A highly-anticipated letter due to be delivered to Roman Catholic bishops worldwide today is expected to encourage church leaders to report sexual abuse accusations to law enforcement and cooperate with civil investigations.
However, reporting will not be mandatory under the new guidelines.
Vatican officials say that's because there are some countries where priests could face violence even if the accusations turn out to be false.
Some victims' rights groups are already saying the guidelines will do little to stop priests from sexually abusing children.
Today's letter is a follow-up to new rules issued by Pope Benedict the 16th last year.
They doubled the statute of limitations on church-led prosecutions of suspected child molesters, made it easier to defrock guilty priests and increased the punishment for clergy caught with child pornography.