Catholic Church authorities have been urged to distinguish between a pedophile priest and a cleric who commits "a minor indiscretion" it was claimed by an Irish Catholic organization on Tuesday.

The new Association of Catholic Priests challenged current policies at a private meeting in Co. Mayo on Tuesday. The group questioned the policy implemented by Irish Bishops who require priests to automatically step down from office if child abuse allegations are lodged against them.

Father Tony Flannery, a spokesperson for the group said that many priests who were present at the meeting expressed empathy towards colleagues who had been excluded from the ministry as a result of abuse complaints or suspicions.

The gathered group of 45 priests spent a considerable amount of time debating how their religious superiors handled child abuse allegations.

Fr Flannery told the Irish Independent that a clear distinction needed to be made between serial paedophile priests and the immature young clerics with little sexual experience who made mistakes.