Germany's Roman Catholic church introduced new guidelines on Wednesday on handling reports of sexual abuse that require prosecutors to be informed of any suspected case unless the victim objects to that.
The expanded guidelines come in response to hundreds of allegations of abuse at the hands of clergy that emerged
earlier this year and rocked the church in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI's homeland.
Most cases date back years, if not decades, and the statute of limitations has passed on the majority of them.
Often victims were afraid to report abuse, and the Catholic Church has been accused of covering up abuse cases it knew about, and not telling prosecutors about them.
Stephan Ackermann, the bishop of Trier who was tapped by church authorities to lead the revision of guidelines drawn
up in 2002, said special attention had been given to the issue of involving law enforcement officials.
"Because in the past it has led to misunderstandings, I stress again that the investigations by church authorities
and by prosecutors are parallel investigations," Ackermann told reporters in Trier today.
The earlier guidelines only "advised" that priests contact prosecutors on their own in "proven cases" of abuse.
Church authorities were not required to contact law enforcement officials.
Yet critics charged today that the revamped rules do not go far enough in addressing the issue of abuse, by failing
to clarify issues of financial compensation for victims and by allowing offending clergy to continue to serve within the