On April 30, 2001, Pope John Paul II issued a letter stating that "a sin against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue by a cleric with a minor under 18 years of age is to be considered a grave sin, or 'delictum gravius.'"
John F. Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, has commented that many American Catholics saw the Vatican’s initial silence on the Boston Globe stories as showing a lack of concern or awareness about the issue. However, Allen said that, he doesn't know anyone in the Roman Curia, who was not, in the least, horrified "by the revelations that came out of the Globe and elsewhere" or "would defend Cardinal Law’s handling of the cases in Boston" or "would defend the rather shocking lack of oversight that revealed itself" though "they might have different analyses of what should have happened to him". Allen described the Vatican's perspective as being somewhat skeptical of the media handling of the scandal.
In addition, he asserted that the Vatican viewed American cultural attitudes toward sexuality as being somewhat hysterical as well as exhibiting a lack of understanding of the Catholic Church;
No one [in the Vatican] thinks the sexual abuse of kids is unique to the States, but they do think that the reporting on it is uniquely American, fueled by anti-Catholicism and shyster lawyers hustling to tap the deep pockets of the church. And that thinking is tied to the larger perception about American culture, which is that there is a hysteria when it comes to anything sexual, and an incomprehension of the Catholic Church. What that means is that Vatican officials are slower to make the kinds of public statements that most American Catholics want, and when they do make them they are tentative and halfhearted. It's not that they don't feel bad for the victims, but they think the clamor for them to apologize is fed by other factors that they don't want to capitulate to.
Crimen Sollicitationis controversy
In 2003, a 1962 document was discovered in the Vatican's archives, titled "Crimen sollicitationis" (Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation) written by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the Secretary of the Holy Office, issued an instruction regarding the disciplinary procedures for dealing with solicitation by priests during the Sacrament of Penance. The document dealt with any priest who "tempts a penitent... in the act of sacramental confession... towards impure or obscene matters." It directed that investigation of allegations of solicitation in the confessional and the trials of accused priests be conducted in secrecy.
Some parties interpreted the document to be a directive from the Vatican to keep all allegations of sexual abuse secret, leading to widespread media coverage of its contents. Lawyers for some of those making abuse allegations claimed that the document demonstrated a systematic conspiracy to conceal such crimes. The Vatican responded that the document was not only widely misinterpreted, but moreover had been superseded by more recent guidelines in the 1960s and 1970s, and especially the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
2003 Vatican Conference on Sexual Abuse
In April 2003, the Pontifical Academy for Life organized a three-day conference, entitled "Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Priests and Religious", where eight non-Catholic psychiatric experts were invited to speak to near all Vatican dicasteries' representatives. The panel of experts identified the following factors contributing to the sexual abuse problem:
- Failure by the hierarchy to grasp the seriousness of the problem.
- Overemphasis on the need to avoid a scandal.
- Use of unqualified treatment centers.
- Misguided willingness to forgive.
- Insufficient accountability.
In addition, Pope Benedict XVI has apologized for the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and pledged that pedophiles would not be allowed to become priests in the Catholic Church.
On July 19, 2008, the Holy Father made a historic full apology for child sex abuse by priests and clergymen in Australia. Before a 3,400 congregation assembled in Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral, Pope Benedict called for compensation and demanded punishment for those guilty of the "evil":
Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering. ... Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people.
On July 21, he met with two male and two female victims of sex abuse by priests, listened to their stories and celebrated Mass with them. The Premier of New South Wales Morris Iemma said "Hopefully it will be a sign of righting the wrongs of the past and of a better future and better treatment by the church of the victims and their families." The victims' rights advocacy group Broken Rites welcomed the Pope's apology, but expressed disappointment that the Pope had not made his apology directly to sexual abuse victims and criticized the selection of the victims as having been hand-picked to be cooperative.
I'm afraid that what they've done is selected victims who have agreed with what the Church's policies are. The Pope should have met with Anthony Foster, the father of two girls abused by a priest, who cut short a holiday in Britain to return to Australia in the hope of meeting the pontiff. 
New rules regarding ordination
Because a significant majority of victims were teenage boys, the Vatican instituted reforms to prevent future United States abuse by requiring background checks for Church employees and issued new rules disallowing ordination of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies". They now require dioceses faced with an allegation to alert the authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused from duty.
UN human rights council in Geneva
In a statement, read out by Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi at a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva on 22 September 2009, the Holy See stated that the majority of Catholic clergy who had committed acts of sexual abuse against under 18 year olds should not be viewed as paedophiles but homosexuals who are attracted to sex with adolescent males.
The statement said that rather than pedophilia, it would "be more correct" to speak of ephebophilia; being a homosexual attraction to adolesant males ....... "Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17."
The move angered many gay rights organizations, who claimed it was an attempt by the Vatican to redefine the Church's past problems with pedophilia as problems with homosexuality.
Relations between the Vatican and American Catholics
According to John Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, cultural differences between the Vatican and American Catholics complicated the process of formulating a comprehensive response to the sexual abuse scandal. Allen asserted that the sexual abuse crisis illustrated that "there is a lot about the American culture and the American Church that puzzles people in the Vatican, and there is much about the Vatican that puzzles Americans and English speakers generally."
- Gallagher, Delia. "Vatican Study on Sex Abuse". Zenit. http://www.zenit.org/article-9560?l=english.
- "SCU Conference on the Crisis". Connections 4 (=4). December 2003. http://office.ajcunet.edu/connections/display.asp?issue=12&article=8&backissue=open.
- The Guardian
- Crimen sollicitationis (Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation)
- Article on Ottaviani policy of silence
- CBS News
- Manila Times
- The Guardian,"Row over Vatican order to conceal priests' sex abuse" 
- BBC News, "Vatican 'ordered abuse cover-up'"
- America, "Vatican Official Says 1962 Norms on Solicitation No Longer Apply" 
- Catholic Culture, "CBS news story distorts 1962 Vatican document"
- Walsh, John Paul II: A Light for the World (2003), p. 62
- The Australian.2008 [online]. [Accessed 21 July 2008]. Available from World Wide Web:<http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24049778-601,00.html>
- newsinfo.inquirer.net, Pope's Australia sex abuse apology not enough -- critics
- McMahon, Barbara (2008-07-20). "Pope says he is 'deeply sorry' to Australian sexual abuse victims". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/20/catholicism.australia. Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- Sexual abuse apology welcomed
- timesonline.co.uk, Pope meets sex abuse victims in secret Sydney mass
- nytimes.com, Pope Meets Australian Abuse Victims
- afp.google.com, Pope meets sex abuse victims as Australia trip ends
- United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2005). "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People". United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/charter.shtml. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- Filteau, Jerry (2004). "Report says clergy sexual abuse brought 'smoke of Satan' into church". Catholic News Service. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/abuse/abuse08.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
- Pope Benedict XVI (2005). "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders". Vatican. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- "Scandals in the church: The Bishops' Decisions; The Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People". The New York Times. 2002-06-15. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9906EFDA133CF936A25755C0A9649C8B63&scp=1&sq=Charter+for+the+Protection+of+Children+and+Young+People&st=nyt. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- Butt, Riazat (2009-09-28). "Sex abuse rife in other religions, says Vatican". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/28/sex-abuse-religion-vatican. Retrieved 2010-04-30.