Commission d'étude


Control and Abuse

Investigation on Thomas Philippe and Jean Vanier

Working since the autumn of 2020, the Study Commission set up by L’Arche International has endeavoured to shed light on the mechanisms of the psychological hold and sexual abuse of which Thomas Philippe and Jean Vanier have been accused. Composed of six researchers from different disciplines (history, sociology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, theology) and working independently, the Study Commission has been free to choose its methodology of research, its sources, make its own interpretations and draw its own conclusions. During their monthly meetings over the last two years, the members of the Commission were able to share the progress of their research in their respective disciplines, mutually benefitting from this interdisciplinary exchange.

The Commission obtained the support of all the archival institutions they approached. This provided a rich base of documents for the investigation to go forward.

The Commission’s study is also based on a vast corpus of interviews: 119 interviews with nearly 90 interlocutors, equivalent to more than 200 hours of listening. These include people who could be considered victims of abusive relationships on the part of Jean Vanier, Thomas Philippe or other initiates of the “mystical-sexual” beliefs and practices of the sectarian nucleus whose history the report describes; they also include witnesses to the history of L’Arche, particularly in the community to which Jean Vanier and Thomas Philippe belonged in Trosly-Breuil; and people close to Jean Vanier; or members of L’Arche who have held positions of responsibility. Jean Vanier’s books, which have been in wide circulation, have also been the subject of a careful critical reading.

Listening to better understand, re-reading to analyse: these were the aims of the authors of this report. The Commission wishes to make public, under its own responsibility, the results of its investigation in order to fully reveal the mechanisms of sexual abuse and control.

Download the summary

You will find here the summary of the report. While this summary contains the main conclusions and hypotheses of the report, only the report itself, with its in-depth and precisely documented analyses, is authoritative and binding on its authors. We recommend that those who read only the synthesis, also read the introduction and conclusion of the report, which significantly complement the summary.

L'Arche International receives the report

The members of the Commission

The Commission is made up of six researchers, authors of the report.

Bernard Granger is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, a professor at the University Paris Cité and Head of the Psychiatry Department at Cochin hospital, and is a member of the Association française de thérapies cognitives et comportementales (French Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies). He founded and edited the journal Psychiatrie, Sciences humaines, Neurosciences. He has been a member of the stewardship board of Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris since 2015. He is a member of the independent expert commission advising bishops regarding priests accused of paedophilia in their diocese. He is also a member of the national mediation body for staff of public health, social and medical-social institutions. His work deals, in particular, with psychological harassment in the professional environment and on personality disorders.

Nicole Jeammet trained both as a psychoanalyst and theologian. She is an honorary lecturer in psycho-pathology at Paris V and taught at the Sèvres Centre. She practised as a psychotherapist for mothers and children at the Centre de Guidance du Pr. M. Soulé and at the Vallée Foundation. What makes a good life, what does it mean to love, what is a fair relationship with another person and the question of God are all themes which she explores in her many works; in particular: La Haine nécessaire (Necessary hatred ) (PUF: 1989) ; Les Destins de la culpabilité (Destinies of Guilt) (PUF: 1993) ; Les Violences morales (Moral violence) (Odile Jacob: 2001) ; Amour, sexualité, tendresse : la réconciliation ? (Love, sexuality and tenderness: a reconciliation?) (Odile Jacob: 2005); Le célibat pour Dieu (Celibacy for God) (Le cerf: 2009). With Ph. Jeammet Lettre aux couples d’aujourd’hui (Letter to the couples of today) (Bayard 2012) and, published in February 2021, Sommes-nous tous violents ? (Are we all violent?) (ed. Eyrolles) co-written with Ph. Haddad, GH Masson and Tarik Abou Nour.

Florian Michel is a historian with a doctorate in history and religious science. He is a professor in modern history at the University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. He has been Director of the Pierre-Mendès-France centre since June 2016. He is a member of the Faculty of History at the Sorbonne, where he is attached to the Centre for Research in North American history and to UMR-SIRICE (Sorbonne Identities, international relations and European civilisations). He teaches North American history, the history of international relations and the history of religions and of secularism. His publications include, in particular La pensée catholique en Amérique du Nord (Catholic thought in North America) (DDB: 2010), Traduire la liturgie (Translating the liturgy) (CLD: 2013), Diplomatie et religion (Diplomacy and religion) (Sorbonne: 2016), as well as a biography of Étienne Gilson (Vrin: 2018). He co-edited the work À la droite du Père. Les catholiques et les droites en France depuis 1945 (To the right of the Father. Catholics and right-wing parties in France since 1945) (Seuil : 2022). He is vice-chair of the Jacques and Raïssa Maritain Research Group.

Antoine Mourges is a secondary school history and geography teacher. He lived in a L’Arche community from 2001 to 2005 (Le Caillou Blanc, Finistère). In 2009, under the supervision of Michel Fourcade, he completed a Masters in the History of Religion on the genesis of the L’Arche communities founded by Jean Vanier. This work led him to write the first historical study on the “école de sagesse” [school of wisdom] at l’Eau Vive (1946-1956), initiated by Thomas Philippe. In September 2017, he began his doctorate on the history of the congregation of the Little Brothers of Jesus (1926-1966) under the supervision of Michel Fourcade at the university Paul Valéry Montpellier 3. At the request of L’Arche International, he took part in the first 2019 investigations on Jean Vanier’s involvement in Thomas Philippe’s deviations and is the author of a first historical report (unpublished). The conclusions in this report have been taken up in the work following the revelations on Jean Vanier in February 2020.

