in a lasting impact and harm.

It is alleged that Jean Vanier, like Father Thomas Philippe, abused his power and used spiritual or mystical explanations in the context of spiritual accompaniment to justify his actions, and that he held a psychological hold on these women, many of whom have suffered in silence for many years. Jean Vanier asked each of the women to keep the nature of these events secret. These six women had no prior knowledge of each other’s experiences, but they reported similar facts associated with highly unusual mystical explanations used to justify these behaviours.

In 2015, a canonical investigation initiated by L'Arche International revealed that Father Thomas Philippe had sexually abused non-disabled adult women, through whom he claimed to seek and communicate a mystical experience. On many occasions, Jean Vanier had denied all knowledge of these abuses.

There is nothing in the investigation to suggest that Jean Vanier harmed people with disabilities.

We want to deeply acknowledge the victims and the trauma that they had to endure and to thank them for their courage.

Loren Treisman, CEO of L’Arche in the UK says, “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.

We unreservedly condemn Jean Vanier’s actions. They are in total contradiction to the values that he claimed and are contrary to the fundamental principles of our organisation, which affirm the unique value in every person.

We want to acknowledge and thank the victims for their courage and express our heartfelt regret for the trauma they had to endure. We are devastated that our founder abused his position of power and caused deep hurt to some of his victims.

We commend L’Arche International for undertaking this inquiry. We wholeheartedly agree with their wishes that we act with full transparency. To this end we are publishing a summary of the GCPS inquiry on our website. We are reassured that the inquiry did not reveal any evidence that Jean Vanier harmed people with learning disabilities in any way, although this of course does not diminish the gravity of the findings.

While these historic events did not occur in the UK, they affect us deeply. I want to reassure you that since taking up my role in October 2019 as CEO for L’Arche in the UK, ensuring the wellbeing and safety of our members has been and will continue to be, one of my personal priorities. We have comprehensive safeguarding procedures in place to ensure our members with learning disabilities are protected from any abuse or harm within or beyond our communities. We are in the process of rolling out a new 15-point plan to ensure we are doing everything we can to support all of our assistants to feel safe and heard.

While we process this extremely upsetting news, we remain united in our mission to build a world where we celebrate the unique gifts of every individual. Here in the UK we will continue to build community with people with learning disabilities and in doing so, create places of belonging where some of the most vulnerable people can lead full lives and contribute to society.”

There are 10 L’Arche Communities and one Project in the UK. All our services in England have been rated outstanding or good by CQC, indicating that they are safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led. Services in Scotland are rated good or very good.

L'Arche International announcement

L'Arche International Summary Report

For UK media enquiries please contact Sam Jones on [email protected]