Australia's most powerful investigative authority has recommended that priests who fail to tell police about suspected child sexual abuse should face criminal charges, even when they learn of abuse through confession.

Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended in a report on Monday that all states and territories in Australia introduce legislation that would make it a criminal offense for people to fail to report child sexual abuse in an institutional setting. Clergy who find out about sexual abuse during a confidential religious confession would not be exempt from the law.

The royal commission is the nation's highest form of inquiry. It has been investigating since 2013 how churches and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children in Australia over the last several decades.