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Vatican II contributed to abuse scandal, says priest

Pope John XXIII leads the opening session of the Second Vatican Council CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

A priest has told the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council contributed to the Church’s “horrible mistakes” on abuse.

According to the Scottish Catholic Observer, Mgr Peter Smith, former chancellor of Glasgow archdiocese, said the Church accepted conventional wisdom of the 1970s that it was “better to repair the [abuser], to fix them or to redeem them”, than punish them. In that era priests accused of abuse could be sent for therapy rather than face criminal charges.

The Second Vatican Council, Mgr Smith said, “made a significant ­difference to the whole way that the Church proceeded … [It] asked us to proceed pastorally and [be more] caring for people”, rather than having an earlier “legalistic” approach.

“That pastoral care was exercised very strongly towards the priests who had been accused and perhaps less strongly towards those who had been on the receiving end of such a vicious thing,” he said. Vatican II “breathed fresh air through the system”, he said, but meant “people didn’t pay attention to some of the things that might have been more important”.