The Vatican has called the sex abuse described in a grand jury report in Pennsylvania “criminal and morally reprehensible”.
In a statement released late on Thursday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said “those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and faith”.
He said that victims should know that Pope Francis is on their side.
Pope Francis himself was not quoted in the statement, and there was no mention of demands in the United States among some Catholics for the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington.
The grand jury report made public this week accused the cardinal of helping to protect some molester priests while he was previously bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Pope Francis had recently accepted the resignation from cardinal’s rank of former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick for alleged sexual misconduct.
It was the first time a prelate had lost his cardinal’s rank in a sexual abuse scandal, and Francis was stepping up his crackdown on the abuse to include some of the highest ranking churchmen.
Mr Burke said Francis “understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the church and in all of society”.
The grand jury report documented how paedophile priests were often protected by church hierarchy or moved to other postings without the faithful being told of the priests’ sexual predatory history.