Making Out Jean Vanier


  • Carolyn Whitney-Brown St. Jerome’s University/University of Victoria



Jean Vanier, Kathryn Bond Stockton, L’Arche, de-metaphoring, community, patriarchy


In early 2020, news broke of Jean Vanier’s manipulative sexual practices. Just months earlier, I had published two books about how people in Canada and around the world took up the vision of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, an international network of communities of people with and without intellectual disabilities. Throughout this past year, I could not stop thinking about the whole situation, trying to make out Jean Vanier even while I want to de-center him. I find unexpected inspiration in queer theorist Kathryn Bond Stockton’s evocative book, Making Out. This reflection ends with no conclusions, only an invitation to think together about Jean Vanier and seemingly benign patriarchy.


Barter, Jane. 2020. “I once thought Catholic humanist Jean Vanier a hero. Now I’m wrestling with his coercive legacy.” 30 April.

Burghardt, Madeline. 2020. “Jean Vanier was revered, but revelations of abuse and manipulation should not come as a surprise.” The Globe and Mail. 27 February.

Girard, Jocelyn. 2021. “Les communautés de L’Arche après le scandale de leur fondateur.” Translated by Sandra Dunn. 21 January.

L’Arche International. 2020a. “Letter from International Leaders. 22 February.

———. 2020b. “Summary Report” (English). 22 February.

———. 2020c. “Rapport de synthèse” (French). 22 February.

Mackie, Carolyn. 2020. “Sin, Grief, and Jean Vanier” 24 February.

McDonald, Michael. 2014. “Stop Ableism.” L’Arche Kenya. 11 July.

———. 2018. “As I Am.” L’Arche International. 17 May.

———. 2020. “The World’s First International Lip-syncing Competition Hosted by People with Disabilities.” L’Arche Canada. 20 November.

Marlow, Tanya. 2021. “But his books are still good, right? – 5 things Christians must stop saying about sexual abusers.” 16 February.

Ondaatje, Michael. 1989. “Pacific Letter.” The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Stockton, Kathryn Bond. 2019. Making Out. New York: New York University Press.

———. 2021. “Message from the Dean.” School for Cultural and Social Transformation, University of Utah.

Vanier, Jean. Becoming Human. 1998. Toronto: Anansi.

Vanier, Jean and Carolyn Whitney-Brown. 2019 [2008]. Jean Vanier: Essential Writings. London: Darton Longman and Todd.

Whitney-Brown, Carolyn. 2019a. “Too Chicken to Cross the Road? Jean Vanier and Getting to the Other Side.” Critical Theology 1(4): 7–9.

———. 2019b. Sharing Life: Stories of L’Arche Founders. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

———. 2019c. Tender to the World: Jean Vanier, L’Arche and the United Church of Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

White, Allon. 1993. Carnival, Hysteria, Writing: Collected Essays and Autobiography. Oxford: Clarendon.



How to Cite

Whitney-Brown, C. (2021). Making Out Jean Vanier. Religious Studies and Theology, 40(1), 122–130.



Reflections from the Field