When heroes fall

There has been a spate of tragic news for Christians of various stripes recently. Most shockingly has been the news that Jean Vanier was an abuser of women. Lauded for his compassion and work amongst those with disabilities, this Canadian Catholic and founder of L’Arche, seemed to be a male version of Mother Theresa and destined for sainthood. No longer. Yet I found this paragraph in Bethany McKinney Fox’s tribute to Vanier sortly after his death last May to now be very prescient. He knew, what we did not.

In the final years of his life, as a faithful Catholic theologian leading an international ministry, Vanier was repeatedly asked the question of what he would think of being made a saint. He always dismissed the idea… He also said that anyone who would call for him to be a saint must not know him very well.

Winner of the Templeton Prize in 2015, in his address at the Templeton Prize ceremony at the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in London he said, “If we become a friend of somebody who has been humiliated, rejected, put down, seen as unimportant, something happens. If you become a friend of somebody rejected, we are changed.”

The tragedy now is that as much as Vanier became a friend he was also one who did the humiliating, rejecting, and abusing.

It didn’t quite make the same waves but it should be noted that allegations of sexual misconduct were levelled against Gilbert Bilezikian which, if true, are evidence enough that holding the ‘right’ theology is not enough to stop a man from misusing his power and position for sexual gain.

It’s the same big three time and time and time again: money, sex, power. It’s not new. It won’t be the last time. If you make someone, other than Jesus, your hero prepare to be disappointed.

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