A Vatican commission said Saturday it would develop "best practices" for Catholic parishes to combat pedophile priests, but stopped short of urging mandatory reporting of abuse to police.
"In time, we will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of 'best practices' for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation and responses to abuse," the eight-member Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said in a statement.
"We see ensuring accountability in the Church as especially important, including developing means for effective and transparent protocols and processes," said the commission, which includes prominent Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley and Irish abuse victim and campaigner Marie Collins.
The Vatican has been more proactive in investigating allegations of abuse and listening to victims in recent years and has promised zero tolerance for abusers.
But it faces a backlog of thousands of cases and has been criticized for failing to do enough to punish predatory priests or the senior clergymen who’ve covered up for them.
Speaking to reporters at the Vatican after a three-day meeting of the commission – its first gathering since Pope Francis established the body in March – O'Malley said there must be zero tolerance for "those who perpetrated the offences" and "those who were negligent" in bringing them to justice.
"We want to make sure to have clear protocols... to make people accountable," he said.
In reply to questions, he did not elaborate on how abusive priests and those who protect them could be more effectively handed over to local law enforcement, a key demand contained in a February report by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The committee called on the Church to remove all clergy suspected of raping or molesting children "and refer the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes."
The Vatican acknowledged its failures after the U.N. report was released, but insisted that dealing internally with the matter was the best way to proceed.
On Monday and Tuesday the U.N. Committee Against Torture will hold hearings on the Vatican, which campaigners see as a fresh chance to examine the Catholic Church's record on child sexual abuse by priests.