Newly ordained priests pray during a ceremony led by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on May 12. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Regarding the May 10 news article “Vatican issues decree requiring clergy to report allegations of sexual abuse”:

The article credited Pope Francis with instituting a “sweeping new law.” Instead, the pope should be credited with “sweeping under the rug” child sexual abuse allegations.

The Catholic Church’s new rules mandate internal reporting to church authorities exclusively — not civil authorities. As long as reporting remains internal, abuse will continue. In the United States, sexual assault is a crime and should be reported to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution. Catholic clergy are not above U.S. law.

If a teacher sexually abused a child, the principal would remove the teacher and call the police. Why should we expect any less from a pope? Pope Francis needs to send a clear message to predators: “If you sexually abuse anyone in my church, you will be laicized, the police will be called, and we will cooperate fully in their investigation.” Until then, children and vulnerable adults will remain at risk.

As a society, we must not tolerate the protection of institutional reputations over the safety of children. That children are safe from sexual abuse in church is a very low bar to clear, and anything less is unacceptable.

Maureen Roden, Severna Park

The writer is a member of the board of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.