Vatican City: The Vatican will shortly circulate a letter to bishops worldwide with the guidelines on combating child sex abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, a Vatican source said.

Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the body in charge of Church dogma, announced in November that such a document was being prepared.

The cardinal said the circular would include ‘directives’ relating to the ‘reception of victims’, working with civil authorities, protecting children and the training of future priests.

The Vatican is under pressure to produce the guidelines at the request of a US civil court which is examining the Holy See's role as ‘employer’ in the case of a priest accused of child sex abuse.

Meanwhile the Holy See has announced sanctions against Canadian Raymond Lahey, an ex-bishop who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

However it has been criticised for not taking action against former Belgian bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted ill-treating his nephews.

The publication in Ireland in 2009 of a shocking report documenting hundreds of cases of child abuse by priests and systematic cover-up efforts by senior clergy plunged the Church into its worst crisis in many years.

There have since been hundreds more revelations across the United States and Europe.

In July last year, at the height of the child abuse scandal, the Church announced that it was working on recommendations ‘designed to make more rigorous, coherent and effective the directives already in place.’

Pope Benedict XVI has condemned sex abuse crimes with growing intensity, has met with victims and has tightened Church rules for dealing with abusers.

But campaigners such as the US-based abuse victims group, Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), say the Church has not done nearly enough.

Victims' organisations have charged Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor John Paul II of failing to address the issue of high-ranking clergy protecting predator priests.