Retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson said during a national inquiry on Monday the Vatican and top Australian clerics failed to properly help children who were victims of sexual abuse.
“The Church had failed to speak out strongly about the abuse,” Bishop Robinson told the inquiry.
During the 1990s, Robinson had an effective role in developing the attitude of the Australian church towards child sex abuse. He often opposed bishops dealing with abuse by themselves and drafted a national response for the Australian Catholic Church regarding abused victims.
He was unsatisfied with a rival protocol which was released by Melbourne's Cardinal Pell in 1990s, in which victims were recommended to speak to lawyers of the church first, which differs from the common strategy of dealing with such cases.
Currently, a national inquiry is being held into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Sydney, Australia.
Speaking to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Bishop Robinson said that popes and archbishops, including the Vatican's finance chief - Australian Cardinal George Pell - had sent out the "wrong message" about the issue.
He criticised Pope John Paul II for not immediately condemning the claims of abuse when they first emerged in the 1990s and remaining silent due to following the Vatican line.
Robinson accused the Vatican of not having a "leadership" that dealt with the cases of sexually abused children effectively. Moreover, he criticised the response to the scandal and the inconsistency of the answers to it inside and outside the church.
Robinson, 78, was shocked by the number of children sexually abused by priests in Australia and other countries.
“I found incredibly shocking. I really had no idea that priests could do such things. I’d only heard snippets before that and now here is a presentation that you couldn’t deny that showed this was a problem,” he said.
According to the BBC, more than 4,000 victims have taken part in the Royal Commission investigating how religious groups, charities and state care providers responded to the issue of child sex abuse.