Australia's Catholic Cardinal George Pell arrives to give evidence to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2014. Picture: William West

Sydney - A retired Catholic bishop told an inquiry into child sex abuse on Monday the Vatican and church leaders had failed to show leadership in dealing with abuse by the clergy, a report said.

The former auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Geoffrey Robinson, said sexual abuse by clergy had been covered up by the church and suspect priests were moved from one parish to another.

“In one way it’s cover up; in another way it’s more than a cover up,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported Robinson as saying to the inquiry.

“It’s solving the problem, it’s getting rid of it.”

Robinson, 78, has terminal cancer, but volunteered to testify at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

He said he first heard allegations of priests abusing children at a meeting of Australian Catholic bishops in the mid-1980s.

“For the first time, it showed us that this was a large-scale problem present in most places in most countries.”

But he said Pope John Paul II did not condemn the problem nor announce a plan to address it.

“What we got from him was silence. Bishops were loyal to the silence.”

Robinson said Pope Francis had also failed to provide leadership on the issue of sexual abuse.

He also criticised Australia’s most senior Catholic clergyman, Cardinal George Pell, who is currently working in the Vatican reorganising the church’s finances.

Robinson said Pell had destroyed the chance of a unified Australian Catholic Church response to victims by launching his own protocol when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

DPA