Gwennola Rimbaut has a doctorate in theology, the subject of her thesis being spiritual anthropology and its articulation with the Christian faith. In addition to her role as lecturer in practical theology at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Angers, France (UCO), she has held various pastoral responsibilities in the hospital and health sector. At present, her theological reflection focusses on the voice of people in situations of hardship, working especially with the Centre Sèvres (the Jesuit Faculty in Paris) and with several associations in the field. Her publications include: Les pauvres interdits de spiritualité? La foi des chrétiens du Quart Monde, (No spirituality for the poor ? Christian faith of people in the ‘fourth world’) (l’Harmattan : 2009) ; Soutenir une démarche spirituelle en milieu hospitalier, (Supporting a spiritual journey in hospital) (Novalis/Lumen Vitae : 2006) ; Qu’est-ce qui fait vivre encore quand tout s’écroule ? Une théologie à l’école des plus pauvres (What is it that makes life worth living when everything is falling apart? Theology at the school of the poor) GRIEU Etienne, RIMBAUT Gwennola et BLANCHON Laure (dir.), (Lumen Vitae: 2017).

Claire Vincent-Mory holds a doctorate in sociology and is a researcher attached to the Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics (CEE) at Sciences Po and is member of the Institut Convergences Migrations. Since her doctoral thesis, which she defended in 2018, at the University of Paris Nanterre, her research has mainly focused on the political representation in political, associative or institutional arenas, of marginalised groups (in particular migrants, ethno-racial or religious groups and people with disabilities) in the European public sphere. She is part of several international research projects (INCLUSIVEPARL, REPCHANCE).  On this, she co-edited a work entitled Le religieux au prisme de l’ethnicisation et de la racisation (Looking at religion through the prism of ethnicisation and racialisation), which was published by Petra in 2019. She has also published various articles and co-edited chapters.

Their work has received support and has been enriched thanks to the contribution of two persons external to the research field.

Erik Pillet was essential to the Commission’s work in his task as coordinator, providing operational support and liaising with L’Arche, the scientific committee, external interlocutors and so on. He is retired and recently stood down as community leader of the community ‘L’Arche en Pays Toulousain’, which he founded in 2012 with his wife. He spent the majority of his career in human resources for large companies (Alcatel, France Telecom and Airbus). He has accompanied L’Arche on its journey for 40 years and was Board Chair of L’Arche in France from 2004 to 2011.

Alain Cordier was a valuable interlocutor in discussions within the Commission whose members greatly benefitted from his experience, particularly with the CIASE (French Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church). He is an honorary inspector general of finances, and a director for France Parkinson (French Association for Parkinson Disease), for the Amis de l’Arche and for the Immunopathology innovation fund. He was, in particular, a member of the CIASE; member of the Collège de la Haute Autorité de Santé (Health Products Evaluation Agency) and Chair of the Commission des stratégies de prise en charge (Care Strategy Committee), vice-Chair of the Comité consultatif national d’éthique (National Consultative Ethics Committee), Chair of the steering committee of the Agence de Biomédicine (Biomedical Research Agency), Chair of the Board of the Caisse nationale de solidarité pour l’autonomie (National Solidarity Fund for Autonomy), Chair of the Management Board of Bayard Presse and Director-General of Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris (University Hospital Trust for the Paris hospitals).

The scientific Committee

The Commission regularly reported on the progress of its work, its methodological choices and the results of its analyses to a scientific Committee made up of well-known specialists in the fields addressed by the survey: Marie Balmary, psychoanalyst; Céline Béraud, sociologist and director of research at the EHESS; Guillaume Cuchet, historian and professor at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne; Karlijn Demasure, theologian and professor at Saint Paul University , Ottawa, Canada; Véronique Margron, Dominican sister and provincial prioress of France, honorary dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of the West, president of CORREF; Christian Salenson, theologian, priest of the diocese of Nîmes and director of the Institute of Sciences and Theology of Religions of the Mediterranean Catholic Institute in Marseille; Jean-Guilhem Xerri, biologist and psychoanalyst.

Code of ethics

The L’Arche Study Commission has focused on scientific investigation. It is neither a psychological counselling unit, nor a body of investigation aiming to build a case for legal proceedings, nor an expert body aiming to support operational decision by making recommendations.

The interview campaign followed a protocol that respected all the current ethical standards in the various disciplines involved in the Commission work. These included: transparency and providing prior full information to the interviewees; absolute respect for the preferences expressed by each person who was contacted (regarding the feasibility of the interview, interview conditions, confidentiality); signing a consent form proposing several options for recording, confidentiality, anonymisation and data storage; no recording of an interview without prior and explicit authorisation from each interviewee.

The confidentiality and anonymity preferences of each interviewee were strictly respected. This explains why the quotations in the report follow different procedures.

The Commission followed a particular ethical approach when dealing with people who contacted them as victims or survivors of situations of power and abuse. This approach was defined with the enlightened advice of professionals in the field of support for victims or survivors of situations of power and abuse.

  • Using a common protocol, establishing contact and dialogue (procedure, pace, tools) and defining secure interview conditions in accordance with each person’s preferences were built on a case-by-case basis.


  • In order to build a relationship of trust, it was ensured beforehand that the interviewees could rely on an environment capable of supporting them (psychological support in particular) and, if necessary, of “receiving” them after an interview with one or more members of the Commission.


  • The Commission informed the persons interviewed of the existence and role of organisations where victims are listened to; contacts were made available to them. In each and every case where facts seemed likely to lead to legal proceedings, the Commission alerted the persons concerned, made ad hoc contacts available to them, and did not publish anything in its report without their explicit agreement.


  • During the process of drafting the report, every person victim of control or abuse was made aware of the excerpts in the interviews or correspondence that the Commission wished to highlight. They were all given the opportunity to request that the quotations in question be modified or, if so desired, removed. Their wishes were respected.