On the Fall of Vanier and Anyone Else

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Luke 6:37–38.

“Shocking” “Sad” “Tragic” “Incredibly Disappointing” are all words used to describe the news that the late Jean Vanier had sexually abused women. (“In 1964, he founded L’Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them”–Wikipedia).

It is not my purpose to weigh in on his guilt or innocence. I have no access to him (he’s deceased) nor his accusers.

Look again at the passage I quote above, especially this phrase:

“For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

We need to consider how we view the sins of our heroes and the sins of our losers, more pointedly, how we judge them. (Most serious thinkers do not see an absolute prohibition in all judging in Luke 6:37 when contrasted with John 7:24.) We mark some behaviour as harmful, evil, and as an affront to God. But beyond this, we see the sinners differently. A man who has done so much good for the weak and disabled of the world is seen as a fallen hero, one who had a moral failing, and as a tragedy; and it is right. But when a perpetrator turns out to be one that we find particularly distasteful, say for political reasons, we often see less of a tragedy in his failure and more as a feature. On the one hand, the moral failing is a mark on an otherwise nearly perfect life, but on the other, it is a feature of a person we already hate.

This is the problem with this kind of judging—it isn’t equal, fair, or just. Deuteronomy 25:13-16 is clear on this: our judgement must be based upon equal weights.

When we see a man like Vanier fall, the sin is as horrible as it is when a Harvey Weinstein falls. Our choice of hero must stay out of it.    

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