The Latest: Pope is rebuked for words on sex abuse crisis

The pope's praise for U.S. bishops for what he called their "generous commitment'" to helping victims of clergy sex abuse has drawn an angry rebuke from advocates who say the bishops acted only under the threat of lawsuits.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said bishops had displayed "cowardice and callousness" in response to victims who came forward. The group said they "hide behind expensive lawyers and public relations professionals" instead of fully confronting the scope of the problem within the church.

Anne Barrett Doyle is co-director of, an advocacy group that collects records on abusive priests from around the world. She calls the pope's remarks "distressing and quite off-base."

Addressing church leaders in a prayer service at the Washington cathedral, Pope Francis said bishops had faced the crisis "without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice."

Under enormous public pressure, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops pledged to oust any guilty clergy from church work or from the priesthood altogether.

Hundreds of priests were removed from ministry, and bishops made multimillion-dollar settlements with victims. Dioceses conducted background checks of priests and workers and put in place other safeguards.