Be Not Afraid
CMU and Mennonite Church Canada (partners in operating CommonWord) are shocked and saddened by the manipulative and abusive actions of Jean Vanier, which came to light on February 22, 2020. We unreservedly condemn his violent actions, and stand in solidarity with all victims of sexual violence. We also acknowledge the immense good done through the work of L’Arche since its founding in 1964, now a federation of communities for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them, spread over 37 countries. Vanier played an instrumental role in shaping the vision of L’Arche, and during his lifetime wrote 30 books on religion, disability, normality, success and tolerance. The paradox of his manipulative abuse and his life-giving vision for L’Arche leaves us feeling anger, lament and confusion.
As CMU and CommonWord reflect on this paradox, we have determined to temporarily remove Vanier’s books from our shelves. We do so to signal our condemnation of his actions; to acknowledge the raw wounds that his choices open in the lives of victims of sexual violence; and our need for patient, ongoing reflection in life situations imbued with dissonant complexity. We view this choice as a necessary, provisional time of lament as we contemplate this brokenness.
Going forward, CMU and CommonWord will choose to hold together the deep contradiction of Vanier’s actions and the worthiness of his vision for L’Arche. In holding this paradox we acknowledge that our engagement with Vanier’s writing and legacy will change over time, a change that will demand our ongoing reorientation. In that spirit, CommonWord will in due course continue to hold and make available the writings of Jean Vanier.
This book seeks to give help, to bring peace of soul and provide compassionate understanding for those who are afraid. The unceasing and increasing pressures of our complex society and the mental chaos brought by the tumbling of values long accepted as immutable make this a most timely book. Vanier's words and thoughts are liberally buttressed with quotations from the scriptures.
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