I see many Catholics in shock over the revelation of abuse by L’Arche founder Jean Vanier. The independent inquiry findings are summarized here. It is interesting that this investigation began after the man’s death last Spring.
It is tempting to lament the “loss” of a “saint,” as some have characterized it. Observant believers might notice a wide swath of behaviors among us. We are all sinners, and the wise among us admit it sincerely. Jesus also calls us to perfection, at least according to Saint Matthew.
In yesterday’s homily at my parish, the preacher noted how easy it is to preach perfection, but how hard it is to give example of it. In fact, as he offered a litany of times in which we might’ve been harmed–gossip, detraction, fraud, deception, bullying, and even abuse–I found my mind drifting to the times I’ve given offense. Is it good we recall these? Does it matter if we find that experiences when we’ve harmed another outnumber times we’ve been harmed?
I’ve never worked for L’Arche, nor have I ever visited one of their homes. If I’ve ever met a person who served there, I did not know it. But I have read essays and a book by their founder. I admired Jean Vanier from afar. But to many of my friends, he was a bit more. If not a saint yet, then a hero.
The ideas and principles, many of them, are of God. And we ask, how could a man who did such holy work, do such unholy things? And indeed, how could any of us? Because we are mortals in need of grace. This would seem to be true of saints as well, and they’d probably be the first to tell us.