The Vatican and Australia's Catholic leaders say they will seriously consider a royal commission's call for sweeping reforms, although archbishops refuse to break the seal of confession to reveal child abuse.
It will be up to the Pope and his advisers to accept many of the Australian inquiry's far-reaching recommendations, including changes to canon law and voluntary celibacy for its priests.
The government of the Roman Catholic Church, the Holy See, says the commission's final report "deserves to be studied seriously".
"The Holy See remains committed to being close to the Catholic Church in Australia — lay faithful, religious, and clergy alike — as they listen to and accompany victims and survivors in an effort to bring about healing and justice," it said.
The royal commission recommended a number of changes to canon law, finding the disciplinary system for dealing with clergy and religious who sexually abuse children contributed to the church's failure to provide an effective and timely response to perpetrators.
It also criticised the Vatican for being slow to respond to petitions from Catholic Church authorities in Australia to dismiss those found to have committed child sexual abuse.
"It is clear that their approach to child sexual abuse by clergy was protective of the offender," it said.
The commission suggested new canons that frame child sexual abuse as crimes against the child, not as moral failings or breaches of the obligation to observe celibacy.
Other amendments include making it easier to take internal disciplinary action and permanently remove from ministry priests or religious against whom abuse complaints have been substantiated, or their dismissal if they have been convicted.