O’Malley said the commission would not deal with individual cases of abuse, but suggested it could intervene if bishops’ conferences drew up unsatisfactory codes of conduct. Bishops’ conferences around the world have recently been releasing their rules. Italian bishops have asserted they had no legal obligation to report accusations to the police.
"These are the kinds of issues we will assess," said Cardinal O'Malley, when asked about the Italian bishops. "Obviously, accountability should not be dependent upon legal obligations when there is a moral obligation."
O'Malley's predecessor in Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, resigned in 2002 amid suggestions that he covered up for abusive priests.
"Accountability is for everyone in the church, irrespective of what their status is," O'Malley said.
"Many people don't see this is as a problem of the universal church," he said. "In some people's minds it's an American problem, an Irish problem, a German problem."
Pope Francis was accused in March of playing down the extent of cover-ups after he said the church he leads "is possibly the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility."
Marie Collins, an Irish member of the commission who was abused by a priest when she was 13, said she had "difficulty" with the pope's view, but said, "I think we are moving forward."