In Canada, people are reeling from the news that one of her most loved and respected citizens has also been guilty of sexual abuse. Jean Vanier was the founder of L’Arche International, the son of a highly esteemed governor general, and honoured with the highest awards in this land.
And nobody is doubting he did tremendous good. He invested his time in enhancing the lives of people who were born with serious disabilities. He provided a safe place where these people could feel loved. A home where they belonged, and experienced dignity.
But today the accolades are being hastily replaced by disbelieving comments like the following:
“It’s so shocking when a person you believed in does these things. I never would have thought it. There were no apparent signs. It shakes your understanding of what people are like.”
“This behaviour is so awful. I can’t start to imagine how much these women suffered, and what they have gone through – especially when everyone was praising Vanier.”
“This is a particularly hard as it’s betrayal by a friend.”
“News like this calls into question the way you see the world. You don’t know who to trust. You don’t know who you can believe.”
Of course, we’re talking of abuse here, not betrayal by a spouse. Even so, there are some parallels that aren’t lost on us. For instance, both situations raise some painful questions like:
1. How do reconcile these very different sides … that someone who does great things also leads a double life?
2. Are all failings equal, or are some things worse than others?
3. Is it ever right to cover up a person’s shameful acts, simply because they are sexual in nature? Why is there pressure to keep these things a secret?
4. How can we determine who is trustworthy and safe, when betrayers are such experts at deceiving us?
I don’t have any answers – just some personal thoughts and views. But I’d really love to hear what any readers have to say.