I once thought Catholic humanist Jean Vanier a hero. Now I’m wrestling with his coercive legacy

The Conversation

April 30, 2020

By Jane Barter

When Jean Vanier passed away in May 2019, the Canadian Catholic founder of the L’Arche International movement that challenged barriers between people with disabilities and able-bodied people was hailed as a “saviour to people on the margins.”

But since news of his abuse of six women broke in Feburary 2020, many who once thought him a hero have struggled to make sense of the man and his legacy.

I include myself in this group.

As a former caregiver of people with disablities, I came to see Vanier’s theology of disability as one that had the capacity to transform not only hearts and minds, but also communities and structures. But since learning of the abuse, I have come to see it otherwise.

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