The Australian Church said protocols from the Vatican's latest recommendations for treatment abuse were already well-established here - but the new guidelines have been met with scepticism from victims' groups, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Father Brian Lucas, said the letter would be taken into account by the Australian church, but he was fairly certain all the guidelines were already covered here by the ''Towards Healing'' protocols introduced in 1996.
The Vatican wants ''clear and co-ordinated procedures'' to deal with instances of abuse to be in place within 12 months.
It has made recommendations on the church's treatment of victims and their families, including ''their spiritual and psychological assistance''; abuse prevention programs, and co-operation with civil authorities.
'Sexual abuse of minors is not just a canonical delict but also a crime prosecuted by civil law,'' the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said.
It also covered the significance of vetting priests, including those transferring from other areas, and said the guidelines should also apply to ''religious or lay persons who function in ecclesiastical situations''.
The US Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the letter had not addressed the crux of the abuse crisis: complicit bishops. ''They are merely recommendations, not obligatory policy with no penalties for non-compliance,'' it said.
Dr Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the Broken Rites Australia victim support group, said the Vatican has traditionally unnoticed and concealed sex abuse crimes within the church, which was a criminal act in NSW.
"The Vatican would be more credible if it sacked all the bishops who have covered up these crimes."