VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI is deeply disturbed by a child sex-abuse scandal in Ireland and will write a letter to Catholics there on the church's response to a report that found the church shielded more than 100 child-abusing priests from the law, the Vatican said Friday.
Benedict met at the Vatican with senior Irish clergy to discuss a possible response to the devastating report issued last month.
A Vatican statement released after the 90-minute talks said the pope studied the report carefully and expressed his "profound regret."
"He was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents," the statement said. "The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland."
Attending the talks at the Vatican were Irish Cardinal Sean Brady, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the Vatican's representative to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza.
The report found that church leaders in the Dublin Archdiocese failed to inform authorities about sexual abuse by priests, while police failed to pursue allegations under the belief that church figures were above the law.
The damning revelations led to private debates among Catholic bishops over whether any of their number should resign.
The Vatican statement made no mention of any possible resignation.
It said the church would "continue to follow this grave matter with the closest attention" and examine how to "develop effective and secure strategies to prevent any recurrence." Benedict's letter to the faithful of Ireland "will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation."
The 720-page report found that dozens of church leaders in Ireland's most populous diocese kept secret the record of child abuse by more than 170 clerics since 1940.
Police and social workers charged with stopping child abuse didn't start getting cooperation from the church until 1995. This opened the floodgates to thousands of abuse complaints expected to cost the Dublin Archdiocese euro20 million ($30 million).