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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic celebrity Jean Vanier, the founder of the L'Arche community, sexually exploited at least 25 women, an explosive report has revealed.
Vanier, an influential advocate for celibacy, colluded with his mentor, Fr. Thomas Philippe, to manipulate women with religious vocations, including nuns, into sexual relationships using "incestuous representations of relationships between Jesus and Mary," the report stated.
The compilers of the report conclude that L'Arche was "founded to serve as a screen for the activities of the group of 'initiates'" who indulged in a perverse form of coercive psycho-spiritual sexual behavior.
Published on Monday, the 868-page report described how all the abused women "shared an active spiritual quest at the time of their abusive or transgressive relationship, which was manifested in particular by the discernment of a religious vocation."
Some of Vanier and Fr. Philippe's victims had taken religious vows; others were seriously considering a religious vocation, and others were young converts to Catholicism (some after having experienced a spiritual quest in different horizons like Zen Buddhism).
"Vanier played a determining role in a personal path of conversion and in vocational choices made," the report emphasized. "The question of commitment to celibacy in and for L'Arche is a focal issue in discussions with J. Vanier."
Vanier's books regularly advocate celibacy and plead "for a rehabilitation of celibacy but by keeping the possibility of a privileged love between two people attracted to one another," the report noted, citing as an example Vanier's book Homme et femme il les fit (Man and woman he made them).
Compiled over the span of two years by six French scholars, the report explained how Vanier and Fr. Philippe interpreted celibacy as "not of the order of marital, exclusive love" but "as 'supernatural' by essence," therefore implying "a multiplicity of partners."
The report described Dominican priest Thomas Philippe as "beyond morality and reason" and that he therefore "felt no guilt towards the people he abused." He justified his actions as conforming to "a higher order of sexuality and celibacy."
In a letter to Dominical provincial Mgr. Stéphane Desmazières, Fr. Philippe explains that "[i]t is no longer a question of purely human celibacy, which always implies a kind of deprivation, hence requiring some sort of compensation."
"Rather it is a question of positive virginity where God himself, from within, assumes everything in us," writes Philippe. "He gives man new balance and stability from a more plenary and intimate union with the Holy Spirit, and through him with Jesus and Mary."
The report finds that the complicity between the two men is also noticeable in the way they justified each other and even abused the same women.
Father Philippe's seduction of women followed "the same remarkably consistent pattern," which involved devoting "a considerable amount of time to meeting people individually, either for advice, spiritual direction or for the administration of a sacrament," the report stated.
"Depending on the period, these could be nuns from convents in which he hears confession and offers direction, students, but also anyone who asked him," the report noted.
"The 'mystique' of T. Philippe," in the words of the report, "is based in particular on the affirmation of incestuous sexual relations between Jesus and Mary during their earthly life and continuing in their heavenly life."
The report quotes Fr. Philippe's describing the following statement as containing incestuous content: "Did young Jesus, as he grew in love and age, not have increasingly bold gestures of love for Mary (...) that prepared his mother for a new gift with increasingly intimate and free gestures... (...) divinely and imperceptibly accustoming her to becoming his spouse."
The report also examines the private correspondence between the abusers and their victims, including several letters from Vanier to "Brigitte," a married woman with children. Vanier exploits Mariology to manipulate Brigitte into a sexual relationship.
In 1992, Vanier writes to Brigitte asking for "the thirst to love you, to let me be loved by Mary, Mary in you" and adds that he is "so anxious to find your mouth, your lips, your body, to love you and kiss you all over."
"I surrender myself like a little child in her arms, on your breasts, and then, at other times, Jesus gives me his fire. The fire of his love. The fire of the bridegroom. The fire of Trinity. O do pray, my little 'Brigitte' for Jesus to transform me," Vanier writes.
Vanier adopts and affirms the idea of incestuous relations between Jesus and his mother in order to "ultimately relate to a way of experiencing the 'communion' between Jesus and his mother, instead of the communion of The Holy Trinity," the report finds.
The six scholars who wrote the report are experts in history, sociology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, religion and theology. They conducted more than 200 hours of interviews during 119 sessions with 89 people.
In January, Pope Francis laicized prominent French prior Fr. Benoît-Emmanuel Peltereau-Villeneuve for sexually abusing several nuns and other adult women, Church Militant reported.
The prior belonged to the Brothers of St. John, a religious community founded in 1975 by Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, the brother of Fr. Thomas Philippe.
Father Marie-Dominique Philippe, who left the Dominicans after the order adopted the reforms of Vatican II, was denounced by the order for sexually abusing multiple women, including a Carmelite nun to whom he was offering spiritual direction.
The founder also covered up the sexual abuse of nuns and adult women by his brother, Fr. Thomas Philippe.
In 1956, the Vatican condemned Fr. Thomas for abusing nuns, and it did the same to Fr. Marie-Dominique the following year for covering up Thomas' acts.
In 2019, the Brothers of St. John confessed that 27 other brothers had perpetrated sexual abuse against adults and that six brothers abused minors.
A total of six priests, including Fr. Marie-Dominique Goutierre, the former spiritual son of Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, were laicized. Two were also expelled from religious life. Two others renounced it on their own, and two brothers (non-priests) were also dismissed from religious life.