U.S. Attorney, Patrick J. Wall

Bishops who covered up for priests accused of molesting children should be jailed an American  former priest and canon lawyer has told an Irish conference.

US attorney Patrick J Wall stated nothing would change within the Catholic Church "until a bishop does jail time".

Wall told the Humbert Summer School in Castlebar, Co Mayo, that the protection of children was the most important  civil rights issue of the 21st Century.

"Children are not chattels," he stated.

He  said bishops should be prosecuted under "misprision of felony", a legal term for concealing a crime.

"I would seek to have thrown out all church procedures of child investigation, and have them replaced with just three words: call the gardai (police)," he said.

"The past is prologue. If we are to learn from the crimes against children, public access to all church records on predator priests is necessary for us to learn from the past."

He called on the church to pay compensation to childhood vicitms. "The sexual abuse of children by clerics and religious have left a permanent scar upon the soul of Ireland. The Vatican ought to help foot the cost of making the survivors whole," he added.

Mr Wall said he worked as a "fixer" in the church, handling the fallout of  abusive priests. he is co-author of 'Sex, Priests and Secret Codes', about the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.