The letter also insisted that it was important to cooperate with police in reporting priests who abuse children, the Washington Post reports.
It also reinforces bishopsâ€™ authority in dealing with abuse cases. It says independent lay review boards that have been created in some countries to oversee the churchâ€™s child protection policies â€œcannot substituteâ€ for bishopsâ€™ judgment and power.
In the letter, the Vatican told the bishops â€œit is important to cooperateâ€ with civil law enforcement authorities and follow civil reporting requirements, though it doesnâ€™t make such reporting mandatory. The Vatican has said such a binding rule would be problematic for priests working in countries with repressive regimes.
The letter told the bishopsâ€™ conferences to draft guidelines for preventing abuse and caring for victims and report them back to the Congregation by May 2012. It said bishops should be prepared to listen to victims, to create â€œsafe environmentâ€ programs for minors and to better screen seminarians and ensure they receive proper training about celibacy and the damage done to victims of sex abuse.
Vatican publishes letter to Episcopal conferences on how to address sex abuse cases (Rome Reports/YouTube)