But Marie Collins, a survivor of abuse and victims' advocate, criticized the law unveiled Thursday for not requiring Catholic officials to report sex abuse cases to police. Collins also is dissatisfied there are no sanctions for violating the reporting and investigative procedures contained in the law.
In a phone interview, she said: "That hasn't advanced in any way." Collins also noted that the procedures allow for an investigating bishop to inform a superior when he has been accused of child sex abuse or covering it up.
She says there should be an exception for when a separate criminal investigation is underway by law enforcement, since notifying a suspect could interfere with the probe.
Advocates for sex abuse victims say a new Vatican law on reporting clerical sex abuse and church cover-ups of abuse is a step forward but much more needs to be done.
Anne Barrett Doyle of the advocacy and investigative group BishopAccountability.org said the law Pope Francis issued on Thursday does not include penalties for failing to adhere to reporting and investigating procedures.
She said: "A law without penalties is not a law at all. It's a suggestion."
Juan Carlos Claret, head of a group of lay Catholics in Chile, says he thinks another key weakness is the law keeps abuse reports and investigations within the church instead of requiring that crimes be reported to police.
The law is an internal, procedural norm regulating how the church reports and investigates suspected sex abuse and cover-up cases. The Vatican says all priests and religious sisters must report to church authorities, as well as to police in places where civil laws require it.
The head of the U.S. bishops conference is welcoming Pope Francis' new church law about reporting clergy sex abuse and investigating bishops for cover-ups.
Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo says the edict is a "blessing that will empower the church everywhere to bring predators to justice no matter what rank they hold in the church."
The law now forces the U.S. conference to essentially start over in preparing new measures to hold one another accountable when bishops abuse or cover-up abuse. The conference has been working on those measures since last year, and had been due to adopt them at a meeting in June.
In a statement, DiNardo says U.S. committees are already working on preparing measures to implement the new law.
Francis' protocol outlines procedures to investigate accused bishops using a "metropolitan bishop" who can be assisted by lay experts.
Pope Francis has issued a new law requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities, in a groundbreaking new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks.
The church law published Thursday provides whistle-blower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior.
It's the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global eruption of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy.