A former police officer who now heads the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) office of child protection on Monday issued a 10-point list, showing ways to prevent the sexual abuse of children by clergy members.
Among the tips proposed by Teresa Kettelkamp, director of the USCCB's Secretariat for Children and Young People, are obligatory background checks for anyone who might have contact with young children and teaching children's guardians to spot a potential abuser through certain behaviors.
But the list does not place the blame for the sexual abuse of minors squarely on predator priests, whose alleged pedophile practices over several decades have plunged the Roman Catholic church into crisis and led to calls for Pope Benedict XVI to resign.
Although the tips say the main victim of priest sexual abuse is the child victim, they add that the abuser is also affected by "this sin and crime", along with the family of the abused and the parish community.
The list also says it is "naive to presume that people automatically know boundaries" and calls on organizations and families to spell them out to avoid children falling prey to abusive adults.
"For example, no youth minister, cleric or other adult leader should be in a child's bedroom, alone with the child," the suggestions say.
Kettelkamp also urges adults to learn to recognize the "behavioral warning signs of child abusers," which include lavishing a child with gifts, or allowing him or her to participate in activities which their parents or guardians would not approve, such as watching pornography or using drugs.
Neither is a priestly activity, but the list aims to help detect child predators from all walks of life and was issued to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month, which runs until the end of April.
The US list was issued on the same day as the Vatican released new guidelines for handling pedophilia cases, including always handing predator priests over to civil authorities and allowing the pope to defrock the worst offenders.