Brooke’s generosity Blog
March 8, 2020

There are many kinds of wilderness. I am reflecting on the life of Jean Vanier. Like others, I am shocked and dismayedby information about “The Jean Vanier I knew, and the one I didn’t” (using the words of Ian Brown in the Globe and Mail of February 29th). The L’Arche community released a report last week: “Jean Vanier initiated sexual relations with multiple women… in the context of spiritual accompaniment.” The women were all able-bodied staff or volunteers at L’Arche.

The L’Arche statement: “We are shocked by these discoveries and unreservedly condemn these actions, which are in total contradiction with the values Jean Vanier claimed and are incompatible with the basic rules of respect and integrity of persons, contrary to the principles on which L’Arche is based.”

I read the entire report and it is damning (see larche.ca). He accomplished incredible things. At the same time, he was a serial sexual predator of women workers.

I feel like I knew the Vanier family. Growing up in Ottawa we were politically aware. The Governor General of Canada while I was in grade school, was Georges Vanier, Jean Vanier’s father.

I admired Jean Vanier and was inspired by his deep concern for the disabled. His vision of inclusion of all in God’s family is one that resonates in our time. This makes his actions hard to understand.

My younger brother Andy is physically and intellectually disabled. Our family was involved in the early efforts to normalize the treatment of the disabled. We were delighted to support the development of the Special Olympics in 1969and were involved over the years. Andy was a participant.

“Becoming Human” was a sermon title in a series I did on modern people of faith. Jean Vanier was the author of the book “Becoming Human” based on his Massey lectures on CBC radio. I was inspired by his deep humility and desire to become human. Today I find his words reflective of inner turmoil at his own actions. There is no excuse.

Shame is wilderness for many people. I do not have answers to why this continues to happen in every walk of life. Church has long been a place where the victims of predation were expected to “keep quiet, for the sake of the church.” This is not acceptable. Secrecy is never tolerable when the innocent are hurt. Never.

At Knox Waterloo, we follow the “Leading with Care” policy. There are mandatory training and police checks on all who work with vulnerable children or adults. It takes time and effort to train, implement, and follow up. We do this to protect the vulnerable.

At Knox Waterloo we use best practices in policy, training and professional standards to protect the vulnerable.

Your givings to Knox support this training in transparent processes that keep us all safe. Let us give, generously, to make a better world for all God’s children. Thank you.