Pope Francis has said the Catholic Church was "a bit late" in realising the damage done by priests who molest children.
The practice of moving paedophiles around rather than sanctioning them was to blame, the pontiff said.
Francis met yesterday for the first time with his sex abuse advisory commission, a group of outside experts appointed to advise him and the Catholic Church on best practices to protect children.
He promised to respond with the "firmest measures possible" against sex abusers. He said religious superiors bore "primary responsibility" for keeping their flocks safe and would be held accountable if they are negligent.
He also said: "The consciousness of the Church arrived a bit late, and when the consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problem arrive late. Perhaps the old practice of moving people around, and not confronting the problem, kept consciences asleep."