A church parish could still be child-safe even if a priest refuses to report child sexual abuse to police, a catholic church official says.
But a child sexual abuse advocate says a member of the clergy failing to report a known sex offender cannot co-exist with child safety.
"To pretend such, is not only incongruous, but beggars belief," lawyer Dr Judy Courtin said.
The state government's laws require clergy to report child abuse to authorities, including if it has been heard in the confessional box. If they don't report, they face up to three years in prison.
RELATED: Priest won't break confessional seal
Ballarat Diocese professional standards coordinator Michael Myers said parishes of the diocese complied with child safety standards because they were required to by the law.
Mr Myers said the law in terms of mandatory reporting was clear and priests had to comply with it.
"Some may have stated publicly that they won't," he said. "It is up to them to comply with the law. I personally think very few would not comply with it."
Mr Myers said a parish could still be a child safe parish if the parish priest said publicly they wouldn't comply with the law.
"Parishes can be child-safe by complying with child safety standards. If you happen to have a priest stand up in the pulpit and say they're not going to report it, is that something the parish can control? I think not. A parish is a community of people."
Mr Myers said child safety was a leadership issue and parish councils must understand their obligations.
He said priests and parishioners had been horrified and demoralised by the child abuse documented through the Royal Commission.
"We've got to keep working to make sure children are safe," he said.
He said the only way to continue to improve child safety was for more awareness and for children to be confident in reporting.
Dr Courtin, a lawyer and child sexual abuse advocate, said the refusal of a member of the clergy to report a known sex offender could not co-exist with child safety and prevention of child sex crimes.
"Our laws are very clear, mandatory reporting of child sex offenders is just that," she said. "There are no exceptions. In August 2017, Archbishop Hart described confession as '...a spiritual encounter with god through a priest'. Even if this were true, I can't imagine any god entering into an agreement that covered up and protected a child sex offender."
In September former south-west priest Eric Bryan said he would not break the confessional seal but would uphold the law of god.