Bishops Conference recognises 'problems' in some dioceses

THE leaders of the Catholic Church will support the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

The president and permanent committee of the Bishops Conference have said in a statement child abuse was a serious issue for the whole community.

The Bishops Conference also recognised the "significant problems" in some dioceses and religious orders, but said there was no systemic problem of child abuse within the church.

But it also said: "It would be helpful to highlight when the offences occurred and, in particular, whether they occurred pre- or post- the Wood Royal Commission in the 1990s."

The statement said the church had implemented major procedural changes since the Wood Royal Commission reported in 1997.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Royal Commission on Monday, with the terms of reference or a commissioner yet to be decided.

Ms Gillard said the official terms of reference would not be confirmed until later this year.

She said child abuse was a "vile and evil thing", adding the inquiry would also investigate bystanders to abuse who did nothing to prevent it.

While the Catholic Church has long been under pressure on the issue, the Royal Commission will not be restricted to any one church or religious institution.

Ms Gillard said private schools, churches, children in state care, and possibly even state government-owned schools could be investigated.

See the full statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference here.