The chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC) has said the Vatican should remove the statute of limitations on the prosecution of priests for child abuse.
William Kilgallon, head of child protection for the Catholic church in England and Wales, added that the time limit was unhelpful and failed to reflect the long-lasting effects of abuse.
Mr Kilgallon said that the Vatican's recent decision to double the time period from 10 years to to 20 was "better than it was", but he would have preferred its abolition.
The Catholic spokesperson was addressing the launch of the NCSC's annual report earlier this week.
The report highlights developments in the protection of children and vulnerable adults in the church.
"Very often, people who have been abused don't report things. They think they won't be believed," he commented. "What happens is, they see someone else has talked, and that gives them the confidence to come forward."
The panel stressed that local Catholic churches were not waiting for instructions from the Vatican on how to deal with sexual abuse, but that churches in each area were acting promptly and concertedly.