The Catholic Church in Ireland has been "almost fatally destroyed" by the clerical child sexual abuse scandal, according to a former Provincial of the Jesuit Order here.

Fr Gerry O'Hanlon SJ told an Australian inquiry into abuse, that the loss of the Church's moral authority here once the scandal was publicly exposed was what he called the "crucial" factor.

He said the Irish hierarchy was forced in the 1990s, "not least due to media intervention and the intervention of public opinion to be more proactive" about the crisis.

He said the bishops here owe a lot to survivors and victims who have spoken out on the issue.

But he added that "Rome didn't seem to quite get it" probably well into the current millennium and that the Catholic Church was poorly prepared to examine abuse complaints because the priest was perceived "as in some sense superior".

He made his remarks by video-link from Dublin to Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which is sitting in Sydney.

For four years now, a six-member Royal Commission has been investigating how institutions of all sorts with a responsibility for children managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.