Pope Benedict XVI told priests who have abused children to submit to the "demands of justice," according to a letter released Saturday.
The pontiff said a misplaced concern for the church's reputation and inadequate methods of choosing priests had contributed to decades of sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy.
In a letter written to Catholics in the Irish Republic, the pope said he was "deeply disturbed" by the flood of allegations in Ireland and told victims he was "truly sorry." He acknowledged they had suffered "grievously."
The letter did not mention similar claims in Germany.
The church has been accused of protecting priests in the past and the pope's comment about the "demands of justice" appeared to be a reference to civil court proceedings, NBC News reported.
Benedict laid out four reasons why abuse by priests had continued over the last four decades:
However, the pope also blamed an increasing secularization of society for abuse by priests.
This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.