Although Winnipeg writer Jamie Arpin-Ricci wants to sell as many copies of his books as possible, hes relieved the first edition of his most recent work was recently shredded by his publisher.
To avoid further pain to the women sexually abused by LArche founder Jean Vanier, Arpin-Riccis 2015 non-fiction book Vulnerable Faith, with a three-page foreword by Vanier, was recently reissued with a new cover and new introduction by award-winning Winnipeg musician Steve Bell.
We did this out of respect of the possibility that one of his victims would see his name in a place of honour, explained the West End writer, pastor and LGBTTQ+ advocate.
I didnt want anything to do with something that would further hurt these women.
A 2020 report commissioned by LArche International and undertaken by independent consultants revealed that between 1970 and 2005, Vanier engaged in manipulative sexual relationships with at least six women in France who were seeking spiritual direction from him.
Vanier died in Paris in May 2019 at the age of 90. None of the women involved were people with disabilities connected to LArche, an international federation of communities for people with development disabilities and people who assist them.
After the revelations about Vanier came to light, sales of Arpin-Riccis book dropped dramatically, prompting him to approach his publisher Paraclete Press about reissuing the 175-page work on the topic of Christian faithfulness.
I had been asking for quite some time since the findings against Vanier came out, he says.
To have him on the foreword is counterintuitive.
Authors or publishers often ask writers with an established following to write an introductory message or a cover blurb to give credibility and visibility to emerging authors, explains Jennifer Lynch, sales and marketing director for the Christian music and book publishing company.
The whole point of a foreword is to introduce a writer to a new, broader audience, she says.
Lynch says the Brewster, Mass.-based publisher shredded more than 1,000 copies of Arpin-Riccis book and also pulped all remaining copies of a recent collection of Vaniers sermons, published in honour of his 90th birthday.
Publishers shred books because they are out-of-date or no longer selling, says Lynch, but in the case of Vulnerable Faith, the issue was only with Vaniers words and not the remainder of the book, which intermingles a discussion of St. Patricks life and work with wisdom from 12-step programs.
As a small publisher, we really value our relationship with our authors and readers and it felt like the best thing for both, says Lynch.
The new version, published in December 2021, features a new cover design and Bells five-page foreword, but otherwise the content is the same.
Writing the introduction for his friends book was a mixed blessing for Bell, who credits Vanier as a huge influence in his own spiritual awakening, and who had Vanier write a short piece for the Winnipeggers series of short books on the Christian liturgical year.
When Bell was a teenager, Vanier once stayed at the Bell family home during a speaking tour of Canadian jails organized by Bells prison chaplain father.
I was fascinated by this slow-moving man of peace, Bell recalls of meeting the Canadian-born Roman Catholic social activist, philosopher and theologian.
And when he looked at me I felt so seen.
Arpin-Ricci never met Vanier in person, but the Winnipegger was influenced by Vaniers writing and concept of community he modelled in LArche. But that work is now overshadowed by Vaniers actions toward women over many decades, where he took advantage of their vulnerability even as they sought spiritual counsel from him.
Vulnerable Faith is a book that charts a path from isolated individualism to engaged, mutual community, says Arpin-Ricci.
Vanier modelled the negative side of why that is true. Some vulnerability is risky and people take advantage of that vulnerability.
Arpin-Ricci hopes people will give his book another chance, particularly during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, when people are weary of public health restrictions or fight over the efficacy of vaccinations.
I think the book is really timely because we find ourselves in a time of a great deal of division, he says.
I think the book potentially lays out another path to a better place.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.